YONKERS, NY – Consumer Reports first major fast-food ratings is serving up some surprises in its results of a survey ranking fast-food companies. Based on responses from 36,733 subscribers who made more than 98,000 visits to 53 fast-food chains, the survey revealed readers found McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC and Taco Bell offering uninspiring food and only so-so service. Other major chains with relatively low scores included Arby's and Quiznos and Domino's and Pizza Hut.
"Chains like McDonald's and Taco Bell boast supersized values, but consumers don't necessarily think they offer much bang for the buck," said Tod Marks, senior projects editor of Consumer Reports. "Fifty-four percent of our subscribers cited low prices as a reason for picking a particular fast-food restaurant."
CR's survey revealed good deals and even better meals at dozens of fast-food restaurants. Consumer Reports readers gave 21 of the 53 chains high marks on their food offerings.
In-N-Out Burger rated highest of all 53 chains rated in Consumer Reports Survey with high scores for food, service, value and speed.
Chipotle Mexican Grill was among the best of eight leading Mexican food chains, and earned high scores for food, politeness of staff and speed of service.
Chick-fil-A had outstanding scores for politeness of staff, and high marks for food, value and speed of service. Respondents rated it higher than seven other leading poultry stops.
Readers gave Jason's Deli and Firehouse Subs the highest marks for food and favorable scores for politeness of staff and speed of services among 11 sandwich and sub chains.
Papa Murphy's Take 'N' Bake Pizza was the single standout for pizza. It has an unconventional concept where the patrons order a pizza to bake at home. It earned the highest marks for food, and exceptional scores for value, staff politeness and speed of service among the pizza chains.
Other key findings include:
- Diners want better food. Many restaurants scored higher for service – specifically, speed and politeness – than for food. At chains with the highest scores for food, 42 to 54 percent of patrons called the fare excellent, but at Burger King, KFC, McDonald's and Taco Bell, no more than 11 percent of patrons did. In fact, 15 to 19 percent of respondents who ate at one of those chains thought the food was fair, poor or very poor. At Sbarro, an Italian chain, 27 percent of patrons judged the food fair, poor, or very poor.
- Diners want a better experience. Whether they ordered cafeteria-style, at a counter or at a drive-thru or had food delivered, readers were much less pleased overall with fast-food restaurants than with casual full-service eateries like Cracker Barrel, Outback Steakhouse and Red Lobster. Sixty percent of respondents said they were completely or very satisfied with their fast-food dining experiences vs. 68 percent of casual-restaurant patrons.