Subway Could Lose Its Fast Food Status To An Unexpected Rival

When you think of fast food chains, which come to mind first? The Golden Arches of McDonald's? Subway's footlong sandwiches? The "flame grilled" Whoppers of Burger King? Or maybe Chipotle, a bit on the higher-end of the scale with its burrito bowls and coveted guacamole?

Although what they sell isn't for everyone, there's no denying that fast food restaurants are a dominant force worldwide. In the United States alone there are an estimated 204,500 fast food locations, according to the National Restaurant Association (via Kitchen Toast), all waiting to serve the needs of those who are hungry and on-the-go.

But what about those who are thirsty and on-the-go? While we don't typically think of beverage chains as qualifying as "fast food," companies that are more known for their drinks — like Dunkin', for example — actually make up some of the largest fast food chains. As it turns out, the fast food chain that is poised to become the biggest in the world is one that is undoubtedly thought of as a "fast drink" chain.

Starbucks may become more ubiquitous than Subway

Who among us hasn't sipped a Starbucks coffee (or 20) over the past few years? The chain is incredibly popular worldwide, boasting more than 32,600 locations globally. It's hard to remember a time before there was a Frappuccino provider on nearly every corner. After going public in 1992, the Seattle, Washington-founded coffee chain expanded rapidly, according to Brittanica — and the rest, as they say, is history.

Starbucks has gone on to dominate so thoroughly that, according to data the company shared during a recent earnings call, it may soon become largest fast food chain in the world, planning to open an additional 2,000 locations in 2022 alone. According to Eat This, Not That!, Starbucks has been growing at a rate even faster than both McDonald's and Subway, the top two chains when it comes to sheer numbers. While McDonald's also has plans to expand, the outlet explains that Subway has been losing locations.

Although most people probably think of hot and iced coffee when they think of Starbucks, back in 2021 Food Business News reported that the chain considered its edible offerings a "golden opportunity" to increase sales. We concede the point: Starbucks really is fast food, after all.