The Unevenness of McDonald’s Dominance…See The Places McDonald’s Reigns Supreme

by Gwen Sharp

A couple of years ago, Lisa posted about the ubiquity of McDonald’s in the U.S., highlighting a map that showed the distance from the nearest McDonald’s. As a follow-up to that, Data Pointed posted a map that illustrates the unevenness of its market dominance across the country. If we plot the markets dominated by the top 8 hamburger-based chains (in terms of sales), we see that though McDonald’s is the single largest burger chain in most of the U.S. (all the black territory), other chains outsell McDonald’s in many markets, with the Sonic-dominated Southern Plains the most obvious:

In fact, there are relatively few places where McDonald’s has an outright majority of the market share; in most areas, the combined sales of its 7 largest competitors are more than McDonald’s:

This illustrates the importance of the ubiquity shown in the map Lisa originally posted. McDonald’s might like to truly dominate every market; it ideally would probably like to have a monopoly on them. But it doesn’t have to in order to successful and to exert incredible market power. It doesn’t need to control every individual market in order to exert enormous influence on the fast food industry, from setting the standard for labor practices to influencing which varieties of potatoes farmers grow for the french fry market. The “be everywhere” model allows it to win the larger burger chain war, even if it loses some regional market battles.


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