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A state-by-state breakdown of the fast food everyone’s binging during lockdown

Published Jun 26th, 2020 3:33PM EDT
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Image: Top Data

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  • Year-over-year data shows where Americans are spending their fast food bucks in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Most of the big names are well-represented, with Sonic dominating a huge chunk of the country.
  • Sonic may be benefiting from not having to change its business model to cater to the pandemic lifestyle.

The coronavirus pandemic has affected just about every aspect of our daily lives. From working from home to social distancing and mask-wearing (which you should be doing!), things are a bit odd right now, but one thing that hasn’t changed is our love of fast food. In fact, drive-thru eateries are seeing a boom as people lean on the ready-made meals handed to them through a window rather than spending an hour gathering ingredients at a packed grocery store.

Now, a market research firm called Top Data has crunched the numbers and provided a really interesting map that shows the year-over-year fast food trends in each US state. Does yours match your own habits? Take a look to find out.

There are obviously a lot of familiar faces here. McDonald’s, Wendy’s, and of course Taco Bell all have a significant share of US states, but Sonic comes as a bit of a surprise. Sure, the food is decent and it’s relatively convenient, but is that enough to take the country by storm? Apparently so, and there may be an obvious reason for that.

Alabama: Sonic
Arizona: Sonic
Arkansas: Sonic
California: McDonald’s
Colorado: Chick-fil-A
Connecticut: Wendy’s
Delaware: Chick-fil-A
Florida: Chick-fil-A
Georgia: McDonald’s
Idaho: Sonic
Illinois: Wendy’s
Indiana: Chick-fil-A
Iowa: Taco Bell
Kansas: Sonic
Kentucky: Sonic
Louisiana: Popeyes
Maine: Taco Bell
Maryland: Chick-fil-A
Massachusetts: Taco Bell
Michigan: Taco Bell
Minnesota: Taco Bell
Mississippi: Sonic
Missouri: Sonic
Montana: Wendy’s
Nebraska: Sonic
Nevada: McDonald’s
New Hampshire: Taco Bell
New Jersey: Wendy’s
New Mexico: Sonic
New York: Wendy’s
North Carolina: McDonald’s
North Dakota: McDonald’s
Ohio: Taco Bell
Oklahoma: Sonic
Oregon: Taco Bell
Pennsylvania: McDonald’s
Rhode Island: McDonald’s
South Carolina: Sonic
South Dakota: Culver’s
Tennessee: Sonic
Texas: Sonic
Utah: Wendy’s
Vermont: Taco Bell
Virginia: McDonald’s
Washington: Wendy’s
West Virginia: Wendy’s
Wisconsin: Culver’s
Wyoming: Wendy’s

Sonic’s drive-in model hasn’t had to change much in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. While restaurants like McDonald’s and other traditional dine-in/drive-thru fast food combos have been forced to close dining rooms, pushing people to use the drive-thru exclusively and even shorten their hours in some cases.

Meanwhile, Sonic’s car side ordering and delivery is basically the same as it’s always been, albeit with masks and a few extra precautions. Who knew that the decades-old drive-up diner would end up being the perfect fit for a viral pandemic in 2020? I certainly didn’t.

If you find yourself heading out for some fast food, keep in mind that things like social distancing and mask-wearing are still incredibly important, and you should prioritize contactless transactions. The good (or is it really bad?) news is that most chains already have contactless measures in place, allowing us to indulge our guilty pleasures while remaining relatively risk-free.