Why Fast Food is Beating Fitness: The Unpleasant Numbers

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Why Fast Food is Beating Fitness: The Unpleasant Numbers
This isn’t another article about how fast food is on the leading edge of an obesity and health epidemic in the US and worldwide. Instead, we pose the simple question: why is fast food expanding so fast (all puns intended)?

Numbers check: In 2010, an average fast-food restaurant location collected $753,000 in sales… [A] single McDonald’s outlet does more than three times that.
The answer may surprise you – it is simple economics. Open a McDonald’s franchise and your annual revenues will likely be 10x higher than if you opened a CrossFit box. The math is depressing but true: fast food > fitness.

Chris Nichols of Yahoo! Finance crunched the business and financial numbers of the fast food industry in the enlightening post “Fast Food Facts That Will Blow Your Mind.” For example:

  • Fast-food restaurant sales are expected to rise 4.9% from last year to $188.1 billion in 2013, according to National Restaurant Association forecasts.
  • Of all restaurant visits in the United States, fast-food outlets account for 78% of the total [emphasis added].
  • Maybe that’s because they’re everywhere. According to data from market researcher NPD, the U.S. is home to more than 313,000 fast-food and fast-casual (for instance, Chipotle) restaurants.
  • Among big markets, Denver has the most coverage, based on population, with 118 such locations per 100,000 people.
  • How big is McDonald’s? Systemwide sales were $88.3 billion last year, $18.6 billion of which came from company-owned restaurants and $69.7 billion from franchised restaurants. That averages to almost $2.6 million of sales per location [emphasis added]. (Read those numbers again and pull your hair out if you own a CrossFit box!)
  • In 2010, an average fast-food restaurant location collected $753,000 in sales. As noted above, a single McDonald’s outlet does more than three times that.
  • Overall sales recorded by the McDonald’s chain — again, owned and franchised stores — was more than the top line at airplane maker Boeing (BA), which had $81.7 billion in revenue in 2012.


  • Fast-food restaurant sales are expected to rise 4.9% from last year to $188.1 billion in 2013, according to National Restaurant Association forecasts.
    It’s not just burgers and fries – nearly 72,000 pizzerias in the U.S. recorded $36.8 billion in sales between September 2011 and September 2012
  • McDonald’s is everywhere in the world. At the end of 2012, McDonald’s had 34,480 restaurants in its system. The U.S. accounted for 14,157 of those. The country with the second-most McDonald’s locations was Japan, with 3,279. Germany is third, with 1,440 McDonald’s. Cuba has one House of Ronald, at Guantanamo Bay.
  • Franchising is not a grassroots enterprise anymore. If you want to open a McDonald’s, you’ll need at least three-quarters of a million dollars to be viewed as a good candidate for the Golden Arches. From the company’s website: “Generally, we require a minimum of $750,000 of non-borrowed personal resources to consider you for a franchise.”

For the rest of the facts – on the sheer amount of beef, chicken, potatoes and onions (yes, onions!) – that the fast food industry consumes to satiate our ever-expanding appetite for burgers, fries and chicken nuggets, read the rest of “Fast Food Facts That Will Blow Your Mind.”

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