The most popular fast food chains in the US serve ice cream

If I had to guess the most popular fast food in the US I would say McDonalds maybe followed by Taco Bell. It turns out that Baskin Robbins is the most popular chain, with Dairy Queen a close second! That’s wild to me, but this ranking isn’t based on sheer number of customers, it’s the percentage of customers who rate the brand positively. This ranking is based on 2023 polling from YouGov and I saw it in The Sun and Eat This, Not That reported as the “most popular” fast food chains, which is accurate. To me popular means numbers, not how well-liked the place is, but I’m wrong, it definitely means well liked. Incidentally, the chains with the most locations in the US are McDonalds, Subway, Starbucks, KFC then Burger King. Here are the top five fast food chains based on polling from 2023:

5. Krispy Kreme
The reigning king of fast-food doughnuts in this roundup is Krispy Kreme. The chain is known far and wide for its signature glazed donuts. When the red light is turned on, the doughnuts are at peak freshness.

4. Cinnabon
A common sight in shopping mall food courts, Cinnabon is there for those sweet, sweet cinnamon roll cravings. America’s sweet tooth must be strong, given its placement in the top five.

3. Wendy’s
Where else can you dine on a cheeseburger, a bowl of chili, a baked potato, and a frozen dessert all under one roof? Wendy’s has been a top choice among fast-food aficionados for decades, with customers coming back for its delicious Frosty and Baconator.

2. Dairy Queen
Having taken home the gold in 2022, Dairy Queen comes in at number two for this roundup. The classic soft-serve ice cream chain is known for its cones, Blizzards, and other frozen dessert novelties.

1. Baskin–Robbins
Taking the top spot this year is Baskin–Robbins, the ice cream shop known for its array of flavors. It has been considered among the best fast-food chains in America for a while, so it’s no surprise that it takes home the number one prize this year. A whopping 75% of respondents viewed the brand favorably in the latest survey.

[From Eat This, Not That]

I love Wendy’s and am so happy to see it in the top five. The food is always consistently good, the people who work there are nice, and I don’t care that the chili is supposedly leftover meat, it tastes great. They have the best fries out of the major chains too. (Although Arbys, ranked 15, also slaps.) Baskin-Robbins is a solid choice, it’s fast and the ice cream is tasty. I also like going to the Baskin-Robbins and Dunkin Donuts hybrid places. It’s surprising that Dairy Queen is number two. Blizzards are awesome, but my local Dairy Queen takes forever and they’ve been cited for multiple health code violations. The food I’ve tried there has been subpar. Maybe people rate the ice cream places favorably because it’s fun to get ice cream. You’re not starving like when you’re waiting for a meal and it’s a positive, memorable experience to go for ice cream with your family.

As for the other major places, McDonalds was number 10, Dunkin’ Donuts was 9 and Subway, KFC then Taco Bell took 8 to 6. Eat This Not That has the full list up to number 50. The Sun points out that Burger King, Chipotle and Starbucks didn’t make the top 20. If we’re only talking about ice cream brands, Cold Stone Creamery didn’t make the short list either. They’re number 22. That’s not surprising to me. I love ice cream but I’ve only been there twice because I found the whole process super annoying. You don’t need to have your employees sing on demand unless it’s someone’s birthday! Just make my ice cream, don’t make it into a whole production.

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30 Responses to “The most popular fast food chains in the US serve ice cream”

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  1. TOM says:

    Baskin Robbins is my spiritual home. #TeamPralines&Cream

    • Jennifer Smith says:


    • Chariel says:

      I started eating Pralines and Cream as a little girl, and that is the only thing I get now. That to me is Baskin Robbins

    • CH says:

      My high school job was at Baskin Robbins. Pralines & cream, butter pecan, and chocolate peanut butter were always the most popular. I was always a World Class Chocolate person myself.

  2. equality says:

    Most “popular” could be rated as the one with the most business success or the ones with best customer satisfaction depending on your parameters or what you are trying to determine. It doesn’t make sense that there would be a big disconnect there though. If you are not satisfied with a place, would you keep returning to it and keep it in business? I’m not usually impressed with how YouGov conducts their surveys since they carefully pick and choose the survey-takers.

  3. Becks1 says:

    So this is just based on how much people like a place, not how often they go, right?

    So for that, BR and DQ make sense to me. Ice cream makes people happy, and its hard to mess up. If I’m ordering a waffle cone with mint chocolate chip, that’s what I’m going to get and I’m going to get it in a few minutes. who eats a brownie sundae and thinks “omg that was the most disgusting thing ever, never ordering that again” (unless you’re someone who hates brownies in which case…..why are you ordering that?)

    Ice cream is straight forward, I’m sure there’s a connection for a lot of people between those places and childhood memories, etc.

    And Wendy’s is delicious. Our Wendy’s closed and got replaced by a Roy Rogers, which I also enjoy, and they use ice cream for their shakes – like they have huge containers of Edy’s ice cream and they scoop it out for each shake and blend it up. So I love those because…..they remind me of making milkshakes at home when I was a child, lol.

  4. Mcmmom says:

    I love DQ. I only get their dipped cones while roadtripping through Texas and it’s the highlight of my drive. The last time I was there, there was a grandmother taking her grandson to get a dipped cone and a very elderly woman who saw me sitting in my car, eating my cone and knocked on my window and yelled, “I’m getting one of those, too!” A writer from Australia wrote an essay for Bon Appetit about the culinary delight that is the DQ dipped cone. I’m a big fan.

  5. FancyPants says:

    Do people really go to Baskin Robbins that much? I haven’t been to one since a birthday party in the early 1990s and I can’t think of anyone I know ever mentioning going to BR, or even where one is off the top of my head. Don’t you have to go to a mall and park and go all the way inside to get a Cinnabon? This list could also be titled “Places I Never Go,” though [shrugs]. I’ve heard that Subway is one of the most common places because it’s the cheapest to franchise, which must be why there’s one in every hospital I’ve ever worked.

    • Chaine says:

      There are a few Baskin-Robbins in my metro area, but I probably haven’t been to one in 20 years. There are several local creameries and gelato makers that I prefer to support and taste better than going to a chain!

    • Pomski says:

      This was my first thought also. I live in a major city without a Dairy Queen and only one Baskin-Robbins. Both are found in plazas/food courts and I can’t recall the last time someone mentioned going to either. I like Cinnabon but I associate them with airports.

    • Mcmmom says:

      There is a BR within walking distance of my house, in an upscale shopping area (the kind with the word “Village” after it) and there is another one across the steeet from my daughters’ high schools. That one is always packed.

  6. Louise177 says:

    I love Wendy’s. It seems fresher than a lot of other fast food chains.

  7. Concern Fae says:

    I wish all the Krispy Kremes nearby hadn’t closed. Ef Wall Street.

  8. MsIam says:

    I hope Culvers is somewhere on that list. Great food and ice cream too!

  9. heygingersnaps says:

    I was thrilled that Wendy’s opened up a branch in South Yorkshire and was able to enjoy their frosty, fries and burgers but in just few months after it opening it already looked dirty and dated 🤷🏻‍♀️ so we avoid it now.
    There was a Baskin Robbins that opened up near to where I was then living and a kiosk at the Centertainment Valley but they were both gone in less than a year or so. Locally only Krispy Kreme and McDonald’s are still going strong, Burger King is trying by opening a branch in the high street but I’d rather go to Five Guys.

  10. Ameerah M says:

    I have a Wendy’s near me and it is a godsend when I need to grab something quick to eat. Wendy’s isn’t as great as it was when I was growing up but I still enjoy their food. Their Honey Butter Chicken and Biscuit breakfast sandwich is chef’s kiss.

    We also still enjoy the occasional Baskin-Robbins run in my house. We like trying the Flavor of the Month and seeing how it compares to the previous Flavors of the Month. And of course, I have my go-to flavors. As for KFC. That chicken is GROSS. I will take Popeyes over KFC any day of the week.

  11. butterflystella says:

    Wendy’s is great and I prefer that to McD’s or BK. But… my favorite burger place is Fatburger! They have terrific shakes, too.

  12. Sankay says:

    I thought DQ can’t even call their desserts ice cream but frozen desserts because it’s not ice cream. I’ll pass on them.

    • Mcmmom says:

      Ice cream has 10% milk fat and DQ has 5%, so technically it’s not “ice cream,” but it’s not like it’s made out of drywall.

  13. FHMom says:

    I never go to an ice cream place (they used to be called parlors ha) unless I’m on vacation. They are so expensive and you can buy decent ice cream like Edy’s at the supermarket. My teens, however, will meet their friends at Carvel or DQ.

  14. Mia says:

    Favorite ice cream combo-chocolate/black walnut from Baskin Robbin’s. My mother buys her ice cream by the pint.

  15. Myeh says:

    I love icecream and milkshakes. Always call the mcD’s ahead of time to check if their machine is working. I always make sure I stop at a specific DQ on my way to baker lake. It’s got the best burgers and blizzards. Everyone I hike with 2 hours into a vertical climb are running on vapors from their constipating granola and bird seed/nut combo or diarrhea inducing power gels meanwhile I’m happy knowing I’ve got a milkshake and burger in my pack. Nothing like a good view and tasty food at the top.

  16. ME says:

    Wendy’s fries with their sweet and sour sauce. Mmmm.

  17. Ifoxi says:

    We always called BR 31 Flavors. The one I went to as a kid has been there over 50 years, still goin.

    Chocolate Mousse Royale has always been my fave.

  18. AC says:

    I so 100% agree. 😀 i do enjoy the different sweets in Europe but I miss Baskin Robbins ice cream and DQ milkshakes 😊

  19. squizzly says:

    “it’s the percentage of customers who rate the brand positively.”
    Service ice cream is relatively more straightforward than McDonalds / KFC / Burger King as the latter offer “food” (haha, junk food) that you eat for meals rather than just dessert and so have more moving parts – and hence opportunities to displease people.
    Ice cream gives you that warm and fuzzy feeling.
    Positive brand sentiment doesn’t mean highest revenue or profit; goes without saying.
    My local Maccas (that’s what we call it down under) does so much business and has done so for years and the Google reviews are often abysmal. They are slow and messy and often get drive-through orders wrong. People will still continue turning up anyway.

    • Squizzly says:

      BR (private) revenue = 160 million (2019, not too sure if only for US)
      McDonald’s revenue = ~23 billion (worldwide)

      (They have a lot of stores in Queensland, New South Wales, and Western Australia (warmer weather); however, only two stores in Victoria because it’s one of the coldest states in Australia.)

  20. Sarah says:

    Baskin Robbins Mint choc chip is my favorite ice cream. Only problem is their ice cream is so expensive.