EVERY STATE IN THE USA, RANKED BY ITS FAST FOOD
Fast food is about as American as apple pie (from McDonald’s, of course). Seriously, recent Pew Research Center data showed that 50 million Americans are served fast food every day. And since we spend a damn good chunk of our time here at Thrillist writing about and tasting fast food, we began to wonder which states do it best, and which leave much to be desired when looking for quick eats.
To find out, we ranked every state by the fast-food options available there, concentrating on a variety of factors, including:
1) the big chains (Burger King, KFC, etc.) that began there
2) the regional ones (Whataburger, Culver’s) that also originated there
3) the cool, little chains just in that state
4) the variety of choices and presence of enviable franchises
5) the deliciousness and uniqueness of their options in general
We also created a set of criteria to determine which places were fair game: there had to be counter service, food had to generally take between 1-8 minutes to prepare, and there had to be at least three locations for a place to be considered a chain. Also, no pizza. Stop calling pizza fast food, even if it’s hot and/or ready. Clearly this ranking is based on science, math, technology, and hard facts (and maybe our extremely correct opinions), but hey, if you disagree or think we missed something, throw down in the comments. It’ll give us something to eat next time we visit.
In almost all state rankings we do, California tends to score highly based on size, weather, and various other things that make people who don’t live in California infuriated. And when it comes to fast food, it’s hard to argue against their continued dominance. The list of fast-food restaurants that originally started in the Golden State goes on forever, ranging from the really big ones (McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Jack in the Box, In-N-Out, A&W) to Mexican favorites (Del Taco, Freebirds, Green Burrito, Jimboy’s Tacos, Juan Pollo) and the small, cool chains (Foster’s Freeze, Baker’s Drive-Thru, Pioneer Chicken, The Hat, Original Tommy’s, Hot Dog On A Stick), plus freakin’ Wienerschnitzel.
Big chains regularly test menus in Southern California (uh, the Waffle Taco ring a bell?) before rolling it out elsewhere. Basically, our point is: if you’ve want to try and open a fast-food chain of any kind, and you’re not thinking about doing it in California first, you may be thinking about this all wrong.
Notable fact: The founder of Wienerschnitzel only started thinking about getting into the fast-food business because the founder of Taco Bell owed him money, and offered to pay him back by letting him get an ownership stake in one of his taco shops. SYNERGY!