Fact Check

Did a Chinese Company Buy America's 'Most Famous Burger Brand'?

McDonald's, Wendy's and Burger King are among the most popular burger chains in terms of U.S. sales figures, according to online reports.

Published Dec 12, 2023

A photo of a McDonald's Big Mac cheeseburger on Nov. 2, 2010. (PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP via Getty Images) (PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP via Getty Images)
A photo of a McDonald's Big Mac cheeseburger on Nov. 2, 2010. (PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP via Getty Images)
An online advertisement accurately reported that "America's most famous burger brand is now Chinese-owned."

The online ads that made this false claim were nothing more than misleading clickbait that attempted to entice readers to click or scroll through an article that spanned nearly 400 paragraphs. Nowhere in the article did the author provide details about a U.S. burger brand being purchased by company in China. We hope to have saved readers some time with our brief fact check and have detailed below why these kinds of ads and articles exist in the first place.

In December 2023, multiple display advertisements were shown to online users on YouTube and other websites that claimed, "America's Most Famous Burger Brand Is Now Chinese Owned."

In this story, we've detailed how these ads were both false and misleading. We've also provided information about some of the most successful U.S. burger brands.

Misleading Burger Ads

One ad that we reviewed showed a photo of a large cheeseburger in what appeared to be the dining room of a restaurant. We performed a reverse-image search and traced the picture to a page on Pinterest. A link on that Pinterest page led to another page on friesandsalt.tumblr.com, which revealed that the photo was captured in a Five Guys restaurant. Five Guys is headquartered in Virginia and is not owned by a company in China.

Online advertisements claimed that America's most famous burger brand is now Chinese owned and that China had bought US icons.

Additional ads that displayed similar captions showed other pictures of burgers. One of those images may have been a stock photo or was possibly captured in Cyprus, according to a user's post on TripAdvisor.com.

Online advertisements claimed that America's most famous burger brand is now Chinese owned and that China had bought US icons.

Why Do These Ads Exist?

All of these ads led to a lengthy article that was hosted on either Investing.com or StreetInsider.com. The story's headline read, "American Companies That Are No Longer American."

The article was massive in its text. It listed nearly 200 businesses and had close to 400 paragraphs.

Nowhere in the story did the author mention anything about any American burger brands being bought by a company in China.

The ads with the photos of burgers were false and misleading clickbait that may have originally been created to lure readers to click or scroll through nearly 200 slides for nothing. We hope that our brief article saved readers some time.

The reason why these kinds of ads and articles exist is usually something called advertising arbitrage. Advertising arbitrage is a strategy in which an advertiser hopes to make more money on ads displayed in a lengthy article than it would cost to display an initial clickbait ad meant to attract users to the article. In other words, instead of the ads being both attractive and potentially helpful to consumers, they instead mislead users from the start.

What Is America's 'Most Famous' Burger Brand?

Naming America's "most famous" burger brand might be a subjective choice. However, if sales figures were considered, McDonald's was at the top of the food chain, according to QSR Magazine, Restaurant Business and Yahoo Finance. The company is headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, not China.

The same three sources that provided sales figures for burger chains also reported that McDonald's was followed by Wendy's and Burger King. Wendy's is headquartered in Dublin, Ohio, while Burger King is owned by the Canadian company Restaurant Brands International.

Note: If readers would like to report any strange or misleading ads on Snopes, we invite you to contact us. Please include the full link of the website where the questionable ad led to so that we can attempt to investigate and potentially block any such ads.


Ahmed, Ali. “20 Best Burger Chains in the US.” Yahoo Finance, 5 Aug. 2023, https://finance.yahoo.com/news/20-best-burger-chains-us-214700611.html.

“Campus Gardens at Wendy’s® Headquarters in Dublin, OH.” Wendy’s, https://www.wendys.com/csr-what-we-value/footprint/corporate-office-initiatives/gardens.

“Careers at the McDonald’s Global Headquarters.” McDonald’s Careers, https://careers.mcdonalds.com/mhq-and-field-offices.

“El Clasico Sports Pub.” TripAdvisor.com, Apr. 2019, https://www.tripadvisor.com/LocationPhotoDirectLink-g190383-d6651868-i275560000-El_Clasico_Sports_Pub-Nicosia_Nicosia_District.html.

Evon, Dan. “Snopes Tips: A Guide To Performing Reverse Image Searches.” Snopes, 22 Mar. 2022, https://www.snopes.com/articles/400681/how-to-perform-reverse-image-searches/.

“Five Guys Bacon Triple Cheeseburger.” Pinterest, www.pinterest.com/pin/513973376204398170/.

“---.” friesandsalt.tumblr.com, https://friesandsalt.tumblr.com/post/136992557459/photoset_iframe/friesandsalt/tumblr_nragqdSeHE1qhffuc/0/false.

Liles, Jordan. “Snopes Tips: How To Avoid Ad Arbitrage Clickbait.” Snopes, 2 Jan. 2022, https://www.snopes.com/articles/387913/avoid-ad-arbitrage-clickbait/.

“Our Locations.” Restaurant Brands International, https://careers.rbi.com/global/en/locations.

“Ranked: The Top Fast-Food Burger Chains in America.” QSR Magazine, 1 Aug. 2023, https://www.qsrmagazine.com/operations/fast-food/ranked-the-top-fast-food-burger-chains-in-america/.

Restaurant Business Staff. “The Largest Burger Chains in the U.S.” Restaurant Business, 13 May 2020, https://restaurantbusinessonline.com/financing/largest-burger-chains-us.

Jordan Liles is a Senior Reporter who has been with Snopes since 2016.