10 Foodservice Facts About Chicago

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Updated May 2024

What comes to mind when you hear the phrase “Chicago food scene”?

Chances are your brain goes straight to Chicago deep dish pizza, a pie-like crust loaded with thick layers of cheese, meat, and tomato sauce. Maybe your mind conjures up images of a classic Chicago dog, said to be “dragged through the garden” with its traditional toppings of mustard, relish, onion, pickle, tomato, hot peppers, and celery salt. The Italian beef sandwich, similar to a Philly Cheesesteak but dipped in jus and topped with spicy giardiniera, is another iconic menu item. If you’re looking for something less classic  but still emblematic in its own way, you’ll want to try the edible helium balloon dessert at Alinea, which boasts a rare three Michelin stars.

The Windy City ranked number three in Food & Wine’s 2024 Top US Cities for Food and Drinks, and it’s no surprise why. Rich with a multitude of cuisines and experiences, Chicago boasts a strong food scene with a long history. In fact, its recent feature as the setting of FX’s hit TV show “The Bear” has served as a love letter to the city’s foodie culture and generated a new wave of excitement around the famous metro. 

In such a bustling, food-forward city, there’s a lot of restaurant data to process. Brizo Food Metrics, a powerful market intelligence platform, has gathered data on 14,763 foodservice establishments in Chicago; out of these establishments, 11,206 are independent locations and 3,557 are chains.  Using Brizo, we’ve rounded up some data-rich foodservice facts on Chicago. Read on to learn more about Chi-town’s top cuisines, menu items, and amenities. 

Chicago Foodservice Facts by Brizo FoodMetrics

🌭 Top cuisine 

Although Chicago is known for its signature dishes like as deep dish pizza and hot dogs, the city’s food landscape is made up of cuisines from around the world. On the same block, you can get a plate of scrumptious pierogies, then go next door for authentic birria tacos. Out of all cuisines, American is most popular in Chicago, with 4,420 establishments. Next is Mexican food, with 1,566 establishments, and then Italian, with 770 establishments. 

🍗 Top dietary style

Fried chicken sandwiches, sour cream glaze donuts, jibarito sandwiches, and barbeque are some other Chicago classics. With that being said, it’s no surprise that 6,981 establishments identify as offering fried food, while 4,848 offer comfort food. The third most popular dietary style is vegetarian, offered by 4,147 locations.

🍩 Top food chain

For independent operators, it’s important to understand which chains are most prominent in the area so they know what they’re up against. A chain can be defined as a brand with five or more locations. Across the 3,557 chain locations in the city, they are made up of 592 unique chains. Of those, Dunkin’ Donuts is the most popular chain, with 211 locations; Subway is close behind with 189 locations. Starbucks rings in as the third most common chain, with 167 locations. 

🛵 Top food delivery marketplace

As a big city with a lively food scene, food delivery is bustling. Out of Chicago’s 14,763 establishments, 10,591 (72%!) offer delivery. Uber Eats has partnered with 6,308 establishments, DoorDash with 6,186, and Grubhub with 4,934. 

🌮 Menu item: tacos

Mexican food is one of the top cuisines in Chicago, and that means tacos are a popular menu item in the Windy City. There are 820 establishments in the city that are listed as offering tacos on their menus; 669 of these are independent locations and 151 are chains. 

⚾️ Sports ambiance & amenities

It’s no secret that Chicago is a big sports town, with a significant focus on its many teams and spirited rivalries. Experience the thrill and catch a game alongside your meal: 193 establishments identify as offering a sports-specific ambiance, while 1,614 include TVs as an amenity. Go Cubs!

🍕 Menu item: pizza

Pizza in Chicago is different from anywhere else, and there are 1,139 establishments to try a slice from in the city. Most are independent operators (811). 241 establishments list “deep dish pizza” on their menu: a Chicago specialty! One of the most famous deep dish pizza spots in the city is Lou Malnati’s, which opened in 1971. Prepare to wait in line if you go!

😋 Late-night eats

Looking for something to satisfy your late-night “drunchies” (aka drunk munchies)? You won’t need to look for long: while 1,865 establishments in the city identify as offering “late-night eats,” with 600 open between the hours of 9 pm-2 am. While many of these establishments are chains like Subway and Taco Bell, 69% of them are independent. Most late-night food spots offer fast food or fried food, offer takeout, and identify as American cuisine. 

🍳 Brunch

After your late night out, you and your friends will likely need to reconvene over some brunch the next day. In Chicago, 2,584 establishments offer brunch; most brunch options are categorized as American comfort food. Looking to switch it up? There are 482 Mexican establishments with brunch; alternatively, 825 locations offer vegan menu items for this mid-morning meal. 

☀️ Outdoor seating

As we enter the summer season, Chicago weather will hover around an average of 80 degrees, giving you the perfect excuse to enjoy your food and drinks outside on a patio. 3,064 establishments in the city offer outdoor seating. Doesn’t a patio beer sound lovely? Out of those locations with outdoor seating, 2,045 serve alcohol.

Gathering Data on Chicago (and Other Big Cities)

If you’re a vendor selling to foodservice establishments in Chicago (or any city for that matter), it can be extraordinarily time-consuming to research and prioritize the ideal prospects for your business.

Detailed establishment attributes like cuisine type and amenities are key to zeroing in on the right locations and personalizing your pitch, but they aren’t always easy to come by. Even if you’ve cobbled them together with the help of sites like Google and Yelp, it’s still difficult to find the right contacts for your outreach.

With Brizo FoodMetrics, you gain access to all those details and more. Flexible filters and dashboards within an easy-to-use platform provide foodservice vendors and suppliers with granular, actionable insights. Once you’ve narrowed the target for your next campaign, you can hit a bullseye by reaching out to the right people with the right message (in Chicago alone, Brizo offers access to 19,651 unique contacts).

Outside Chicago, Brizo FoodMetrics covers over 1.9 million foodservice establishment profiles across the US, Canada, UK, and Ireland. Ready to rev up your sales engine and reduce your prospecting time by up to 75%? Request your free trial of Brizo today and expand your visibility on the foodservice market.