These U.S. States Have The Most Fast Food Restaurants

If there's one thing diners in the U.S. can't get enough of, it's fast food. In an interview with Smithsonian Magazine, author Adam Chandler describes the history of many fast food chains as classic American stories. He further explains that the developing highway systems helped fuel this dining option's popularity in the mid-20th century. According to The Barbecue Lab, 83% of today's American families dine on fast food at least weekly, and the average adult spent a whopping $1200 on fast food in 2018. With such high numbers, it's no wonder every state has at least some fast food restaurants within its borders.

Many people enjoy fast food because it offers speed, convenience, and comfort. Consumers can expect the same delicious treats no matter which of a chain's restaurants they visit. Regarding restaurant locations, certain chains have national domination in their sights, but smaller chains often remain concentrated on their home turf. The data company Scrapehero has compiled statistics about where many of the nation's most popular fast food chains have opened restaurants. This data shows that some states take fast food more seriously than others and that many regions have specific favorites. So whether you're a sucker for a perfect order of fries or can't get enough of inexpensive tacos, there's likely a state with the most locations of your favorite fast food restaurant. 

Alabama boasts the most fast food restaurants per capita

Alabama is known for many things, including college football, southern hospitality, and having more fast food restaurants per capita than any other state. According to The Takeout, there are approximately 6.3 fast food restaurants for every 10,000 Alabamians. That equates to over 1,500 people for every one restaurant, which is a truly staggering number. Alabama residents have their choice of nearly any major fast food restaurant imaginable. Although the state is home to dozens of different chains, the most common is Subway. Considering that Subway has over 20,000 locations in the U.S. alone, it is no surprise that one of the most popular restaurants is widespread across the most fast-food-loving state.

Not only does Alabama have plenty of restaurants to go around, but it also hosts multiple fast food chains' corporate headquarters. For example, Jack's started in Homewood, Alabama, and still uses the state as its corporate base. It may not be as popular as nationwide chains, but diners across four Southern states appreciate Jack's for its decadent comfort food menu options. Another Alabama original, Guthrie's, has brought its signature chicken fingers to eight states, even as far north as Ohio.

Florida has the most Wendy's locations

For fast food fans who love Wendy's, Florida is the best place to find this longstanding chain. Wendy's opened its doors in 1969 and has built a loyal following ever since. It's smaller than chains like McDonald's or Subway, but is still a highly recognizable brand in the U.S. and abroad. This chain is best known for its square-shaped burgers, thick-cut fries, and its signature dessert drink: the Frosty. Although Wendy's started in Columbus, Ohio (and is now in all fifty states), there are more restaurant locations in Florida than in any other state.

Of the nearly 6,000 Wendy's restaurants currently open, Florida hosts 536 – almost 10% of the whole chain. Although the Southeast coast has the largest concentration of restaurants, consumers can find a Wendy's location in nearly every region of The Sunshine State. Most major cities are home to at least a few Wendy's, but the best Florida city to find this fast food chain is Miami, which has 45 locations. Of course, Orlando residents (or anyone visiting Disney World) also have their fair share of Wendy's locations to choose from, with 32 inside the city borders.

Hardee's Is A North Carolina Staple

Although Hardee's is not as widespread as some of the larger fast food chains, it has been a regional favorite in the Southeastern U.S. since the 1960s. In true Southern fashion, Hardee's has a full breakfast and lunch menu, including traditional fast food staples such as burgers and fries. However, the chain is beloved for its biscuits, which have been on the menu for decades. Consumers can find this restaurant in 31 states along the Southeast coast and the northern Midwest. Despite this spread, North Carolina is still home to the most restaurant locations. This state has over 200 Hardees, which is 13% of the chain's total restaurants.

Despite this volume, the North Carolina Hardees' locations are spread far and wide across the state. Whereas some fast food chains aim to open restaurants in virtually every neighborhood, this company takes a more relaxed approach in its home state. As a result, the city of Rocky Mount has the highest concentration of restaurants within the state, but only has six. Surprisingly, the residents of Indianapolis, Indiana, have access to the most significant number of Hardees, with fifteen locations to choose from within their city's limits.

New York has the most Dunkin' locations

It's no surprise that New Yorkers love their coffee, which is part of why The Empire State has more Dunkin' restaurant locations than the rest of the country. Of course, the chain's menu now extends far beyond classic coffee and donuts, with offerings such as iced coffee and lattes becoming fan favorites. The company is a product of New England, starting in neighboring Massachusetts in 1950. Its home state has an impressive number of locations (over 1,000 and counting), but New York boasts 15% of all Dunkin restaurants.

Unsurprisingly, four out of the five New York City boroughs are among the most Dunkin'-friendly cities in the U.S. For example, Brooklyn alone has 165 restaurants, the third-highest number in any individual city. Manhattan, Staten Island, and the Bronx also made the list, with a significant number of locations in each. However, the chain's popularity extends well outside New York City, spreading across multiple counties to the north and west. In a state that boasts one of the lowest numbers of fast food restaurants per capita (via 24/7 Wall St.), the fact that Dunkin has managed to open over 1,400 locations is impressive.

Most Culver's Restaurants Call Wisconsin Home

Some fast food chains catch on nationwide, while others remain a well-kept secret to their original fan base. The small chain Culver's is a Wisconsin original, with many locations still concentrated around The Badger State. It offers many fast food staples that diners recognize from other chains but also has its specialties. Consumers know Culver's for its Butterburgers and cheese curds, a popular treat in Wisconsin. The menu also includes various fried seafood options, frozen custards, and floats featuring the chain's signature root beer.

This chain has a little over 900 restaurants, and 16% of those are within Wisconsin's borders. Although Sauk City, Wisconsin is the chain's birthplace, Milwaukee is now the best city to find this restaurant; it hosts nine locations. However, fast food fans no longer need to travel to Wisconsin to enjoy Culver's. Since its launch in 1984, the chain has slowly spread across 26 other states, including Arizona and Iowa. The Florida Times-Union reported that the chain is also gaining popularity in Florida, with new locations popping up across the state. Furthermore, consumers living in Indianapolis, Indiana have just as much access to this chain as Milwaukee residents, with nine locations of their own. 

Illinois is a White Castle hot spot

Over the years, some fast food chains have proven that even a tiny company can generate a loyal fan base. For example, despite its small size, White Castle has a cult following among those who love it. This company has an impressive history dating back to the 1920s and is considered one of the first fast-food chains. Fans recognize them for their square, slider-style burgers sold in sacks of ten or more. The chain also offers chicken, fish, and even veggie burger sliders.

The country has just under 350 White Castle restaurants, and Illinois has the most significant number in one state, with 59 locations. However, despite the brand's origins in Wichita, Kansas, and eventual move to Columbus, Ohio, both states have fewer restaurants than Illinois. In fact, Kansas is one of the 36 states that have zero White Castle locations. Outside of the Midwest, the biggest concentration of the chain is in the Northeast and the Mid-Atlantic coast. However, Floridians who love this northern-based brand are in luck: NBC Miami reported that White Castle opened its only Florida-based location in 2021, right near Disney World in Orlando.

Ohio is home to the most Arby's locations

Roast beef may not be the first thing consumers associate with the fast food concept, but that's what Arby's has become famous for since its first location opened in 1964. According to Nav, two brothers founded the chain in Boardman, Ohio, with the brand's classic roast beef sandwich as a cornerstone of the menu. Although roast beef is still a popular staple, the chain's menu has expanded over the years to include sliders, chicken sandwiches, and even lower-calorie options such as wraps and gyros. The chain is also known for its curly fries, a rare offering among fast food restaurants.

Arby's has now spread across 48 states, but Ohioans are still its most significant fan base. The Buckeye State is home to 278 restaurants, but that's only 8% of the chain's locations. Cincinnati's 14 restaurants represent the most in any Ohio city. However, unlike some chains, this company isn't highly concentrated in any one area — not even its home state. There are far more Arby's restaurants in the eastern half of the nation, but the company has brought its signature sandwiches as far west as Washington State and southwestern California.

Texas is the place for fast food pizza

Fast food pizza restaurants are a popular staple nationwide, but one state loves them more than others. Although cities like New York, Chicago, and Detroit are well-known for their signature pizza styles, Texas is the best place to find fast-food pizza. It holds the unique distinction of having more Pizza Hut, Dominos', and Papa Johns' locations than any other state in the country. For a place that most diners recognize for its barbecue, it's surprising that fast food pizza is so beloved by Texans.

Even more interestingly, none of these chains originated in The Lone Star State. For example, Pizza Hut started in Wichita, Kansas, in the 1950s, but Texas has over 900 locations. Meanwhile, Papa John's - an Indiana original – has almost 10% of its restaurants in Texas. Even Domino's, which has 11% of its locations within the Texas borders, started way up north in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Houston is the top city for fast food pizza, hosting more locations for each restaurant chain than any other town in the United States. San Antonio and Austin residents can also find their favorite pizza joint easily, with double-digit chain locations in their cities.

One third of Krystal restaurants are in Georgia

People from outside the Southeastern U.S. may have never heard of Krystal, but this regional fast food staple has roots stretching all the way back to The Great Depression. Two business partners founded the chain in Chattanooga, Tennessee in 1932, and slider-style burgers were among its first offerings. The cornerstone of the Krystal menu is still its sliders, which are available in burger, chicken, and even breakfast biscuit varieties.

Even though Tennessee is the birthplace of this chain, most Krystal locations are in Georgia. The Peach State is home to 103 Krystal restaurants, which is a whopping 35% of the company. Atlanta, Macon, and Augusta each have six locations within the city limits. Consumers in Florida, Alabama, and nine other eastern states also have Krystal restaurants to enjoy, and there's even a location in Puerto Rico. After nine decades in business, the chain is still innovating its restaurant layout. According to, the company debuted a fresh concept in 2023 that occupies 1,000 square feet less than a traditional restaurant and therefore costs less to build. This new design may mean more consumers will have access to a Krystal restaurant in the future.

Colorado has the most Smashburger restaurants

Of all the fast food options available, burger chains are among the most common. It's challenging to stand out from the crowd in this competitive field, but the Denver, Colorado native Smashburger is slowly gaining popularity. This chain is among the newer crop of fast food restaurants, starting with a single location in 2007. The name comes from the chain's signature burger-cooking method, which involves smashing their burger patties onto a flat grill. Of course, burgers are an important menu staple, but the chain also offers chicken sandwiches, turkey burgers, meatless options, and garlic-rosemary fries.

Consumers can visit Smashburger restaurants in 35 states, but Colorado still has the most significant number of locations. Overall, 13% of the chain is in the Centennial State, and Denver has the most restaurants in any city. However, this company has just over 200 restaurants open and has spread itself across most regions of the country. Diners in New York, Florida, California, and even Anchorage, Alaska all have Smashburger locations near them, and the company shows no signs of slowing down. In 2022, Nation's Restaurant News reported that the chain signed a considerable franchise agreement that will result in further expansion over the next few years.

Minnesota loves Taco John's

U.S. diners have dozens of fast food taco chains to choose from, including a small Wyoming-based restaurant called Taco John's. The chain started as a taco stand in the late 1960s and has grown into a popular Midwestern franchise. Its menu features unique burritos, tacos, breakfast options, desserts, and even cold-brew coffee. Unlike many fast food chains, Taco John's offers a rewards program that allows consumers to earn points towards free menu items. This brand is so passionate about its tacos that it even owns the trademark for the phrase "Taco Tuesday."

However, despite its origins in Wyoming, Taco John's most significant customer base is in Minnesota. This state houses 15% of the chain's restaurants — 58 locations in all. Saint Paul alone has four Taco John's restaurants, more than any other Minnesota city. According to Nation's Restaurant News, Minnesota is also home to the company's second corporate headquarters. Although most consumers will still find most sites centered around the northern half of the Midwest, this chain has slowly expanded its reach across 23 states. For example, a select few taco fans in western Nevada can find a Taco John's near them, and the company has opened a handful of locations in Massachusetts.

California has the highest number of locations

As the third-largest state by area, it's no surprise that California has plenty of space to house fast food restaurants. This state tops the list of most restaurant locations for virtually every nationwide chain, including McDonald's, Taco Bell (which still has its headquarters in California), and Subway. The state hosts over 4,000 fast food locations from just these three brands, and that is only a small portion of the restaurants consumers can find there. Fast food chains from all over the country call the Golden State home and have a sizable portion of their restaurants within its borders. 

So, for example, fans of KFC may assume that this Kentucky original has its most significant presence in the mid-Atlantic states. However, California still has the most locations for this chain. Not only does California have the largest number of locations for national brands, but it has plenty of home-grown chains that are popular across the country. For instance, anyone who loves Baskin-Robbins ice cream or Jack In The Box cheeseburgers can thank California natives for launching these restaurants.