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 came out with its Top-50 rankings for quick service restaurants with fast service in 2020.
Due to the global pandemic and a few other factors, there’s been some movement on the list. QSR bases its rankings on information received from restaurants between March and May, as well as Securities and Exchange Commission filings 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 moved up two spots from the 2019 ranking, when it came in at number five, and it’s 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. It noted that Chick-fil-A was able to capitalize on its drive-thru lanes when other places had to close dining rooms during shutdown orders. Chick-fil-A leaped into action with all kinds of innovations. It introduced Family Meal Bundles early on, with collections of entrées, sides and beverages starting at $13.25.
It emphasized its meal kits via drive thru and delivery, and it launched a “Nightly Nuggets” video cooking series that demonstrated easy recipes using its menu items. Chick-fil-A also scored well in a key measurement: sales per franchise. It far outperformed its top-five rivals, with an estimated $4.5 million in sales during 2019, QSR calculated. For comparison, McDonald’s came in at $2.9 million per franchise, the magazine estimates.
The loser among QSR’s top five, year-over-year, was Subway. In 2019, it ranked number three and in 2020, Subway came in at number six. Over the past couple of years, Subway closed hundreds of stores and laid off hundreds of employees.
One thing hurting Subway is the location of several stores in gas stations. When driving plummeted during the pandemic, so did business at those locations. QSR estimated that the average store did $410,000 in revenue during 2019.
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.
QSR said it is important to read this year’s list as more of a baseline for the fast food industry, than as the pure report card that it is been in the past.
“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.”