Justin Sullivan—Getty Images

McDonald’s is a big chain, and running the brand pays big bucks.

Mike Pomranz
June 28, 2018

Fast food and casual dining chains are known for their low prices, but the people who run these brands expect big bucks for their work. Last week, Nation’s Restaurant News revealed its list of the top 200 restaurant chains in America based on sales. But this week, the site is back with another intriguing list: the who run those top chains.

Nation’s Restaurant News specifically limited their list only to publically-traded companies (which have to disclose CEO compensation) where the chief executive held their position for the entire calendar year. As a result, only 25 CEOs out of the 200 restaurant chains qualified for this list of top salaries. Meanwhile, at a time when CEO salaries are sometimes viewed as being excessive, NRN also noted that only ten CEO saw their overall compensation increase from 2016, whereas 15 CEOs saw their compensation packages decline.

Still, no one on this list is going hungry – and not just because they are in charge of hundreds or even thousands of restaurants. CEO pay is still extremely high, starting with the top of the pack, Steve Easterbrook of McDonald’s. Easterbrook reportedly pulled in $21.8 million last year – a nearly 42 percent increase from the year before. It’s an insane amount of money, but at the same time, McDonald’s earned an insane amount of money in 2017: $37.64 billion in sales, nearly twice what the second largest chain, Starbucks, hauled in, and well over three times what the third largest chain, Subway, sold. Meanwhile, McDonald’s stock had a banner year, smashing its all-time high, so clearly Easterbrook wasn’t the only one who made out financially.

Things cool off significantly from there: Yum! Brands CEO Greg Creed made a by-comparison sensible $12.4 million in 2017 for running Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, and KFC. Kevin Johnson, CEO of Starbucks, had total pay of $11.5 million. Chipotle’s Steve Ells made $11.1 million in what would be his final year as CEO of the burrito chain he founded. And rounding out the top five, Domino’s J. Patrick Doyle made $7.9 million.

And yet, despite the decline in many CEO’s pay, even at the bottom of the list, these execs are doing fine. Only the bottom two made less than $1 million: Stephen Sather of El Pollo Loco was paid $711,864 and Dave Pace of Jamba earned $601,149, according to NRN’s rankings.

But if you think restaurant CEOs make too much, here’s an : Of the 25 CEOs on their list, only McDonald’s Easterbrook was included on the annual New York Times list of the highest paid U.S. CEOs across all industries. Turns out running a multinational restaurant chain is for suckers. 

You May Like

DELICIOUS DEAL

12 ISSUES FOR JUST $12

Sign Up for Our Newsletter

Keeping you in the know on all the latest & greatest food and travel news, and other special offers.