The United States has a massive selection of cuisines of all types, tastes, looks, and styles. Almost every state is different, and this has resulted in some huge restaurant businesses across America. Restaurant chains often have a similar menu and décor and tend to be in popular areas.
The idea of chain restaurant across a region has largely been credited to Harland Sanders who franchised his secret recipe. This resulted in his restaurant, KFC, becoming one of the largest in the world.
Here are some of the biggest sit-down restaurants in the United States that you should definitely try!
Chick-fil-A is a play on the American English pronunciation of the word “fillet.” It is an American fast-food restaurant food chain which specializes in chicken sandwiches. It was founded in 1946 and now has more than 2,200 restaurants. The restaurant serves breakfast in the morning before changing to the lunch and dinner menu. Since the company follows the religious beliefs of its late founder, it remains closed on Sundays, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.
Wendy’s is a popular American fast food restaurant chain that was founded in 1969. Wendy’s is the world’s third-largest hamburger fast-food chain after Burger King and McDonald’s. It has 6,711 branches across the globe and even bought out Arby’s. 92% of its restaurants are located in the United States, while only 353 are owned by the company itself.
The chain is famous for its sea salt fries, square hamburgers, and signature Frosty drink. The company does not have a “signature sandwich,” but Dave’s 1/4 lb. Single has become a signature by default. This sandwich became famous for its unique square patties instead of the common circular ones. The shape ensures that the chicken hangs out of the bun, which looks appetizing to many.
Five Guys Burgers and Fries is a fast-casual restaurant in America which focuses on hamburgers, French fries, and hot dogs. The Five Guys restaurant was founded in 1986 and began to rapidly spread in 2003 through franchising. In one and a half year, it sold more than 300 franchised locations. It earned 832 million USD in 2016 alone, making it one of the biggest sit-down restaurants in America.
Dairy Queen (DQ) is an American chain which serves fast food. It became famous due to the soft-serve ice cream stores they have around America. The first Dairy Queen restaurant opened in Illinois in 1940. It has 6,400 stores around the world in 27 different countries. The largest DQ is in Illinois, the biggest store is in Riyadh, and the busiest is in Prince Edward Island.
Subway is a privately owned, fast food restaurant franchise. It is famous for its submarine sandwiches called subs and salads. These sandwiches are popular since they are easy to eat and you can make it your own. The idea of a cold sandwich is also unique since most fast-food restaurants focus on hamburgers and French fries as their default menu. It is one of the fastest-growing franchises in the world and has 42,000 stores in 100 different countries. More than half of these 42,000 branches are located in the US alone.
Red Robin Gourmet Burgers and Brews is commonly known as Red Robin. It is an American chain with many casual dining restaurants around the country. It was founded in September 1969, and the first franchise of the restaurant was opened in 1979. In 2018, it has expanded to 573 restaurants. 484 restaurants are still owned by the company in 39 US states and 2 Canadian provinces while the franchises are spread across 16 states.
IHOP is short for International House of Pancakes. In 2019, it made headlines by suddenly changing its name to International House of Burgers (IHOB) for a little while. It changed the name back after facing significant backlash.
The American multinational pancake restaurant chain became famous for its breakfast foods. It also offers a variety of lunch and dinner items, but you will love the restaurant if you like breakfast for dinner, as many people do. The restaurant has 1,650 locations in Latin America, Southeast Asia, Oceania, and North America. 99% of the branches are owned by independent franchises, though. Many of its locations are open 24 hours.
Kentucky Fried Chicken is popularly known as KFC and it is one of the most popular fried chicken places in the world. This American fast food restaurant is the world’s second-largest restaurant chain after McDonald’s. It has 22,621 branches throughout the world in 136 countries. The company also owns Pizza Hut, WingStreet and Taco Bell under a subsidiary called Yum! Brands.
KFC was founded by Colonel Harland Sanders who began selling fried chicken from a roadside restaurant. He was one of the first people to see the potential in franchising, and KFC opened its first franchise in 1952 in Utah. KFC challenged the popularity of hamburgers since it was a unique option for people. Harland also spread the popularity of KFC by branding himself as “Colonel Sanders” who became a popular figure in American culture and history. His image is still widely used in advertising for KFC.
KFC was also one of the first American fast-food chains that began to spread internationally. It opened various franchises in Canada, Mexico, Jamaica, and the United Kingdom in the 1960s. Through a series of buying and selling, KFC ended up under the chain of PepsiCo. In 1987, it even became the first restaurant chain to open in China, and its branches can be found on almost every block of China in the present day.
KFC still sells its original product of pressure-fried chicken seasoned with Sanders’ beloved 11 herbs and spices recipe. The recipe is a notable trade secret, which is why KFC continues to be one of the most popular brands. Portions of the chicken are served in the famous cardboard “bucket” which has become a well-known and popular feature in the restaurant. KFC has expanded its menu to chicken fillet sandwiches, wraps, salads, French fries, desserts, and more! The soft drinks are still supplied by PepsiCo. KFC is known for its popular slogan, “It’s Finger-Lickin’ Good!”
Taco Bell is a famous American chain of fast-food restaurants and a subsidiary of the Yum! Brands. They specialize in Mexican inspired cooking, which includes burritos, quesadillas, nachos, tacos, novelty, and specialty items, and other value menu items. In 2018, Taco Bell served more than 2 billion customers. They have 7,072 restaurants throughout America with only 7% owned by the company.
Glen Bell founded Taco Bell after opening a hotdog stand in front of Mitla Café, which had long lines of customers. The Mexican restaurant became famous due to the hard-shell tacos it sold. Bell even attempted to reverse engineer the taco but couldn’t perfect it. Later, the owners allowed him to see how tacos were made. He opened a stall called Taco-Tia in early-1950s and sold tacos there.
Eventually, Bell opened El Taco in southern California with a partner and later built Taco Bell in Downey in 1962. By 1967, the company rapidly expanded and opened 100 restaurants the same year. In 1978, PepsiCo purchased the company.
The Cheesecake Factory is an American restaurant company and a major distributor of cheesecakes. The company has 210 full-service restaurants, 194 of which are under the name of The Cheesecake Factory. They even sell baked goods and cheesecakes in two bakeries in California and North Carolina. The first restaurant was opened in California in 1978 by David M. Overton. The restaurant soon became famous for its huge menu, signature cheesecakes, and large portions of food.
Olive Garden is an American restaurant chain for casual dining. It specializes in Italian-American cuisines, such as spaghetti, pasta, steak, and risotto. Olive Garden has 892 branches worldwide and brings in $3.8 billion in revenue.
Olive Garden’s breadsticks are really popular, and its lunch menu is also centered on the breadsticks. The company also boasts about the sauces being freshly-made at each location every day instead of merely importing them from an outside vendor or commissary. In 2010, Olive Garden expanded the menu with dessert additions. These were inspired by a sibling chain called Season 52.
The company slogan is “We’re all family here,” and the restaurant has unlimited breadsticks, soup, and salad for its customers. In 2013, the restaurant even promoted the “Never Ending Pasta Bowl” and served 13 million bowls of pasta during the event. “Never Ending Pasta Pass” is also sold to 1000 people each year and it allows people to eat all the pasta they want during a seven-week period for only $99.
Burger King (BK) is an American chain of hamburger fast food restaurants, which has spread globally. The restaurant was originally founded in 1953 as Insta-Burger King. After a few issues with finance, the company was sold and rebranded as Burger King. Over the next 50 years, it was sold to three different owners and later to the public in 2002.
Burger King basically offers burgers, sodas, French fries, and milkshakes, as well as some other larger and diverse products. In 1957, the Whopper burger became Burger King’s signature product. BK also has some products which are strictly tailored to the regional tastes. In 2018, Burger King had 17,796 outlets in 100 countries. Nearly half of these are located in the US, and 99.7% are privately owned.
Red Lobster is an American casual dining restaurant chain which has operations in America, Ecuador, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Canada, Qatar, Japan, Mexico, and the United Arab Emirates. In 2013, the company opened its restaurants in 705 locations. It is owned by the Golden Gate Capital who acquired it from Darden Restaurants (owner of Olive Garden).
The owner of the restaurant was actually 19 when he started the business. They had an endless crab promotion in 2003 which nearly shut down the business. The company had underestimated how much crab customers could put away and faced a dramatic decrease in profits. The Cheddar Bay Biscuits is one of the most famous dishes by the company and had originally replaced some unpopular hushpuppies.
Starbucks is an American coffeehouse chain, which also serves some baked goods and light food. It was founded in 1971 and has over 30,000 stores worldwide as of 2019. The first Starbucks to open outside of North America was in Tokyo, Japan. Starbucks is considered as a representation of how coffee consumption has changed. It represents the “second wave coffee,” which is different from any other venue that serves coffee in relation to customer experience, taste, and quality.
Starbucks uses automated espresso machines for safety and efficiency instead of hand-made lightly roasted coffee like many third-wave coffee enthusiasts. Their branches serve many different products like whole-bean coffee, hot and cold drinks, espresso, caffe latte, micro-ground instant coffee, Frappuccino drinks, juice, and full and lose leaf teas. Food items include La Boulange pastries, snacks, sandwiches, and even drinkware.
Howard Schultz was the CEO of Starbucks before resigning in 2018 and announcing a run for the president of the United States.
Arby’s is an American fast-food sandwich restaurant chain with quick-service. It has more than 3,300 restaurants system-wide and is in a third place like a restaurant chain in terms of revenue. In 2017, it was even hailed has America’s second-largest sandwich chain by Food and Wine, after Subway.
Arby’s most famous sandwiches are the classic Roast Beef and Beef ‘n Cheddar products. They also have other deli-style Market Fresh sandwiches, Jamocha Shakes, and Curly Fries. It had 3,342 restaurants in 2015 and has opened internationally in Egypt, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Turkey, and Canada.
Buffalo Wild Wings is an American sports bar and casual dining restaurant franchise. It has restaurants in the United States, Canada, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, India, Panama, United Arab Emirates, Mexico, Oman, and Vietnam. Buffalo Wild Wings is known for its Buffalo wings and sauces.
By 2017, the chain had 1,238 locations, 625 of which were directly owned by the company. The company has been nicknamed B-Dubs, which is a branding tactic by the company.
Chili’s Grill & Bar is an American restaurant chain with casual dining. The company was founded in Texas in 1975 by Larry Lavine. It is currently owned by Brinker International. It was inspired by two Texas burger houses, Burger House and Goff’s Hamburgers, and has even credited them. Chili’s is known for its chips and salsa, wings, burgers, tacos, and plenty of other sides. They also have a nutritional, vegetarian, and allergy-friendly menu.
Outback Steakhouse is an American casual dining restaurant chain with an Australian theme. It serves American cuisine and has over a thousand locations in 23 countries in North and South America, Australia, and Asia. It was founded in 1988 and is owned by Bloomin’ Brands. It is famous for generously seasoned steaks, saucy desserts, and fried shrimp platters.
Popeyes is an American multinational chain of fast-food restaurants. It was founded in 1972 in New Orleans and focuses on fried chicken. It was previously named Popeyes Chicken & Biscuits and even Popeyes Famous Fried Chicken & Biscuits at one point in time. Popeyes is the second-largest restaurant to serve chicken according to units sold, after KFC. It has 3,102 restaurants in 40 states in America and is operational in 30 other countries worldwide.
Chipotle Mexican Grill is often known simply as Chipotle. It is an American fast-casual restaurant chain in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, and France. It specializes in tacos and Mission-style burritos. The name of the restaurant is inspired by a Nahuatl name for a smoked and dried jalapeño chili pepper called chipotle.
It was founded in 1993 by Steve Ells and had 16 restaurants in Colorado when McDonald’s became a huge investor in 1998. Through the boost provided by McDonald’s, Chipotle managed to open 500 restaurants, making it one of the biggest sit-down restaurants in America. Now, it has over 2,000 locations and a net income of half a billion. It has a staff of more than 45,000 workers.
In-N-Out Burger is an American chain of fast-food restaurants in a specific region of the Southwest and Pacific Ocean. It was founded in 1948 in California and has expanded outside of Southern California to Arizona, Utah, Nevada, Texas, and Oregon. The current owner is Lynsi Snyder. It has chosen not to franchise its operations or go public so that it can maintain quality and customer service, which can be impeded when a business is growing rapidly. The company is known for its employee-centered policies and pays its staff more than state and federal minimum wage guidelines. It is rated as one of the best in customer satisfaction and has acquired a huge fan base.
Dunkin’ Donuts was rebranded in 2018 as Dunkin’. It is an American multinational coffee company with a quick-service restaurant. It was opened in 1950 by William Rosenberg and was later acquired by Allied Lyons (who also own Baskin-Robbins’). It has nearly 12,000 branches in over 36 countries, which makes it one of the largest coffee and baked goods restaurants in the world. It produces hot and iced beverages, bagels, donuts, and more.
America is the hub of food and cuisines, with hundreds of different famous restaurant chains. There are many other huge sit-down restaurants, but these were the most popular ones by far!