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5 Chain Restaurants That Define America

There are some restaurant chains that many people can live without. (I'm looking at you, Wendy's...) Maybe if you're at a rest stop you give one a try, or if you're desperate for a bite to eat while on vacation, but not all corporate-run establishments are the same. While some serve food that some people will eat, others play an integral part in many people's lives.

Of course, many of us would love to dine exclusively at mom and pop shops, but that isn't always possible day-in and day-out. The convenience of a well-placed chain that also offers a good deal and product can be hard to pass up.

We have rounded up a bunch of casual dining establishments that aren't only extremely lucrative, but also have changed our country, to some extent. These places of business have customers from every socio-economic background, every race, every ethnicity, and from every urban and suburban location from sea to shining sea. These are the chains that define America.

5. Taco Bell

Yo quiero Taco Bell. Guaranteed that this is all the Spanish that many Americans know, and it's all thanks to a chihuahua in a sombrero. Taco Bell introduced the country to (a very watered-down, deranged version of) Mexican food. If you do the research, very few things on the menu here are even close to authentic, but the restaurant did make tacos, burritos, and nachos standard fare in a country where meatloaf and mashed potatoes were the go-to options for many.

4. Starbucks

When Howard Schultz conceptualized Starbucks, he wanted the coffee shop to be a "third place" for people. He knew that most people spent the majority of their time at home and at work. He hoped Starbucks would fill in any gaps that existed and become the place where people went when they were in between home and the office. And he succeeded. While $7 lattes and highly caloric frozen drinks topped with whipped cream and caramel aren't for everyone, Starbucks does offer regular coffee, good snacks, and a comfortable place to go (with Wi-Fi) for anything from a date with a friend, to a job interview, to a place to kill time, to a place to get work done. Before Starbucks, where did people even go when their Internet failed? (Oh right, there was no Internet then...)

3. McDonald's

While dining at McDonald's isn't as cost-effective as it was years ago (a Big Mac meal can cost upwards of $9, depending on where you live), the food at Mickey Dees is generally consistent and ubiquitous. Need a quick bite in your car or for a 10-minute pit stop? McDonald's. Need to calm tantrum-y toddlers and young children? Fries and chicken nuggets at McDonald's. Need a hot coffee or a quick ice cream fix? You'll always find a McDonald's nearby.