Ubiquity is a major factor in the American love affair with fast food. There’s something both comforting and horrifying about the idea that, at any given moment, the average American is never more than 10 minutes away from a place that will sell them hundreds of corporate-approved calories for the price of a gallon of gas. Aside from all considerations of flavor, fast food is about going from hungry to queasily full in the shortest amount of time possible. That means that one of the most important factors in a fast food chain’s success is its proximity to hungry customers.
A new chart put together by FlowingData shows which fast food companies selling burgers, in which regions of the United States, are closest to consumers. The chart breaks the country into circles with a 10-mile radius, and then color codes them based on which burger chain is closest to the center of each circle. The result is a mosaic of colors, with the big players like McDonald’s and Burger King dominating the country in general, but often losing out to regional favorites like Jack In The Box or Sonic. If nothing else, the chart puts the lie to the idea that the American West has truly been settled—just look at all of those wasted miles of uncivilized wilderness, without the Big Mac or the Whopper to bring the harsh fluorescent light of civilization to the hungry barbarians.
If there’s a takeaway from the map, it’s that, if you live in the east half of the U.S., you’re never truly very far away from a McDonald’s, and the watchful eye of its all-seeing omniscient clown mascot, Ronald McDonald. That becomes even more clear when you look at the rest of the data that went into the chart, viewable here, which shows the location of every burger chain in the country independent of each other, charted in a color that gives them the appearance of a grease stain spreading over a once-pristine napkin.
FlowingData has done similar analyses before on the nearest grocery stores, coffee shops, and pizza chains to spots in the States, in case you needed an even clearer view of the wonderful, comforting safety net of corporate chains that surrounds the country in a loving, tender stranglehold.