Fast Food Consumption Statistics

Report Highlights

  • About 36.1% of American adults consumed fast food in a day between 2013 and 2016.
  • Non-Hispanic black Americans consume fast food more often than Hispanic, non-Hispanic white, and non-Hispanic Asian Americans.
  • Men are more likely to eat fast food for lunch, while women are more likely to eat it as a snack.
  • About 35.4% of women consume fast food daily, and 38% of men consume fast food daily.
  • Adults who make more money are more likely to consume fast food.
  • A greater percentage of younger adults consume fast food compared to older adults (44.9% of adults 20 to 39 compared to 24.1% of adults 60 and up).
  • Most Americans eat fast food 1-3 times per week.
  • An individual spends about $1,200 on fast food per year.
  • American households spend about 10% of their income on fast food on average.
  • The fast food industry grows by about 2.2% each year.

Fast Food Consumption

General Fast Food Consumption Statistics

To better understand US fast food consumption, it’s important to look at general statistics, from when and where people eat fast food to changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Here are some of the most important statistics to understand regarding fast food consumption.

US Fast Food Consumption Statistics:

  • About one-fifth (20%) of fast food meals are eaten in the car.
  • About 43.7% of fast food is eaten at lunch.
  • Dinner accounts for another 42% of fast food consumption.
  • Breakfast makes up only 22.7% of fast food consumption, and the remaining 22.6% goes to snacks.
  • About 80% of fast food that children consume comes from McDonald’s.
  • Children also consume about 80% of all McDonald’s orders.
  • Four out of five children (80%) say McDonald’s is their favorite restaurant.
  • Alabama has the most fast food restaurants per capita at 6.3 restaurants per 10,000 people.
  • Vermont has the lowest number of fast food restaurants per capita with only 1.9 restaurants per 10,000 residents.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic has caused fast food restaurant foot traffic to drop by 45%.
  • Online orders for fast food restaurants have increased by 12% since the start of the pandemic.
  • Chipotle saw an increase of 200% in digital sales since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
  • Sales of vegan fast food options increased by 11% between 2018 and 2019.
  • In June 2020, Sonic was the most popular fast food option, possibly due to its drive-in design.
  • Online food delivery services are forecasted to reach 69.9 million users by 2024.
  • Suburban residents make up 36% of US adults who use online food delivery services.

How Many Americans Consume Fast Food Every Day?

The exact number of Americans that eat fast food on a given day can vary, but around a third of Americans visit fast food each day.

A much smaller percentage (4%) never claims to visit fast food restaurants for a snack or meal.

  • Roughly 34% of American children eat fast food on a given day (about 84.8 million).
  • Adults between 20 and 39 have the highest rate of fast food consumption (44.9% of them eat fast food).
  • About 37.7% of adults from 40 to 59 consume fast food regularly.
  • Around 42.4% of black Americans consume fast food each day.
  • Asians have the lowest rate of eating fast food, at only 30.6%.
  • Around 83% of American families eat fast food each week.
  • Roughly 80% of Americans visit a fast food restaurant at least monthly.
  • One-fifth of Americans (20%) eat fast food twice a week.
  • On a given day, you’ll find around 50 million Americans eating fast food.
  • Only about 4% of Americans claim they never eat fast food.
  • Around 5.65% of Americans consume seven to nine fast food meals per week.
  • Convenience is one of the most significant reasons Americans eat fast food.

How Much Fast Food Are Americans Eating?

Fast food consumption has increased in recent years, but a big part of that has to do with increasing portion sizes.

Convenience is another big reason for the rise in fast food.

  • Adults consume about 11.3% of their calories from fast food.
  • Americans underestimate their calorie consumption from fast food by about 175 calories.
  • Soft drinks are one of the biggest culprits of extra calories in fast food.
  • On average, Americans get fast food about 2.4 times per week.
  • About 91% of parents surveyed in 2016 said they bought their child lunch or dinner from a fast food restaurant in the previous week.
  • Fast food hamburgers have increased in size by 23% in the past 20 years.
  • In that same time, soft drinks have grown in size by 52%.
  • Also in the past two decades, Mexican fast food plates have increased by 27%.
  • Fast food snack portions have grown by about 60% in 20 years.
  • The demand for fast food grew by 5.8% from 2020 to 2021, which is the largest growth in one year since the 1980s.
  • About 29.42% of Americans in 2018 said they ate fast food less than one time per week.
  • Around 48.3% of men eat fast food for lunch compared to 39.1% of women.
  • Just over a quarter of women (25.7%) eat fast food as a snack compared to 19.1% of men.

Health Risks of Fast Food

Many people understand that fast food isn’t the best for you, but some people are looking into healthier options.

Still, some people don’t understand how eating fast food or even living near a restaurant can be a risk.

  • The average fast food meal contains 836 calories.
  • That comes out to about 37% of your daily caloric needs.
  • Despite this, the number of calories in fast food has decreased by about 12% on average since 2013.
  • An average meal contains about 42.6% of the carbs you need, 33.6% of daily fats, and 15.4% of the protein you need.
  • On days when children eat fast food, they eat about 120 extra calories.
  • When children eat fast food, they also consume more fat, sodium, and sugar.
  • Simply living near a fast food restaurant can increase your risk of obesity by 5.2%.
  • Your risk of depression goes up by 51% from consuming fast food regularly.
  • Seventy-six percent of Americans know that fast food is bad for your health.
  • Another 20% believe fast food is “kind of good” for your health.
  • About 2% of people believe fast food is good for you.
  • About 30% of fast food restaurants have started offering healthy options for kids.
  • Roughly 39% of Americans have started choosing healthier fast food restaurants, such as Chipotle.
  • Poor diet choices account for about 11 million deaths annually all around the world.

Economic Statistics Surrounding Fast Food

Another topic to consider is how all of this fast food consumption is affecting Americans, from yearly spending to lifetime spending.

Many Americans spend a lot of fast food, partly because it tends to be cheap and easy.

  • Americans spend around $1,200 per person on fast food each year, or around $100 per month.
  • Combined, Americans spend $110 billion on fast food per year, and that money could end world hunger for three years.
  • Roughly 32% of Americans believe fast food is cheaper than other options.
  • Only 31.7% of lower-income families (130% of the federal poverty line or lower) consume fast food.
  • On the other hand, as much as 42% of high-income families (over 350% of the federal poverty line) consume fast food regularly.
  • About 36.4% of families in the middle (130 to 350% of the federal poverty line) consume fast food.
  • In 2019, people spent $130.4 billion on McDonald’s.
  • Americans spent an additional $45.9 billion at Starbucks in 2019.
  • Over 200,000 fast food businesses exist in the US.
  • The average American will spend about $70,500 on fast food in their lifetime.
  • Children see between three and five fast food ads per day.
  • Seeing fast food ads increases a child’s chance of consuming that food by 30%.
  • Children’s TV networks have exposed viewers to 76% more ads in an hour.
  • By 2027, the global fast food market is expected to reach $931.7 billion.
  • The US fast food market hit $296.6 billion in 2021.
  • Despite a dip in 2020, the fast food market rebounded and reached an all-time high the following year.
  • The price of fast food has risen by an average of 6% since the COVID-19 pandemic started.
  • Subway has more locations than McDonald’s though it only has about $10.4 billion in sales per year.
  • A study from 2009 found that fast food ads account for about 70% of all ads.
  • YouTube videos featuring junk food have received over a billion views.
  • YouTube channels featuring kids promote food and beverages in about 42.8% of their most popular videos.
  • In 2017, fast food companies spent over $11 billion on TV commercials.
  • Black teenagers were twice as likely as white teenagers to watch those fast food commercials.
  • Four million Americans work in the fast food industry.