The top 5. The coveted accolades of every fast food franchise. The academy awards of fast food. More excessive anticipation, dramatic buildup, etc. What does this final grouping reveal? Well, for the first time ever…yes, I said ever, McDonald’s has been bumped from their number one spot. But don’t sell all your stock quite yet, the new number one isn’t on the same playing field in sales numbers. The other name we have to take note of is Chipotle, whose meteoric rise defies human explanation. Like it or not, these are the names and the brands that those on the outside are looking up to, that they want to be.
Full list: #20-16, #15-11, #10-6, #5-1
5. Taco Bell (+2)
The Mexican fast food behemoth has found itself bobbing along the edge of the top 5 for the past few years. One stand out innovation from Taco Bell is worth noting: bulk package party packs. Whether that variety includes tacos, burritos, or cinnamon sticks, they have found a way to stay relevant among party-scale mass orders, a world which has hitherto been domineered by pizza makers.
4. In-N-Out (+5)
The west coast’s prized pig of the fast food world has not migrated very far east yet, but it’s mega taste and customer satisfaction still put it on the map. Few chains continue to command the brand loyalty In-N-Out retains among its devotees.
3. Chipotle (+12)
Twelve spots!? Are you kidding me? Chipotle is riding a high swell, to be sure, and it’s doubtful whether they’ll remain in the top 5, but they are the indisputable business leaders in fusing health, taste, and substance. They’re blazing a distinct trail at the moment from the other heavyweights in health and environmental focus, one that promises to sustain customer interest in the immediate future.
2. McDonald’s (-1)
As I said at the top, don’t jump ship just yet. But there’s no denying that some hard days lie ahead for the flagship franchise. Being at the top comes with its trials as attacks and complaints at the industry whole are likely to stick to you first. Such being the case, McDonald’s has come under fire in the past year for health concerns, childhood obesity, rising prices, and wage strikes against their employee minimum wage. All eyes will be on the golden arches to see how they handle these challenges, and set the tone for others.
1. Wendy’s (+1)
Just eeking out McDonald’s this year, Wendy’s has continued its smooth sailing and steady growth without having to hurdle over the obstacles faced by the other burger giants in attacks over employee minimum wage, or tax inversion. Wendy’s, to sustain their growth, will have to capitalize on this temporary reprieve to seize hold of some innovative ideas of their own, something they’ve done precious little of in recent years.