America's 'better burger' obsession is fading — and a new kind of fast food is taking over

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Chick-Fil-A Ranks As America's Favorite Fast Food Restaurant

"Better burger" chains from Smashburger to Five Guys have exploded in recent years, leading to industry heavyweights like McDonald's and Wendy's changing their strategies.

But America's obsession with burgers seems to be fading.

This week, Nation's Restaurant News released a list of the fastest-growing restaurant chains. Burgers were noticeably absent from the top five, which instead included chicken chains Chick-fil-A, Raising Cane's Chicken Fingers, and Wingstop.

It's likely that items like fried chicken sandwiches and buffalo wings are more exciting to American diners than the classic burger-and-fries. Poultry also has a healthier reputation and is less expensive than beef.

While the chicken chains are soaring in sales, burgers seem to have hit a stale point.

After years of soaring demand for better-burger chains like Shake Shack, Five Guys, and Smashburger, burger sales growth in the industry is starting to slow, according to Nomura analyst Mark Kalinowski.

"It's clear that US burger-sector same-store sales have decelerated meaningfully," Kalinowski wrote in a recent research note. "No longer is the burger segment a beacon of brightness for the industry, as it was in Q1 [the first quarter of the year]."

Burger sales in the US grew more than 14% between 2010 and 2015 to nearly $103 billion in 2015, according to data from Euromonitor.

Investors have been betting on positive trends to continue in the burger industry, valuing restaurants like Habit Burger and Shake Shack at more than 100 times their earnings per share.

But now, many major players in the burger world are investing in chicken menu items.

McDonald's released a Chick-fil-A copycat sandwich last year.

The fast-food burger chain made over its previous chicken sandwich with a new buttermilk recipe that received positive feedback from critics and consumers.

Shake Shack also released the Chicken Shack, a South-style fried-chicken sandwich topped with pickles.

The chicken trend also bodes well for KFC, which is in the process of improving restaurant operations and marketing.

KFC is reinventing its menu, remodeling restaurants, and retraining employees across the US. Sales are rising, with growth every quarter since the Colonel's return.

Hayley Peterson and Kate Taylor contributed to this story.

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RELATED: The 10 most expensive burgers in America

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10 most expensive burgers in America
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10 most expensive burgers in America

What: Fleurburger 5000
Where: Mandalay Bay (Las Vegas, Nevada)
How much: $5,000

Patty consists of Wagyu beef and foie gras, covered in black truffles and truffle sauce in between a truffle bun. Served with a bottle of Bordeaux (estimated at around $2,500) and two Ichendorf glasses as souvenirs.

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What: The Absolutely Ridiculous Burger
Where: Mallie’s Sports Grill & Bar (Southgate, Michigan)
How much: $1,999

Guinness World Record holder for World's Largest Burger; consists of 350 pounds of beef and requires 72 hours of notice for preparation

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What: 777 Burger
Where: Burger Brasserie (Las Vegas, Nevada)
How much: $777

Kobe beef burger, topped with Maine lobster, foie gras, goat cheese, and 100-year-old aged balsamic. Served with a bottle of Dom Perignon.

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What: 666 Douche Burger
Where: 666 Burger Trucks (New York, New York)
How much: $666

Kobe beef burger wrapped in gold leaf, topped with lobster, caviar, truffles, foie gras, Gruyere cheese that's melted with champagne steam, and barbecue sauce made from droppings of the Asian Palm Civet

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What: Le Burger Extravagant
Where: Serendipity3 (New York, New York)
How much: $295

Wagyu beef patty topped with aged cheddar, black truffles, white truffle butter and quail egg served on a white truffle-buttered bun. Held together by a golden diamond-encrusted toothpick.

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What: B&B Indulgence
Where: Beer & Buns (New York, New York)
How much: $250

Kobe beef patty, topped with seared foie gras, truffles and caviar.

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What: The Mother Burger
Where: Burger & Beer Joint (South Beach, Florida)
How much: $125

18 pounds in total, 10 pounds of meat and choice of two in-house toppings

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What: DB “Royale” Double Truffle Burger
Where: DB Bistro Moderne (New York, New York)
How much: $120

Only offered when black truffles are in-season. Ground beef patty stuffed with boneless short ribs, foie gras, root vegetables and black truffles. Topped with a second batch of black truffles.

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What: Grand Burger
Where: McGuire Irish Pub (Destin, Florida)
How much: $100

Ground beef and filet mignon patty. Served with side of caviar, merlot sauce for topping and a bottle of Moet.

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What: The O.M.G. Burger
Where: The Catch (Anaheim, California)
How much: $74.99 (can be doubled for another $30.99)

Lean ground chuck beef patty, topped with ten slices of cheddar and remoulade sauce in between a 14-inch bun. Served with 4 pounds of fries.

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