Why Burger King Is No Longer McDonald’s Biggest Competitor

When it comes to fast food, McDonald's is the burger-and-fries joint you've known and loved—but it's up against some fresh competition.

BURIRAM - DECEMBER 4 : McDonald's in Thailand, Corporation is the world's largest chain of hamburger fast food restaurants, during the day hours on December 4, 2016, Buriram, Thailand.Chatchai Somwat/Shutterstock

Everyone has a favorite fast-food place and a go-to order. But which chain is the best overall restaurant? For many years it came down to McDonald’s vs. Burger King, and that was that—until now.

Who is McDonald’s biggest competitor?

These days, the Golden Arches faces a new competitor: Chick-fil-A. The chicken sandwich chain is expected to beat both Burger King and Wendy’s in sales this year, and is shaping up to become the third-largest restaurant chain in America, according to some food-industry reports, with more outlets than even Subway—the fast-food chain closing more locations than any other restaurant. In fact, Chick-fil-A is already beating McDonald’s by one key criteria, bringing in more money per store.

McDonald’s is still a fast-food giant and Chick-fil-A a relative newcomer, but the chicken joint is catching up. Though the Atlanta-based chain’s sales and traffic have increased last year by 15.5 percent and 10 percent, respectively, according to Restaurant Business, it will take another 21 years to catch up to the Golden Arches. And this will only happen if McDonald’s stops growing. McDonald’s would be tough to beat, but Chick-fil-A is shaping up as a worthy opponent. Voted America’s favorite restaurant for the third year in a row, as well as best in customer service, Chick-fil-A also ranks as one of the cleanest restaurants in America. Has McDonald’s taken note? They’ve recently stepped up their chicken offering, with the likes of the new Buttermilk Crispy Chicken Sandwich and a tenders version, whereas most Chick-fil-A restaurants serve exclusively chicken (a handful of select locations offer beef, Business Insider reports). It appears the race is on!

Both restaurants have had some drama

It seems every year or so some major fast-food scandal rocks the industry. McDonald’s and Chick-fil-A both have had their fair share of bad press. McDonald’s came under fire for using a type of “lean, finely textured beef,” that ABC News referred to as “pink slime.” Then, who can forget the film Super Size Me, which documented the negative health effects of eating McDonald’s 24/7 and resulted in the chain removing their super-size option from the menu. Chick-fil-A continues to face criticism for their stance on social issues, specifically financial support of organizations that oppose same-sex marriage, whereas McDonald’s continues to rank among the world’s most admired companies, thanks to their innovation, social responsibility, competitiveness, and people management. Social pressure doesn’t seem to have held Chick-fil-A back: While other chains have shuttered franchises, they’ve been opening about 100 new restaurants a year, according to Vox. It looks like fans will be able to have both their McDonald’s and their Chick-fil-A for the foreseeable future. Before paying either a next visit, you might want to know these 33 secrets that your fast-food worker probably wouldn’t tell you.

Emily DiNuzzo
Emily DiNuzzo is an associate editor at The Healthy and a former assistant staff writer at Reader's Digest. Her work has appeared online at the Food Network and Well + Good and in print at Westchester Magazine, and more. When she's not writing about food and health with a cuppa by her side, you can find her lifting heavy things at the gym, listening to murder mystery podcasts, and liking one too many astrology memes.