The Super-sized guide to researching the fast food industry

Chad's burger kings
Chad’s burger kings


Note:  This guide was published a bit early due to student demand.  I will edit as time permits, so check back often.
The purpose of this guide is to point business researchers to some key resources when researching the fast food  industry. While not entirely comprehensive, this guide does list several of the key and highly recommended resources when analyzing the industry and researching the companies in the industry.  I’ve listed the databases and resources below, with recommendations on how to find the best information in the quickest fashion.


IbisWorld is a good place to get started for a good overview of the industry.  A search for fast food yields relevant industry reports.

Passport GMID

Passport GMID offers market research reports and company reports covering the U.S. and the international markets.  There are many ways to find information in Passport, though the video below shows the most effective way to research this industry.  You might also use the search box in Passport to search by company or industry.

Mintel Oxygen

Mintel Oxygen is an excellent source for market research reports pertaining to this industry.  A search for “fast food” yields several relevant reports.

Hoover’s Online

Hoover’s Online has great company and industry information.

  • Use the Company tab to search for a particular company (McDonald’s, Chipotle, etc) to find company financials, competitors, company news, and more.
  • Use the Industry Tab to search for “fast food” to find some excellent industry reports.


OneSource is another fantastic resource for both company and industry information.

  • It has company news,  financials, SWOT analyses, ratio comparisons, peer analysis, stock reports and more for companies in the fast food industry.

LexisNexis Academic

LexisNexis is a great source for company or industry news, company profiles, legal cases, financials, family trees, accounting publications, law journals, and more.
  • Tip:  Your best bet is to use the “Get Company Info” box on the right side of the page to search for you company.  On the company page you will find a good deal of financials, news, and more.
  • You can find video tips on using LexisNexis here.

S&P Net Advantage

S&P NetAdvantage  is a key tool to use when researching this industry.

  • It has a very good report for the Restaurants industry, of which fast food is a part.  The industry reports can be very useful in performing a PEST analysis, particularly when addressing the “economic” area.   To find these reports, click on the Industry Tab in NetAvantage, then select the industry in the drop-down menu.  Be sure to look for the “downloadable company data” link on the left side of the page as well.
  • It has stock reports and company financials for major companies.
  • The Compustat Excel Analytics are great when analyzing companies.  This video shows you how to find them.

Mergent Online

Mergent Online is a great tool for looking at both company and industry information.

Business Source Complete

Business Source Complete has a lot of useful information that can take your research to the next level. I’ve listed here last not because it is the least important, but because I would us articles and reports from Business Source Complete to fill in the gaps of your research.  You will find Industry Profiles (search for wine or wineries, and Trade Publications that can enhance the broad coverage of other industry reports.

SEC Filings

The 10-k (annual SEC filings) for individual companies contain financial information for companies, as well as textual descriptions of business strategies, risk factors, competition, and more.  Look in Part 1, Item 1 and Item 1A for this information in a company’s 10-K report.  As an example, take a look at the 10-K for McDonald’s and look at the Business and Risk Factors sections.  You will notice that McDonald’s uses some of the similar language found in reports like IBISWorld and others.  You might also look at similar 10-K’s for other companies in the industry.


Statista is great resource to find some extremely useful statistics for you industry.  Simply search for “fast food,” “restaurants,” or by company or brand  to find stats for your project.

Related Topics: Industry Guides