The definitive, data-based ranking of fast-food breakfast options


A frame grab from Taco Bell’s recent marketing campaign, promoting the chain’s breakfast menu. (AP Photo/Taco Bell via Taylor Strategy)

Another day, another novelty from some fast-food chain desperate to capture the early-morning crowd. First Taco Bell launched these flimsy monstrosities it’s calling “waffle tacos.” Then White Castle, in its own bleary-eyed bid for relevance, announced a Belgian waffle sandwich — available all day!

When will the madness end? Never, probably, since breakfast foods promise to capture a late-night, early-morning audience that chains don’t otherwise reach. So to help the Internet navigate the ever-more-crowded field of fast-food breakfast options, we have helpfully come up with the following definitive ranking of breakfast options at America’s 40 largest fast-food chains. And by “definitive,” I mean pretty random and debatable — because this is breakfast sandwiches we’re talking about here, and analyzing their relative merits is about as futile as it is fattening.

Anyway, I’m weighing two factors here: How many U.S. locations the restaurant has (because no one cares about a good — “good” — breakfast, if you can’t get it in your state) and the number of calories per dollar in that restaurant’s marquee breakfast item. (Because you want to get the most bang for your buck, right?)

We could argue about this methodology all day, particularly where the “marquee item” is concerned, but for the sake of this ranking, I picked either (a) the novelty that restaurant is marketing, if it has one or (b) the most classic, middle-of-the-road item, if it doesn’t. Prices vary by state, but I used numbers from fastfoodmenuprices.com where available, and local media reviews and menus when not available. I defer to QSR’s most recent rankings for the franchise numbers.

Without further ado, here’s what you get:

  1. Subway 6” egg and cheese sub (360 calories, 25,549 U.S. franchises)
  2. McDonald’s egg McMuffin (290 calories, 12,605 franchises)
  3. Burger King muffin sandwich with egg, cheese and sausage (430 calories, 7,000 franchises)
  4. Dunkin’ Donuts glazed donut sandwich (360 calories, 7,278 franchises)
  5. Wendy’s biscuit sandwich (570 calories, 5,528 franchises)
  6. Starbucks sausage classic breakfast sandwich (500 calories, 4,262 franchises)
  7. Sonic breakfast burrito (500 calories, 3,147 franchises)
  8. Taco Bell egg and cheese waffle taco (260 calories, 4,218 franchises)
  9. Arby’s bacon, egg and cheese biscuit (450 calories, 2,343 franchises)
  10. Jack in the Box “breakfast Jack” (283 calories, 1,703 franchises)
  11. Chick-fil-A bacon, egg and cheese biscuit (450 calories, 1,391 franchises)
  12. Quiznos egg and cheddar sub (370 calories, 2,349 franchises)
  13. Hardee’s egg and cheese biscuit (400 calories, 1,233 franchises)
  14. Panera blueberry bagel with plain cream cheese (520 calories, 843 franchises)
  15. Carl’s Jr. loaded breakfast burrito (770 calories, 697 franchises)
  16. White Castle Belgian waffle taco breakfast sandwich (350 calories, 400 franchises)
  17. Del Taco bacon and egg quesadilla (410 calories, 253 locations)
  18. Qdoba egg, potato and cheese breakfast burrito (830 calories, 311 locations)
  19. Whataburger “breakfast on a bun” (370 calories, 119 franchises)

Believe it or not, the other 21 restaurants in the top 40 — including Pizza Hut, Chipotle and KFC — don’t currently offer a distinct breakfast menu. We’ll see how long that lasts. I, for one, would gladly welcome a breakfast pizza to the list.

Caitlin Dewey runs The Intersect blog, writing about digital and Internet culture. Before joining the Post, she was an associate online editor at Kiplinger’s Personal Finance.
Comments
Show Comments
Most Read Lifestyle
Next Story
Emily Yahr · April 10