Starbucks Just Became The Second Biggest Restaurant On Earth

New locations worldwide mean Starbucks sits just behind McDonald's.

The U.S. may feel at times like the fast food capital of the world, but the global scale of these businesses is downright mind-blowing. The top restaurant chains are always in competition to get into more stomachs worldwide, and Restaurant Business reports that Starbucks just pushed past Subway to become the second largest restaurant chain on earth.


According to data from Technomic, Starbucks added 3,000 new locations to its system in 2023, which brought its total number of locations globally to 38,587. This was enough for the coffee chain to edge out over Subway by about 2,000 units; the sandwich chain has 36,516 locations globally. Above both these chains sits McDonald's, with 41,882 locations throughout the world (roughly one-third of which are in the U.S.).

Subway locations vs. Starbucks locations, explained

Although Subway was just knocked down to bronze on a global scale, the sandwich chain has held the top spot as the chain with the most locations in the U.S. for some time now. As of 2022, Starbucks and McDonald's had around 15,000 and 13,000 locations nationwide, respectively. At the same time, Subway operated approximately 20,000 stores, even after a 2.7% loss of units that year.


However, having the biggest footprint, whether national or global, doesn't necessarily translate to being the most "successful" chain. Starbucks has long been the second-largest fast food chain in the U.S. by sales, and it surpasses Subway's annual sales by several billion dollars, even though Subway has roughly 25% more locations. Starbucks made $28 billion in sales in the U.S. in 2022, whereas Subway made $10.3 billion, per QSR magazine's rankings. The average unit volume for Starbucks is simply much higher; that is, each individual location makes a lot more money than each Subway outlet.

McDonald’s locations are on top of the world

Once again, though, the behemoth that is McDonald's cannot be beat. It doesn't have the highest number of locations in the U.S., but McDonald's does have the highest number of locations globally, presumably because it exists in more markets than both Starbucks and Subway. It's also, unsurprisingly, the world leader in terms of total sales. Restaurant Business notes that McDonald's generated nearly $120 billion in global systemwide sales in 2022, while Starbucks generated $28.1 billion, and Subway only $15.6 billion.


Still, Starbucks aims to keep growing its footprint. "The opportunity is really large," Starbucks CEO Laxman Narasimhan told Jim Cramer on CNBC last year. "We think that we could be over 55,000 stores. We're going to be opening three out of four stores outside of the U.S."