The hamburger is one of the favorite meals of the average American. Whether it’s a fast food burger, a gourmet burger, a homemade burger, or a Michelin-starred burger in a fancy restaurant, it is one of the go-to meals of today’s generation. It has since been a popular kind of meal or snack in other countries leading big burger chains to branch out and open outlets in different corners of the six continents. Just like the competitive nature of the hamburger fast food or restaurant business where there is no runaway leader, there is no clear answer as to who really invented this famous food.
There are a number of people who claim to have invented the dish, from Fletcher Davis in Texas to Louis Lassen in Connecticut. From Otto Kuase as claimed by White Castle, to Charlie Nagreen, and Frank and Charles Menches in 1885. One thing is undisputed, the burger is one of the best and hardiest meal ever created, everyone agrees about that fact. In this article, we ranked the 10 best burger chains in the United States based on profits and popularity. The runners-up worthy of mention are Shake Shack, Culver’s, and Arby’s, but these ten are the best ones.
There is no other burger chain in the country, and maybe in the whole world, that could match or surpass the power and influence McDonald’s has with the consumer public. Whatever the demographic is, McDonald’s still always comes out on top of every category or field. Take the number of stores for instance, everybody in this list pales in comparison to the number of establishments McDonald’s has in the country, which is at least 14,000. Add the rest of the world and that number increases to 37,241. In a few years, there will be more McDonald’s internationally than in the United States. That inevitable factual information is proof of the influence and global dominance of this most popular burger chain.
Founded on May 14, 1940 by brothers Richard and Maurice McDonald in San Bernardino, California, it started out as a restaurant, but later transformed to a hamburger joint. One of the most famous icons in the world, the Golden Arches logo, was introduced in 1953. Then in 1953, Ray Kroc joined and eventually bought out the whole company. There is no doubt that one of the best-known burgers in the world is the Big Mac. McDonald’s also has the popular Quarter Pounder with Cheese and their french fries that always tastes the same no matter what country you order it in.
9. Burger King
Although McDonald’s is at the top of this list, Burger King comes in at a very close second. In fact, Burger King operates in countries where there is not a single McDonald’s in sight. Insta-Burger King was founded in 1953 and was re-named Burger King in 1954. David Edgerton was the founder and the first restaurant was located in Jacksonville, Florida. Today, Burger King has over 12,100 stores in the United States and in 72 countries all over the world.
Burger King has one of the best names of any kind of food in the world, they copyrighted this name and rightfully so, because it describes perfectly what kind of burger they serve, and what the customer should expect. The Whopper is Burger King’s king of burgers. It’s the original and it is their best. Of course, some customers level up, that’s why we now have the Double Whopper and the very scary Triple Whopper. Other customer favorites are the Double Whopper Bacon Cheeseburger and the Bacon and Cheese Crispy Chicken Sandwich. People always feel like royalty whenever they eat at Burger King’s, not just because of the free crown that the children enjoy, but also with their kingly burgers.
Dave Thomas was definitely the most outgoing and least camera-shy of all burger chain founders in the United States. He appeared in more advertisements and commercials than we can count over the years for his darling company, Wendy’s. He started this burger chain in 1969 as inspired by the Kewpee Hamburgers he was accustomed to in his hometown in Michigan. That’s where he got the traditional square beef patties Wendy’s is globally known for now. So why is the company not named Dave’s or Davey’s? Dave Thomas actually named his first restaurant after his daugher Melinda, whose nickname was Wendy. The first Wendy’s was in Columbus, Ohio, and today there are 5,781 stores in the United States alone, and 362 in Canada.
Wendy’s reach extend after North America, it is a global brand, as popular as any brand name in existence today. Most of their international locations are in Indonesia, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, and Venezuela, the rest are spread all over the globe. Three of Wendy’s best and most famous burgers are the Baconator, Bacon Classic Triple and the Bacon Classic Single. They also have the world-famous Frosty and the hearty chicken sandwiches. Wendy’s has some of the best french fries in the world!
7. Sonic Drive-In
The catchy and fun tagline of Sonic Drive-In is “This is How You Sonic.” A burger chain that opened back in 1953 as a steak restaurant turned root beer stand in Shawnee, Oklahoma. The brains behind Sonic is Troy Smith, and before he put up the restaurant he was a milkman and a bread delivery guy. Troy’s main concern was to provide fast service to hungry customers, hence the company’s name Sonic, and the slogan “Service with the Speed of Sound.” Sonic started with that 4-acre drive-in root beer, hot dog, and burger joint to a total of 3,615 locations all over the United States as of today.
Of the 3,615 locations spread all over the country, 969 of them are in the state of Texas. There are 280 of them are in Oklahoma, also where the headquarters is, in Oklahoma City. Sonic has penetrated 45 states in the USA and has established itself as one of the most popular burger chains in the country. One of their best burgers is the SuperSonic Bacon Double Cheeseburger, try the onion rings with that. But the beautiful ones are not the burgers, but the hot dogs. They have the Footlong Quarter Pound Coney, the classic chilli cheese dog and the Chicago Dog.
6. Five Guys
Five Guys Burgers and Fries is the youngest burger chain in this top ten list. Founded just 32 years ago by only two people actually, a couple named Jerry and Janie Murrell. The name Five Guys came from Jerry and their four sons, Ben, Chad, Jim, and Matt. Five Guys is actually categorized as a fast casual restaurant that serves mainly hamburgers, french fries, and hot dogs. The first ever restaurant was opened in Arlington County, Virginia. When the family decided to franchise in 2003, it started a growth so monumental that five locations in the Washington D.C. area turned into 1,500 stores all over the world.
Today, there are several stores in the United Kingdom, some in the Middle East, Paris, Germany, and Spain, among others. The best burger to try at Five Guys is the Patty Melt, pair it with large fries and the Five Guys Shake as beverage and Bob’s your uncle! They also serve hot dogs, like cheese dogs and bacon dogs, and sandwiches, like the veggie sandwich, grilled cheese, and BLT. For a little more expensive burger, a customer gets the quality fresh ingredients and all will be worth it. This is why this young burger chain is on this list.
This popular California burger joint just recently celebrated its 70th anniversary. Having been founded in October 1948 in Baldwin Park, California, In-N-Out is one of the most successful burger chains in the Southwest United States. In-N-Out was created by the Snyder couple, Harry and Esther. They owned and established the first ever drive-thru burger joint in the great state of California. It was a really small place, all 10 square feet, and just right around the corner from their home. By the 1970s, the company passed to the couple’s son, Rich Snyder, and grew to 93 store locations through the 90s.
Ninety percent of the store’s locations are in California, but there are also locations in Texas, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, and Oregon. The most famous In-N-Out burger is the Double-Double, filled with their special sauce, tomato, lettuce, onion, two slices of cheese and two burger patties on toasted buns. Their monster burgers are the 3×3 or the Triple Triple and of course, the 4×4 or the Quad Quad. The menu also offers shakes and fries. It’s really one of the more popular burgers in California, and it was just mentioned in an episode of CBS’s The Big Bang Theory’s 12th and final season.
4. Jack in the Box
That intercom system used in drive through fast food restaurants was actually started by Jack in the Box. This was a concept the restaurant first used back in 1951. With this concept, the intercom system was inside a large Jack in the box and the company’s name, was born. Founded in 1951 by Robert Oscar Peterson, Jack in the Box started off in San Diego, California. Operations are centered in the United States West Coast, but they also have stores in Phoenix, Indianapolis, Dallas, Charlotte, Cincinnati, and Nashville.
As of today, Jack in the Box serves customers in 21 states in the country, totaling about 2,200 stores in the United States. The Jack in the Box offers a menu of hamburgers, chicken, sandwiches, salads, and tacos. One can also order fries, sides, shakes and desserts. Try the new pumpkin spice shake and the spicy nacho chicken sandwich. Their most popular and most consistent bruger is the Jumbo Jack, but if you are an adventurous foodie, try the Blue Cheese and Bacon Ribeye burger and the Spicy Sriracha burger. After novelist Stephen King’s It gained ground and had film adaptations, clowns in logos seemed like a really bad idea, and Jack in the Box logos in the 70s had a clown in their logos, but today it’s just a simple red box with the word Jack written in white inside it.
Just to be clear, this is not What-A-Burger, but Whataburger, without the hyphens. What-A-Burger is a smaller burger chain founded in Virginia, and operating in North and South Carolina. Whataburger started in 1950 by business partners Harmon Dobson and Paul Burton. During that time, burgers just sold for 25 cents a pop. Harmon and Paul’s vision was for customers to hold a burger using both hands and say “What a burger!” Before the end of the millennium, Whataburger was up to 500 stores and growing. Currently, they have about 824 stores in the country.
Almost 700 of the Whataburger locations are in Texas, the rest are spread over 9 states in the country. Their best burger is the classic Original Whataburger. Other customer favorites are the Honey BBQ Chicken Strip Sandwich and the Monterey and Patty Melt. Although the reach of Whataburger is small compared to most of the burger chains in this article, their burgers are really so good that they deserve to have a spot in the top ten. Being a privately owned company, and doing as well as they are now, it’s no easy feat to maintain a business as big as Whataburger is now and still have it privately owned and operated.
Carl’s Jr. owner and founder Carl Karcher acquired Hardee’s back in 1997. This acquisition led to the two burger chains becoming sister companies, but we can all agree that the union is not in the best interest of the two companies and their customers. In the wake of the separation, Hardee’s focused more on their food, launching their campaign called Tastes Like America, and bringing back it’s old logo. Hardee’s was founded in 1960 by Wilbur Hardee with its first restaurant in Greenville, North Carolina. Today, Hardee’s has thousands of stores all over North America, and in international locations like Russia, Australia, China, Japan, India, and Turkey.
Hardee’s hamburgers are all charbroiled burgers, and the menu starts off with the ¼-pound cheeseburger. It also offers ⅓-pound cheeseburgers and thickburgers and mushroom and Swiss thickburgers. But Hardee’s largest burger is the ⅔-pound Monster Thickburger. The menu also includes chicken, fries, tacos, burritos, and various desserts. They also offer breakfast menus and kids menus daily. Today, Hardee’s is headquartered in Franklin, Tennessee, and the current CEO is Andrew Puzder. Veering away from those controversial and definitely not kid-friendly advertisements, Hardee’s is surely on track to win back its customers.
1. Carl’s Jr.
Who could ever forget the Paris Hilton advertisement, right? To get a celebrity at the peak of her fame tells everyone that this burger chain is serious about their business. Although, there is doubt that Paris Hilton ever took a bite out of the burger after that shoot. Carl’s Jr.’s name origin story is a short but good one. In 1941, a husband and wife opened a hot-dog cart in Los Angeles. With enough savings the same couple moved to Anaheim and established their first restaurant and named it after the husband, Carl’s Drive-In Barbecue. This was 1945, and the couple were Carl and Margaret Karcher. Eleven years later, with much success in their first restaurant, they opened two more and named them Carl’s Jr.
Today, there are almost 1,500 store locations not just in the United States and North America, but also in South America, Europe, Asia, and Australasia. Three years ago, Carl’s Jr. was the first fast food chain to have an all-natural turkey burger on their menu. More recently, Carl’s Jr. employed the voice acting services of Oscar-winning actor Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club, Interstellar) to spread the word in their latest campaign called The Call Of Carl’s.