WA-List » Lunch in a bag

Lunch in a bag

Published by Steve Campion. Category: Business & Industry

On a road trip this summer we couldn’t help notice the omnipresence of Jack in the Box.  The square sign seemed to appear at every other interstate exit ramp and it was often the first restaurant on the adjacent street.  We did a check and discovered there were 148 JITBs in the state of Washington.

It turns out that’s only good enough for fourth place in today’s WA-List.  You’ll find even more Starbucks, Subways, and McDonald’s. There are enough Starbucks, in fact, to evenly distribute one store into every 10×10 mile square in Washington.  Our curiosity was peeked.  We set out to compile a ranking of fast food sites in Washington.

NOTES: WA-List does not endorse any of these companies.  We merely wanted to see how common they were.  No fries or shakes were consumed in the endeavor.  Be sure to see our methodology, omissions, and sources below.


Chain Type # of stores in WA   # of stores in USA  
Starbucks Snack  693  (a) 11,128  
Subway Sandwich 465 (b) 25,549  
McDonald’s Burger  266  (a) 14,157  
Jack in the Box Burger  148  (c) 2,250  
Papa Murphy’s Pizza & pasta  128  (d) 1,329  
Domino’s Pizza Pizza & pasta  112  (a)  4,928  
Burger King Burger 108 (b) 7,183  
Pizza Hut Pizza & pasta  106  (d)  6,209  
Baskin-Robbins Snack  103  (d)  2,463  
Dairy Queen Burger  102  (a)  4,462  
Taco Bell Mexican 93 (b) 5,262  
KFC Chicken  80  (d)  4,556  
Wendy’s Burger  76  (a)  5,817  
Quiznos Sandwich  67  (a)  2,353  
Arby’s Sandwich  58  (a)  3,354  
Panda Express Asian  58  (a)  1,533  
Papa John’s Pizza & pasta  52  (e)  3,131  
Jimmy John’s Sandwich  47  (e)  1,560  
Little Caesars Pizza & pasta 45 (b) 3,725  
Jamba Juice Snack  38  (a)  774  
Panera Bread Sandwich  24  (a)  1,652  
Carl’s Jr Burger  22  (a)  1,124  
Qdoba Mexican Grill Mexican  21  (a)  627  
Five Guys Burgers & Fries Burger  20  (e)  1,105  
Chipotle Mexican Grill Mexican  17  (a)  1,410  
Popeye’s Louisiana Kitchen Chicken  12  (e)  1,679  
Sbarro Pizza & pasta  12  (e)  611  
Sonic Drive-In Burger  10  (a)  3,556  
Einstein Bros. Bagels Sandwich  9  (e)  534  
Long John Silver’s Seafood  7  (a)  911  
Krispy Kreme Snack  6  (e)  239  
Church’s Chicken Chicken  3  (e)  1,202  
Wingstop Chicken  3  (e)  533  
Del Taco Mexican  2  (e) 551  

Top national chains with no Washington locations:  Bojangles’, Boston Market, Captain D’s, Checkers/Rally’s, Chick-fil-A, CiCi’s Pizza, Culver’s, Dunkin’ Donuts, El Pollo Loco, Hardee’s, In-N-Out Burger, Jason’s Deli, Krystal, Moe’s Southwest Grill, Steak ‘n Shake, Tim Hortons, Whataburger, White Castle, and Zaxby’s.  We believe at least three of these chains have had Washington locations in the past.

Top national chains with a disproportionate number of Washington locations:  Of the fast food restaurants that made the final list, we ran calculations to see which ones proliferate in Washington at a higher rate than the national average.  The “Disproportionate Top 5” were Papa Murphy’s (with our state hosting 9.6% of the US total), Jack in the Box (6.6%), Starbucks (6.2%), Jamba Juice (4.9%), and Baskin-Robbins (4.2%).

PHOTO of street in North Bend featuring Burger King, Taco Time, Arby’s, Starbucks, and McDonald’s © Steve Campion.

METHODOLOGY: We started with the QSR 50, an industry ranking of the largest fast food (“quick service”) restaurants in America.  QSR Magazine’s lists for 2012 and 2013 gave us 52 chains to investigate.  We sought location data directly from the companies themselves.  That was possible in many cases, but not all.  Several chains ignored our repeated requests, leading us to derive data from other sources.  The numbers are in constant flux, too, since stores open and close throughout the year.  We believe our final list is reasonably accurate; a snapshot of restaurant locations during late summer, 2013.

OMISSIONS: Sadly, this methodology left out a few chains that Northwesterners are quite familiar with, including Abbie’s Pizza, Blimpie, Burgerville USA, Dick’s, Ivar’s, Skipper’s, and Taco Time (which even appears in our photo above, second from left).  After much deliberation we chose to exclude them because we couldn’t be sure we’d find all of the small local chains if we strayed from the national list. We could easily get tangled by definitions, too. Frisko Freeze, for example, has been a fast food landmark in Tacoma for 60+ years and had multiple locations for a while. But it’s back to one location again. Is it a chain?  Are Starbucks and Papa Murphy’s fast food? We had to start our list somewhere and the QSR 50 seemed the most reasonable. If we find reliable sources of information, we’ll gladly post all (or most) of the local chains in an exclusive  future list.

SOURCES: The number of national locations come from QSR 50’s 2012 data, except for those of Sbarro and Einstein Bros. Bagels which come from 2011 data.  The number of Washington locations are from late summer, 2013.  It was collected from several sources (labeled by letter in the list’s fourth column and described below).  We tried to get direct confirmation from each of the fast food companies themselves and thank those companies marked with (a) or (c).  They responded to our query in a straight-forward manner — either by email or return phone call.  Companies labeled (e) had straightforward website location finders. The others — marked with (b) or (d) — were not cooperative with our quest, and remained silent despite two, three, and even four contact attempts by phone or email.  We did our best to derive  location estimates from other sources .

  • (a) email correspondence with the company
  • (b) database search within DemographicsNow via Pierce County Library
  • (c) telephone confirmation with the company
  • (d) estimate based on limited information on the company’s website
  • (e) data collected from the company’s website

2 Responses to “Lunch in a bag”

  1. Kari Says:

    How can there be this many Jimmy John’s in WA, but none in the Olympia area?! Not fair!

  2. Sean Says:

    Great list! I can’t believe there are 20 Five Guys, I’ve only found three. Taco Time will always be a favorite. They have great service like Chick-fil-A, but with Pat Cashman as spokesman, they have the hometown advantage. Now I’m hungry for fast food…