On the Line / Operations / The Top 20 Quick Service Restaurants + How to Open One

The Top 20 Quick Service Restaurants + How to Open One

The quick-service restaurant industry is massive with tons of growth opportunities. Learn which restaurants are hugely successful, and how to open one of your own.

Opening a Restaurant Checklist
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Opening a Restaurant Checklist

So many things go into opening a restaurant. Use this free PDF checklist to set your new restaurant up for success.

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DISCLAIMER: This content is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as legal, accounting, tax, HR, or other professional advice. You are responsible for your own compliance with laws and regulations. You should contact your attorney or other relevant advisor for advice specific to your circumstances.

What is a quick-service restaurant?

A quick-service restaurant is exactly what it sounds like: a restaurant aiming to provide food and service quickly and efficiently. Quick service restaurant, also known as QSR, is the restaurant industry term for this specific segment of restaurants. 

A quick-service restaurant could be a fast-food restaurant or a fast-casual restaurant – there’s significant overlap in the definitions, though some say that fast-casual belongs in a different category (and not within the quick-service restaurant definition), with slightly slower service than a traditional quick-service restaurant. Typically, quick-service restaurants offer food at a lower price point, with little or no table service, and a casual atmosphere. 

Top 20 quick-service restaurants 

Here are the top 20 quick-service restaurants in the United States, according to QSR Magazine’s 2021 QSR 50 Report: 

  1. McDonald’s 

  2. Starbucks 

  3. Chick-fil-A

  4. Taco Bell 

  5. Wendy’s 

  6. Burger King 

  7. Dunkin’

  8. Subway 

  9. Domino’s

  10. Chipotle

  11. Sonic

  12. Panera 

  13. Pizza Hut 

  14. KFC

  15. Popeye’s Louisiana Chicken 

  16. Arby’s 

  17. Little Caesars 

  18. Dairy Queen 

  19. Panda Express 

  20. Jack in the Box 

Opening a Restaurant Checklist
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Opening a Restaurant Checklist

So many things go into opening a restaurant. Use this free PDF checklist to set your new restaurant up for success.

Download
You must have Javascript enabled in order to submit forms on our website. If you'd like to contact Toast please call us at:

(857) 301-6002
First and Last Name is required
Phone Number is required
Restaurant Name is required
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How to open a quick-service restaurant

While all of the top 20 QSR restaurants are massive chains, not every quick-service restaurant has to be — and in reality, most are not. If you’re looking to open up your own quick-service restaurant, here is what you need to know. 

1. Create a business plan

The first step to starting any business is creating a business plan. A restaurant business plan is a blueprint for your entire project and it explains in detail how you will finance, operate, market, staff, and run your business once you’re open. 

Here, you’ll talk about your company overview (what kind of quick-service restaurant are you?), your operations (who are your suppliers? What is your staffing and specific service model?), your technology (will you use kiosks or are you fully counter service? What quick service restaurant POS system are you going to use?) and even more detail that will help you get everything going (what differentiates you from your competitors? What quick service restaurant trends are you capitalizing on?). 

Get started on your quick-service restaurant business plan here. And be sure to check all the boxes on our opening a restaurant checklist.

Restaurant Business Plan Template
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Restaurant Business Plan Template

No matter where you’re at in your restaurant ownership journey, a business plan will be your north star. Organize your vision and ensure that nothing is overlooked with this free template.

Download
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2. Secure Financing

Starting a restaurant can be really expensive, and most people don’t have that money sitting in the bank. Fortunately, restaurant financing is available, and there are numerous options to consider. 

Check out here and here for some places to start. 


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The Complete Guide to Restaurant Financing and Loans

Whether you’re opening a new restaurant, expanding your concept, or renovating within your existing four-walls, you’re going to need capital to make it all happen.

3. Obtain Licenses and Permits and Set Up Business Structure

You’ll need several different licenses and permits to open and operate your QSR, so consult with your local and state guidelines for what a business has to do to get off the ground on the right foot. You’ll also want to work with an accountant or lawyer to help you set up your tax paperwork (like a DBA and an EIN), and to make sure your licenses and permit are in order.

4. Find Your Location & Purchase Equipment

Finding a great location can be difficult, and it’s often worth enlisting the help of a commercial real estate agent. If you have a lot of connections within the industry in your town, keep your ear to the ground and see if any recently closed restaurants need someone to take over their spot.


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Restaurant Real Estate: How to Find a Site for Your Restaurant

Choosing the right restaurant real estate is a critical step in getting your new business off the ground — and making sure it thrives once it’s open.

Once you have your location secured, finding equipment — new or used — to fill it up and get it ready for service is your next step. 

5. Create Your Menu!

Put together your menu, taking into account food cost, the supply chains involved, the labor required to make everything every shift, and what kind of food you’re trying to highlight at your restaurant. Of course, keep in mind that many quick service restaurants operate on a build-your-own model, so consider whether or not your restaurant will too.

Restaurant Menu Templates
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Restaurant Menu Templates

Use these menu templates as a starting point for your menu design or to give your menus a refresh.

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6. Hire Your Staff 

A great staff is the backbone of a successful restaurant. 

The restaurant industry is in a tough spot right now, facing a tight labor market and low employment relative to the number of jobs available. The key to success here is providing a restaurant workplace that provides great pay, solid benefits, a standout culture, and opportunities for growth and development. 

Check out this complete guide to restaurant staffing for more information on hiring for quick service restaurant jobs, managing your staff, and retaining those star employees. 

7. Create a marketing plan

Set up your grand opening for success and get customers in the door with great marketing. The best place to start is by creating your restaurant marketing plan - where you can set goals, learn best practices and tips, and plan out your marketing calendar and budget for that critical first year.

Don’t forget about social media too – check out Toast’s new Restaurant Social Media Guide for a step-by-step walkthrough of social media marketing for restaurants, from managing your restaurant’s brand on four popular social media platforms – Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok – to growing and developing new content strategies.

Restaurant Marketing Plan
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Restaurant Marketing Plan

Create a marketing plan that'll drive repeat business with this customizable marketing playbook template and interactive calendar.

Download
You must have Javascript enabled in order to submit forms on our website. If you'd like to contact Toast please call us at:

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8. Open your doors

Get your restaurant off a great start with a grand opening. Here are some ideas to get you started, and generate early sales. 

The quick-service restaurant industry is massive with tons of growth opportunities, and with this information in your back pocket, you’ll be set up for success. For more information on opening a new restaurant, check out this article on What You Need to Open a Restaurant. 

Restaurant Business Plan Template
icon RESOURCE

Restaurant Business Plan Template

No matter where you’re at in your restaurant ownership journey, a business plan will be your north star. Organize your vision and ensure that nothing is overlooked with this free template.

Download
You must have Javascript enabled in order to submit forms on our website. If you'd like to contact Toast please call us at:

(857) 301-6002
First and Last Name is required
Phone Number is required
Restaurant Name is required
What is your role? is required
What best describes your restaurant type? is required
Yes, I’d like a demo of Toast, a restaurant technology platform.
Yes, I'd like a demo of Toast is required
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We’ll handle your info according to our privacy statement.

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