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A list ranking Chick-fil-A as the top fast food spot in most of the country didn't sit well with everyone.

Mike Pomranz
October 20, 2017

What is every state in America's most popular fast food? Determining the answer isn't as easy as it might seem – mostly because there is plenty of ambiguity around the word "popular." That didn't stop Business Insider and Foursquare from attempting to create a list of popular fast food chains though—but let’s just say their results left people across the country a bit unsatisfied.

To create a map of the country, color-coded with each state's most popular fast food eatery, BI and Four Square stated, "we looked at which chains received the most visits on average in every state based on the total number of visits to each chain divided by the number of locations in that state." To put that another way, this study deemed popularity as the most average visits per location. As a result, Chick-fil-A ended up dominating the country: Using this methodology, all but 11 states (and D.C.) had the chicken joint named as their most popular restaurant. Alaska, North Dakota and the District of Columbia all went to McDonald's; Texas and Utah went to In-N-Out; Hawaii and South Dakota went to Popeye's; Vermont went to Wendy's; Nebraska went to Culver's; Oklahoma went to Taco Bueno; Nevada went to White Castle; and California went to Raising Cane's Chicken Fingers.

If you're left thinking, Uh, that seems weird, you're not alone. OregonLive called the map "almost inconceivably bad," pointing out that in its state, "Chick-fil-A, despite only having two locations in the state, gets the nod as our favorite fast food chain, ignoring hometown hero Burgerville, with its dozens of metro area locations, or Little Big Burger, with more than 10."

The SFGate was a bit less rude in saying that it had "issues" with the map, but still wasn't shy in pointing out that only five Raising Cane's locations exist in the huge state, with "all of them in Los Angeles County and Orange County." The Fort Worth Star-Telegram was equally perplexed with the pick for Texas. "Call it a case of Fake News," the paper wrote. "Not naming Whataburger would have been brutal enough for Texans. Selecting the West Coast-based chain they love to hate (in favor of Whataburger, of course) was even worse." Turns out that Whataburger's whopping 669 locations probably hurt the chain's average compared to In-N-Out's mere 35 restaurants in the state.

In the company’s defense, Foursquare went about trying to clarify just how it came to its findings. “Based on the methodology that was used for this report, these are the most popular fast food chains per location in each state,” the company said, also noting that the data was gather from its apps then normalized against the U.S. census in order to remove gender and population biases. “So, with regard to the results in states like California and Texas, where the results seem more surprising, we know that Raising Cane's and In-N-Out only have a only few locations in the respective states.” The brand then continued, “We are working with Business Insider on pulling another version of this list with an adjusted methodology which looks at the most popular fast-food chains in each state overall (not per location). This will eliminate things like Raising Cane's from popping up on the list because of the limited number of locations in the U.S.”