McDonald’s is the largest fast food chain in the world with 40,031 outlets in over 100 countries at year end 2021. But every business has competitors. Then, who are McDonald’s competitors? The infographic above visualizes McDonald’s competitors in the top 5 countries with the most McDonald’s restaurants. In some countries, McDonald’s faces unique competitors, while in others it competes against other US fast food giants.
2022 The Top 5 Countries with the Most McDonald’s
Among 40,031 McDonald’s worldwide locations, almost 1/3—13,438 locations—are in its founding country, the US. China is the second largest McDonald’s market with 4,395 stores. Japan takes third position with 2,941 stores, then comes France with 1,517 restaurants. This year, Canada is the fifth largest market with 1,452 outlets, slightly more than Germany that has 1,432 McDonald’s restaurants.
Top 5 Countries with the Most McDonald’s Restaurants (at Year End 2021)
- US: 13,438 restaurants
- China: 4,395 restaurants
- Japan: 2,941 restaurants
- France: 1,517 restaurants
- Canada: 1,452 restaurants
In these five countries, McDonald’s has various competitors; some are local fast food chains, and others are American fast food chains. To stand out in the fast food crowd, McDonald’s adapts marketing strategies to cater the local demand.
The US | The World’s Largest Fast Food Market
Many historians agree that the US is the home country for fast food. According to IBISWorld, a leading industry research organization, there are 197,163 fast food businesses in the US as of 2022. The country has the largest fast food market in the world, with a $331.4 billion market size measured by revenue. The competition in the US fast food industry is fierce.
To name a few, Subway, Starbucks, KFC, Burger King, Taco Bell, Domino’s Pizza—they all are US-born fast food companies. And in the US, you are more likely to encounter Subway than McDonald’s. As of 2022, there are 22,658 Subway outlets in the US. Moreover, more Starbucks exist than McDonald’s in the US; 15,450 vs 13,438, respectively at year end 2021.
Subway’s dominance in terms of unit count is unique to North America. In China, Japan, and France, Subway is far behind McDonald’s with less than 500 stores each.
China | McDonald’s Fastest Growing Market
Even though McDonald’s is the world’s largest fast food restaurant, it is not number one by store count not only in the US but also in China.
In China, McDonald’s biggest competitor is KFC—another American fast food giant. KFC does exceptionally well in China, operating 8,441 stores as of March 31, 2022. This number is so much larger than the US KFC store count, 3,977. In addition to the American fried chicken, the American premium coffee Starbucks is growing fast in this country. China’s Starbucks store count just exceeded that of McDonald’s in 2021; 5,360 vs 4,395.
However, there is good news for McDonald’s in China. Even though it gave up the crown in today’s number, McDonald’s unit count is growing faster than those of KFC and Starbucks. McDonald’s store count increased by 16% from 3,787 as of March 2020 to 4,395 as of March 2021, while KFC and Starbucks by 14%.
McDonald’s occasionally launches unique products for the Chinese market. Especially on culturally important events such as Chinese New Year, the company launches commercials videos on social media. These videos take in Chinese traditional elements, arousing consumers’ emotional resonance towards its products. Here is a clip; watch this and you will know what I mean.
Japan | McDonald’s VS Local Fast Food Chains
Japan was the first Asian country to taste McDonald’s in 1971. Ever since it entered the Japanese market, it has grown to be the largest fast food retailer in Japan, operating 2,941 outlets. Although McDonald’s is leading the Japanese fast food industry by a big margin, some local fast food chains can be McDonald’s competitors in Japan.
One of them is MOS Burger. It is a Japanese burger restaurant chain, founded in Tokyo in 1972. MOS Burger has 1,253 units nationwide as of 30 June 2022. It also operates 448 restaurants overseas, including in Taiwan, Singapore, and Hong Kong.
While burgers are popular in Japan, rice is the staple food of the Japanese diet; rice is consumed more than wheat. Accordingly, Japan has its own fast food using rice. Suki-Ya is the largest of such fast food chains that sell Donburi or Japanese rice-bowl fast food. As of July 2022, Suki-Ya has 1,942 restaurants in Japan.
McDonald’s usually adapts its menu to reflect local tastes and traditions, and Japan is no exception. Teriyaki Burgers are its regular menu, and it also sells seasonal products for a limited period of time including “Rice Burger.”
France | McDonald’s Turned Posh in the Country of Gastronomy
France is recognized as the country of gastronomy. The long lunch break with wine and the haute cuisine at fancy restaurants—yes, they exist, but maybe not as common as you would except. Burgers are extremely popular in today’s France, with 80 percent of restaurants in France serving a burger.
McDonald’s and Quick—a Belgian burger restaurant—used to exclusively sell burgers before 2012 in France. However, today 32,000 businesses in France are serving fast food including burgers.
That said, McDonald’s is the absolute winner in the fast food competition in terms of unit count. For instance, Burger King, another prominent US burger chain, operates only 412 restaurants as of June 30, 2021. Subway is even less than that, having 380 outlets nationwide. The Belgium fast food chain Quick runs 111 restaurants in France as of August 2022.
The success of McDonald’s in France did not come overnight. It has faced “anti-American food” activists several times. However, local adaptation helped the American burger giant successfully integrate into French food culture—using French cheese in the menu, serving croissant for breakfast, and improving McCafé menu with more pastries and sweets.
Canada | A Battleground of Fast Food
Canada sits just above the US and hence has many similarities with the US including their food. Just as many fast food chains hail from the US, so do from Canada.
McDonald’s is not even close to the largest Canadian fast food chain by unit count. The largest fast food chain in Canada is Tim Horton that operates 3,928 restaurants nationwide as of March 31, 2022. Tim Horton is a Canadian fast food chain famous for coffee, donuts, wraps and sandwiches.
Not only this Canadian brand, but also may other American brands are thriving in the Canadian fast food competition. Subway is one of McDonald’s competitors in Canada, currently having 2,931 outlets. A&W, an American burger restaurant, has 1,037 Canadian locations. A&W has become more popular in Canada than in the US where the brand has 527 locations.
McDonald’s respect for local tastes does not exclude Canada. There are some unique and attractive items on Canadian McDonald’s menu. For instance, McDonald’s in Canada has Poutine on its menu—a classic Quebecois dish that consists of French fries, cheese curds, and gravy. Additionally, it has a wide range of donuts, probably competing with Tim Horton.
Summing Up: McDonald’s Competitors
As of 2022, McDonald’s is the world’s largest fast food chain—with an unbeatable number of restaurants across the globe. Even though the company’s expansion slowed down in 2020 due to the impact of COVID-19, it has recovered vigorously, opening 1,494 new restaurants around the world in 2021.
The fast food industry is becoming more and more competitive. Fast food is convenient, inexpensive, and tastes good, which makes fast food optimal in today’s hectic lifestyle. Fortune Business Insights projects that the global fast food market will grow from USD 972.74 billion in 2021 to USD 1,467.04 billion by 2028.
Overall, it seems like McDonald’s winning game ahead of other competitors. However, McDonald’s competitors steal the spotlight in some countries. In some of McDonald’s main markets, other American fast food chains such as Subway, Starbucks, KFC, and A&W win popularity over McDonald’s. Additionally, McDonald’s competitors are not necessarily American; they can be local fast food restaurants such as Japan’s MOS Burger and Canada’s Tim Horton.
One of McDonald’s strengths in the fast food competition is its adaptation to other cultures. McDonald’s recognizes local tastes and trends, inventing new products accordingly. Each country has its own unique burgers and sides on the menu—it is even fun to try McDonald’s localized burgers overseas as a tourist!