21 of the World's Oldest Fast-Food Chains

Starbucks, Shanghai and Obama at Dunkin' Donuts, Manchester, New Hampshire, Jan. 2008

Cheapism/raisbeckfoto/istockphoto/Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Cheapism is editorially independent. We may earn a commission if you buy through links on our site.
Starbucks, Shanghai and Obama at Dunkin' Donuts, Manchester, New Hampshire, Jan. 2008
Cheapism/raisbeckfoto/istockphoto/Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

World's Oldest Fast-Food Chains

Delicious, convenient, and readily available fast foods have become a staple in today's fast-paced world. Most popular fast food chains have stood the test of time and continually evolve to keep up with changing culinary trends.

Here are 21 of the oldest fast-food restaurants that rose from humble beginnings to become iconic brands in the fast-food landscape.

Related: Best Family Meal Deals From Popular Fast-Food Spots

Barack Obama Buys Donuts at Dunkin' Donuts, Manchester, New Hampshire, Jan. 2008
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

1. Dunkin’

Dunkin' is America's largest coffee and donut brand. Founded in 1950 in the U.S., Dunkin' comprises 13,200 restaurants in 41 countries, including Canada, the United Kingdom, and China. Popular menu items in this American chain include coffee, donuts, croissants, sandwiches, muffins, bagels, and sandwiches.

Related: Fast-Food Face-Off: Which Chains Have the Best Food?

Wendy's 'Where's the Beef' Lady, Clara Peller, Poses With Two Hamburgers in Front of Wendy's, Los Angeles
Bettmann/Getty Images

2. Wendy's

Headquartered in Dublin, Ohio, Wendy's is the 3rd largest hamburger chain in the world after McDonalds and Burger King. The American fast-food chain restaurant was founded in 1969 and operates more than 7,100 locations globally. It's famous for its square-shaped burgers, and the menu comprises hamburgers, French fries, and chicken sandwiches.

Burger King Ad on a Bus Stop in Middle of the Street, Lisbon, Portugal
Horacio Villalobo/Corbis/Getty Images

3. Burger King

Founded in 1953 in Jacksonville, Florida, Burger King is an American fast-food restaurant chain. It operates 19,789 restaurants in 100 countries, making it the world's 2nd largest fast-food chain after McDonalds. Burger King's primary offerings include burgers, French fries, milkshakes, and specialty regional offerings.

Outside a Kentucky Fried Chicken During Christmas, Tokyo
Yuichi Yamazaki/Getty Images

4. Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC)

Popularly known as KFC, Kentucky Fried Chicken is an American fast food chain founded by Colonel Harlander Sanders in 1952. Currently, the chain restaurant is a subsidiary of Yum! Brands and operates more than 25,000 outlets in 145 countries. KFC's signature product is pressure-fried chicken seasoned with trademarked spices and herbs. Other menu items include chicken fillet wraps and sandwiches, pies, French fries, desserts, and soft drinks.

Front Exterior of Domino's Pizza, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates
Horacio Villalobos/Corbis/Getty Images

5. Domino's Pizza

Simply known as Domino's, this American pizza chain restaurant was founded in 1960 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The chain is the world's largest pizza delivery service, operating over 20,000 restaurants in 90 countries. While pizza remains the primary product, the restaurant offers specialty pizza to cater to different needs. Other menu items include chicken, sandwiches, desserts, and soft drinks.

Related: Is 7-Eleven Pizza Ever Worth It?

Employee Delivers an Order to a Customer in a Car at the Taco Bell Drive-Up Window, Hollywood, Florida
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

6. Taco Bell

Taco Bell is an American fast-food restaurant chain that serves a Mexican-inspired thoroughfare. It was founded by Glen Bell in 1962 and operates 8,564 locations in 32 countries. Tacos remain Taco Bell's signature offering alongside other delights such as burritos, nachos, quesadillas, and specialty items.

Front Exterior of McDonald's, London, England, 1976, on Corner of a Street
Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

7. McDonald's

McDonald's is the largest fast-food restaurant chain in the world. It was founded by the McDonald brothers in 1940 and started franchising in 1955, headed by Ray Kroc. Currently, McDonalds operates over 41,800 locations in over 100 countries. The chain is renowned for its hamburgers, cheeseburgers, and French fries.

Related: I Tried Every McDonald’s Burger, and This Was the Absolute Best

Front Exterior of a Pizza Hut, Bangkok, Person Opening the Door

8. Pizza Hut

Pizza Hut is an American pizza chain restaurant chain founded by the Carney brothers in 1958. It's headquartered in Plano, Texas, and operates 19,866 locations in over 100 countries. Pizza remains the restaurant chain's primary offering, alongside chicken wings, pasta, desserts, and beverages.

Man Making a Sandwich Behind the Counter at Subway, Crystal River, Florida
Gerardo Mora/Getty Images for Subway

9. Subway

Subway is an American fast-food restaurant chain founded by Fred DeLuca in 1965 in Bridgeport, Connecticut. With over 37,000 locations in 100 countries, Subway is the world's largest sandwich franchise. The fast food chain specializes in submarine sandwiches, wraps, salads, and soft drinks.

Front Exterior of Starbucks, Shanghai

10. Starbucks

Headquartered in Seattle, Washington, Starbucks is the largest coffeehouse chain in the world. It was founded in 1971 and currently operates 35,711 stores in 80 countries, of which 15,873 are located in the U.S. Specialty coffee remains the chain's signature offering alongside lunch sandwiches.

Related: 17 Things You Didn't Know About Starbucks

Pizza From PizzaExpress, London, at the Restaurant
Ann S./Yelp

11. PizzaExpress

PizzaExpress is a British pizza restaurant chain founded in 1965 by Peter Boizot in London. The chain operates over 500 locations in the U.K. and 100 restaurants internationally. The PizzaExpress menu includes pizza and other Italian cuisine, such as pasta and salads.

Interior of Tim Hortons, Shanghai, Coffee Machine Is Selective Focus
Robert Way/istockphoto

12. Tim Hortons

Going by the moniker Tim's, Timmy's, or Timmies, Tim Hortons is a Canadian coffeehouse and restaurant chain headquartered in Toronto. It was founded by Tim Horton and Jim Charade in 1964. It's Canada's largest quick-service restaurant chain and operates 5,701 locations in 13 countries. Menu offerings include coffee, sandwiches, donuts, and other fast foods.

Closeup of Hand Holding Cup of Costa Coffee, Cardiff, Wales
Matthew Horwood/Getty Images

13. Costa Coffee

Costa Coffee is the largest coffeehouse chain in the U.K. and 2nd largest worldwide. Sergio Costa founded the British coffeehouse in 1971, and the chain has since grown to 3,401 locations in 31 countries. Coffee is the restaurant chain's primary offering, alongside sandwiches, pastries, cakes, and snacks.

Related: The Best (and Worst) Fast Food Coffee You Can Buy

Castle-Like Front Exterior of Little Caesars Pizza, Kokomo, Indiana

14. Little Caesars

Dating back to 1959, Little Caesars is America's 3rd largest pizza chain after Domino's and Pizza Hut. It was founded by Mike and Marian Ilitch in Garden City, Michigan. The privately held chain operates over 5,000 locations in 28 countries. Pizza is the restaurant's core offering, alongside entrée options such as Caesar Wings, bread, and brownies.

Closeup of Chicken Sandwich From Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, Chicago, Selective Focus
Scott Olson/Getty Images

15. Popeyes

Formerly known as Popeyes Chicken & Biscuits, Popeyes is an American fried-chicken restaurant chain headquartered in Miami. It opened in 1972 in Arabi, Louisiana, and currently operates 4,178 restaurants in 30 countries. The restaurant chain is renowned for its signature fried chicken and chicken-based items.

Exterior of Sbarro, Times Square, New York City, Woman Walking Along Crosswalk in the Foreground
Noam Galai/Getty Images
Aerial of Front Exterior of IHOP, Pacific Beach, California, With Sidewalk and Parking Lot
Thomas De Wever/istockphoto

17. Sonic

In 1953, Sonic started as Top Hat Drive-In in Shawnee, Oklahoma. Now, it has over 3500 locations around the United States but their headquarters remain the same. Besides their burgers and endless drinks, they also offer hotdogs, chicken sandwiches and sliders, grilled cheese, and ice cream.

Whataburger Burger
Cassie M./Yelp

18. Whataburger

The first Whataburger opened in 1950 as a little roadside burger shop in Corpus Christi, Texas. Its HQ is in San Antonio, with over 750 outlets across 10 states. Besides their hamburgers, =the Texas institution has other popular items such as apple pie, chicken tenders, specialty sandwiches, taquitos, and their famous ketchup.

Related: 31 Restaurants and Bars Backed by Celebrities

The White Castle restaurant at Queens Boulevard and 57th Avenue near Queens Center in Elmhurst, Queens.
The White Castle restaurant at Queens Boulevard and 57th Avenue near Queens Center in Elmhurst, Queens. by Tdorante10 (CC BY-SA)

19. White Castle

White Castle, well-known for its sliders—tiny, square-shaped hamburgers—was founded in Wichita, Kansas, in 1921. The family-run enterprise has now expanded and currently has over 400 locations nationwide. They’re still famous for their hamburgers which have become an iconic menu item but they’ve also expanded their range to include onion rings, hashbrown nibblers, loaded fries, and a whole breakfast selection.

A&W Beyond Burger
Noel C./Yelp

20. A&W

Starting in 1919, A&W is known for its root beer, hot dogs, fries, and cheese curds. Originally started as a rootbeer stand, A&W now boasts over 1,000 locations around the world.

In-N-Out Burger
In-N-Out Burger by Jeremy Hall (CC BY)

21. In-N-Out

A cult classic, In-N-Out started as a drive-thru hamburger stands in California in 1948. They have about 400 locations despite the fact that they don’t do franchising. Their secret menu features items like the grilled cheese sandwich, the bunless "protein-style" burger,  Animal-style fries, and the famous Double-Double, which comes with two beef patties and all the toppings.

For more stories about fast-food, please sign up for our free newsletters.