It’s difficult and perhaps not even fair to judge how fast food players have fared with a patchwork quilt of shutdowns and restrictions during COVID-19. But QSR Magazine ranked quick service restaurants with fast service in 2020 in its Top-50 rankings.
Due to the global pandemic and a few other factors, there’s been some movement on the list. The rankings are based on information received from restaurants between March and May, as well as filings from the Securities and Exchange Commission and those from research firm FoodserviceResults.
This year’s top five again placed McDonald’s on top with Starbucks right behind it. But moving into third place was Chick-fil-A, which QSR said has proved its strength in the pandemic. It ranked at number five in the 2019 list, making it the second time in two years that Chick-fil-A has jumped two slots.
“No major quick-serve has loyalty like Chick-fil-A,” QSR said. When other places had to close dining rooms during shutdown orders, it noted that Chick-fil-A was able to capitalize on its drive-thru lanes. The chain leaped into action with all kinds of innovations, including its Family Meal Bundles early on, with collections of entrées, sides and beverages starting at $13.25.
Chick-fil-A launched a “Nightly Nuggets” video cooking series demonstrating recipes users could make using their menu items and emphasized its meal kits via drive thru and delivery. It also scored well in sales per franchise, a key measurement in the rankings. With an estimated $4.5 million in sales during 2019, QSR calculated that it far outperformed its top-five rivals. For comparison, the magazine estimated that McDonald’s came in at $2.9 million per franchise.
Subway was the year-over-year loser among QSR’s top five. In 2019, it earned a spot in the top five at number three and dipped to number six in 2020. Over the past couple of years, Subway laid off hundreds of employees and closed hundreds of stores.
One thing hurting Subway is the location of several stores in gas stations. Less drivers meant less business at those locations. The average location did $410,000 in revenue during 2019, according to QSR estimates.
However, QSR noted that Subway franchisees have provided millions of free sandwiches for those in need in their communities. Some stores are selling groceries, and others are allowing customers to construct their sandwiches at home by selling individual sandwich ingredients.
Rather than reading the list as a pure report card that it is been in the past, QSR said it is important to read this year’s list as more of a baseline for the fast food industry thanks to the damage caused by the pandemic.
“Restaurants will forever bear the scars of 2020, but in many ways, they’ll also be stronger for what they’ve gone through this year,” the magazine said. “Whether they sink or swim depends largely on how they can learn and adapt from the biggest crisis since at least the Great Recession.”