With In-N-Out Burger opening soon, the Cache Valley restaurant landscape will feature 23 of the top 50 fast-food chain restaurants in the U.S. as rated by the trade publication QSR.
And, of course, many of those 23 are here in multiple franchise locations.
In-N-Out comes in at No. 33 on the latest “QSR-50,” an annual fast-food restaurant ranking based on systemwide sales of each chain and last updated in August 2020.
The top 10 restaurants in the ranking are, in order, McDonald’s, Starbucks, Chick-fil-A, Taco Bell, Burger King, Subway, Wendy’s, Dunkin’, Domino’s and Panera Bread.
As most valley residents will immediately recognize, only two fast-food chains in the top 10 are not currently represented locally — Dunkin’ and Panera Bread. A Dunkin’ franchise did open at 1051 N. Main in early 2015 but suddenly closed after only nine months of operation. That building is now occupied by Krispy Kreme, which does not currently rank in the QSR-50.
Among the ranked chains with a presence in Cache Valley, including Preston, Idaho, several have more than one outlet. Those are No. 6-ranked Subway (7), No. 9-ranked Domino’s (5), No. 1-ranked McDonald’s (4), No. 5-ranked Burger King (4), No. 7-ranked Wendy’s (4), No. 2-ranked Starbucks (3), No. 12-ranked Pizza Hut (3), No. 15-ranked Arby’s (3), No. 42-ranked Papa Murphy’s (3), No. 4-ranked Taco Bell (2), No. 16-ranked Little Caesar’s (2), No. 17-ranked Panda Express (2), No. 23-ranked Jimmy John’s (2), and No. 30-ranked Carl’s Jr. (2).
Chains in the QSR-50 with one valley location are No. 3-ranked Chick-fil-A, No. 13-ranked KFC, No. 14-ranked Sonic Drive-In, No. 26-ranked Culver’s, No. 27-ranked Five Guys, No. 31-ranked Jersey Mike’s, No. 38-ranked Firehouse Subs, and No. 39-ranked Del Taco.
Stories abound about local residents and businesspeople trying and failing to secure franchises in Cache Valley. Every chain has its own requirements to qualify, and many limit how close outlets can be from one another. The Herald Journal reached out to two major franchisees in the valley to discuss the process and local trends but has received no response.
Visitors to the newspaper’s Facebook page weighed in enthusiastically on a question posted Thursday about what chain restaurant they’d most like to see added to the valley fast-food mix, but some commenters came out quickly to offer the opinion fast-food chains should take a back seat to local eating establishments.
“The best restaurants in any town are local,” wrote Tyler Riggs. “In Logan, Le Nonne, Herm’s, Crumb Bros, Tandoori Oven, El Toro Viejo etc … run circles around the best chain restaurants. … If we do not actively prioritize local business over chain business then soon we will only have chain business and look like every other community in the country. And that is sad.”
DeAnn Johnson expanded on this theme, commenting, “How about we take a minute, slow down and breathe. We have enough of fast food places. We should enjoy what is already established. If anything, how about someone come in and remodel an already existing but vacant building. I hate to see all of the empty buildings sitting around the valley.”
But many of Thursday’s 500-plus Facebook comments reflected the Cache Valley fast-food mania evident in online clicks whenever The Herald Journal posts an article on the topic.
Suggestions for new fast-food outlets ran the gamut, and many of these currently hold spots on the QSR-50, such as Jack in the Box, Dairy Queen, Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, Whataburger, Zaxby’s, Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers, El Pollo Loco and Tropical Smoothie Cafe.
A couple of commenters called for a second Chick-fil-A restaurant to reduce long lines at the chain’s current 1323 N. Main location. One noted the lines have impeded traffic in the shopping area there and that the situation could get worse after a new WinCo supermarket opens behind the restaurant later this year.
Other restaurants getting multiple endorsements in the comment thread — some of which would be defined in the restaurant industry as “fast casual” as opposed to fast food — were The Habit Burger Grill, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Potbelly Sandwich Shop, Taco John’s, Red Robin, White Castle, Crown Burger, Dutch Bros, Pei Wei Asian Diner, Long John Silver’s and Skippers.
Logan had a Skippers for a time at 14th North and Main Street, and there were at least two Dairy Queen outlets in Cache Valley’s past.
Hiring has become an issue for the restaurant industry both locally and nationally in the past two years. Some local restaurants have cut back hours due to difficulties recruiting and maintaining workers, but the big fast-food chains appear to be maintaining traditional hours, if occasionally closing dine-in areas temporarily even after state COVID-19 restrictions would allow them to stay open.
Hiring signs are up at most fast-food restaurants in Cache Valley. Several outlets are offering various signing bonuses and incentives to job recruits.