Why Does It Seem Like There Are No Fast Food Restaurants In Vermont?

When driving up Vermont's roads, visitors will find quaint diners, family restaurants, snack bars, food trucks, and sandwich shops — but not the bounty of national fast food chains they're accustomed to seeing in other states. (They won't find any billboards for them either. Vermont banished those in 1968). Vermont isn't completely out of the loop though: there's a smattering of fast food joints in the state including McDonald's, KFC, Subway, a couple of Chipotles, and plenty of Dunkin' Donuts. Yet, despite the state's reliance on tourism, Vermont doesn't cater to flatlanders (i.e. out-of-staters) with other popular franchises like Sonic, Chick-fil-A, Arby's, and Popeye's. 

One reason for this is that Vermont is rather fiercely devoted to its locally-owned businesses. The state has the distinction of being the first in the country for local food raised by produce, meat, and dairy farmers. Vermont's restaurants, specialty foods producers, and brewing industry all utilize these crops to support the state's thriving farm-to-table and organic foods movements. 

Vermont also prides itself as the underdog that pushes back against the might of big chains. In 2014, Vermonter Bo Muller-Moore successfully squashed Chick-fil-A's legal attempts to prevent him from selling goods with the phrase "Eat More Kale". Vermont's only IHOP restaurant is required to serve real Vermont maple syrup. Also, Montpelier is the only state capital without a McDonald's.

Another reason more fast-food chains haven't opened in Vermont

Perhaps the real reason though that more fast food restaurants haven't opened — or remained open — in Vermont is a far more practical and boring one: money. Franchisees may be willing to endure pushback in the Green Mountain state in favor of local restaurants, but the real impediment is the fact that Vermont also has the second smallest population of any state in the U.S. Fewer people means fewer profits for restaurants, so for many chains, it's not even worth trying to set up shop. Even in Vermont's most populous counties, fast food chains like Dairy Queen, Taco Bell, and Quiznos have closed.  

The same challenge exists for sit-down restaurant chains in Vermont; those open in the state today include limited locations of Olive Garden, Chilis, Denny's, and Applebee's. However, other big chains have come and gone: Red Lobster, Hooter's, TGI Friday's, Friendly's, and some Pizza Hut locations. The state may never see a single Cheesecake Factory!

The best way to look at it is this: people love to visit Vermont for everything that makes it unique, like villages with the look of a bygone era, superior maple syrup, creemees, and radiant autumnal color. The absence of fast food chains that seem to dot every corner in other states is just another Vermont uniquity to be embraced.