When you’re out at two in the morning and need something to eat, fast food is often the cheapest, quickest, and closest option. Sure, it’s not the most ideal meal, but nothing satisfies quite like a Big Mac. Unless, of course, you took fast food out of your life and eat more home cooked meals. Like an adult.
But did you know that cheap, greasy, and additive-filled fast food can make you money? That is, if you’re investing in it, not just eating it. (Or doing both. We don’t judge.)
Most fast food chains that you know and love (/hate) are publicly traded companies, and you can invest in them on the stock market. So, why not fund your fry habit through the same companies that make them for you?
You can invest in multiple fast food chains with one stock.
You may not have heard of Restaurant Brands International, but you’ve definitely heard of Burger King, Popeyes, and Tim Hortons. Restaurant Brands operates all of them, along with other, smaller chains. While you can’t invest in Burger King alone, you can invest in Restaurant Brands ($QSR) and make money off both Whoppers and fried chicken at the same time.
There are other companies on the stock market that operate multiple fast food chains. Yum! Brands ($YUM) includes KFC, Taco Bell, and Pizza Hut. Dunkin’ Brands Group ($DNKN) operates both Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin-Robbins, and Jack In The Box ($JACK) also owns fast casual restaurant Qdoba Mexican Grill.
Don’t let the Golden Arches overshadow smaller chains.
McDonald’s ($MCD) is by far the largest fast food chain, with over 36,000 locations around the world. Yet if you follow the progress of small regional chains and think that they’ll grow to rival the Golden Arches, they may be worth investing in, too. Nathan’s Famous ($NATH), for example, has about 300 locations. While McDonald’s stock made a meager 12% gain over the last year, Nathan’s stock rose by 40%. Sonic Corp. ($SONC), also on the smaller side, saw a 32% increase in stock value over the last month alone.
Fast food isn’t the same as fast casual.
Fast food is still a dominating force, but it lost traction in the last few years with the rise of fast casual restaurants. You’ve likely noticed an increase in Chipotle Mexican Grill ($CMG) and Panera Bread ($PNRA) restaurants popping up, as health-conscious consumers are turning to them more often. Americans increasingly demand healthier and tastier options, and fast food chains feel pressured to adapt to their tastes. (See Domino’s ($DPZ), whose business rose after they admitted their food was terrible). If you think fast food’s dominance is fading, you may be interested in investing in a fast casual eatery instead.
There’s a way to invest in almost anything, and with the massive popularity of fast food chains, there are plenty of options for your favorite — or least favorite — eating establishments with the potential to grow your portfolio. After all the service you’ve undoubtedly given them, now’s the time to do your research and see if it’s the right move to invest in fast food. Or, consider the fast casual industry, and hopefully make back what you’ve spent on Doritos Locos Tacos.