How many chain restaurants are in Madison?

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Madison’s chaininess map | Screenshot of the Restaurant Chaininess Map via Georgia Tech

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When you’re grabbing dinner on your way home from work, do you stop by a fast food chain, or an independent restaurant? How easy is it to “eat local” in Madison?

We took a look at the Restaurant Chaininess Map (made by a lab at Georgia Tech’s Center for Spatial Analysis and Visualization) to see how many restaurants in Madison are considered chains.

The map scores cities based on the number of other restaurants that share their name in the US. If we opened a restaurant called 608today, we would have a score of 1 while McDonald’s has a chaininess score of over 10,000.

The chaininess in this map is based on the number of restaurants that have more than one location. The more locations per restaurant, the darker the dot. The yellow dots signify restaurants that are one-of-a-kindlike Ha Long Bay or Eno Vino.

When you search for Madison (using the box in the bottom left), the map zooms to the greater Madison area. It gives the total number of restaurants pictured in this area + their average chaininess score — 1,456 restaurants, with a chaininess score of 1,231.

So is that score high or low? Let’s compare. Milwaukee has a chaininess score of 1,087 out of 2,247 restaurants. Pretty similar. But when you look at cities like Chicago, you’ll start seeing a huge difference — 858 out of 9,779.

When looking at the map, the red spots in Madison are clustered around areas such as UW-Madison, Shorewood Hills, Middleton, and the East Town Mall, while the isthmus appears extremely yellow.

So what is the most prevalent chain in Madison? After looking at the number of locations for popular restaurants, McDonald’s, Starbucks, and Subway are the most common chains, with about 20 locations each. And for those curious, you can get a ButterBurger at 12 different Culver’s in the area.