Sandwich chain Subway has more locations than any other quick-service or fast-food restaurant chain in the United States, but an investment in the company is impossible. The parent company, Doctor's Associates, is private.

For those wanting to bet on the continued dominance of fast-food in America, here are the next best options.

Six Subway sandwiches lined up on a countertop, with various vegetables displayed alongside.

Image source: Subway.

Biggest fast-food chains in the U.S.

Company

U.S. Locations

Total Global Locations

Description

Subway

26,017

Over 44,000

The world's largest restaurant chain by location count; owned by Doctor's Associates.

McDonald's (NYSE:MCD)

14,155

36,899

Not far behind Subway in global count, but the record holder for largest burger chain in the world.

Yum! Brands (NYSE:YUM)

18,045

Over 44,000

The parent of KFC, Taco Bell, and Pizza Hut.

Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX)

13,172

25,085

Best known for its coffee, the global roaster also sells teas, and other food items.

Restaurant Brands International (NYSE:QSR)

Over 9,400

Over 23,000

Best known for Burger King in the U.S. and Tim Hortons in Canada, the company bought Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen in early 2017.

Dunkin' Brands Group (NASDAQ:DNKN)

11,366

20,080

The parent company of Dunkin' Donuts and Baskin Robbins.

Domino's Pizza (NYSE:DPZ)

5,491

14,434

A leading pizza take-out chain in the U.S. and globally, second to Yum!'s Pizza Hut.

Wendy's (NASDAQ:WEN)

5,739

6,537

The world's third-largest hamburger chain, operating primarily in North America.

Dairy Queen

About 4,500

Over 6,000

You can't buy stock in Dairy Queen directly, but the fast-food chain is part of Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE:BRK-A)(NYSE:BRK-B) family of wholly owned subsidiaries.

Data as of last available update. Data source: Company websites and Statista.

Which ones are a buy?

Over the last few years, the battle over Americans' dining-out budget has heated up. Restaurant companies have been rapidly expanding their store counts, and that has started to erode traffic at existing locations. The reason? Eating out demand hasn't grown as much as restaurant supply.

Despite that, though, the above mentioned restaurant juggernauts still boast solid investor returns. These fast-food businesses offer a range of options to suit investor needs, from stable dividend payers to fast-expanding names.

Business

Trailing P/E Ratio

One-Year Forward P/E Ratio

Dividend Yield

McDonald's

27.5

24.0

2.4%

Yum! Brands

20.9

24.8

1.5%

Starbucks

28.9

21.7

2.1%

Restaurant Brands International

45.6

24.5

1.3%

Dunkin' Brands Group

25.3

21.8

2.3%

Domino's Pizza 

33.8

25.8

1%

Wendy's 

36.8

26.3

2%

P/E = price-to-earnings. Data source: Yahoo! Finance and company quarterly earnings.

Of these, McDonald's and Domino's are worthy of specific mention. McDonald's may already be the world's largest burger joint, but it is still finding room to grow internationally. In its last quarter, same-store sales in high-growth markets were up 6.2%, led by China. Foundational markets, which include 80 of the highest-growth countries spanning the globe, had a same-store sales increase of 10.2%. Paired with a resurgent interest in the brand in the U.S., McDonald's looks like a great pairing of stability and supplemental growth from overseas.

The outside of a McDonald's restaurant, with a close-up shot of the golden arches logo on the side of the building.

Image source: McDonald's.

Domino's is a similar story, boasting one of the world's largest delivery and take-out operations. The company doesn't boast the same dividend yield as McDonald's, but it makes up for that in high growth. Global sales were up 14.5% in the last quarter through a combination of new store openings, U.S. same-store sales growth of 8.4%, and international same-store sales growth of 5.1%.

With plenty of other big name options to choose from, many of which are still finding ways to get bigger, you don't need Subway to capitalize on America's persisting reliance on fast-food.

Nicholas Rossolillo has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Berkshire Hathaway (B shares) and Starbucks. The Motley Fool recommends Dunkin' Brands Group. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.