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MILFORD, Conn. -- Boosted by the number of co-branded restaurants in convenience stores and gas stations, Subway Restaurants has eclipsed McDonald's as the largest restaurant chain in the country.
The sandwich chain currently operates 13,247 stores in the United States, 148 more than McDonald's as of Dec. 31. Subway opened 904 units last year, while McDonald's opened 295.
"We knew that we were getting close to McDonald's, but we had to wait until McDonald's released its information," said Les Winograd, a Subway spokesman.
Winograd said Subway usually doesn't include the satellites in the count, but wanted to make sure its numbers were comparable to fourth-quarter figures reported by McDonald's, which included satellites, the Associated Press reported.
McDonald's spokeswoman Anna Rozenich declined to comment on the number of stores, but did point out that in 2001, systemwide sales rose to $40.63 billion from $40.18 billion.
McDonald's still far outsells Subway and surpasses the sandwich shop in global presence. The fact that there are more Subway restaurants in the United States may be a boost in visibility, but does not add up to huge financial gains, the report said.