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Best fast food? Not McDonald's

Some people are eating at fast-food restaurants less often because of financial concerns. When you do spend, you may as well go for what tastes best.

By Stacy Johnson Aug 25, 2011 11:03AM

This post comes from Karla Bowsher at partner site Money Talks News.


Consumer Reports conducted its first major survey of fast-food restaurants for its August issue, and the results aren't what you might expect.


The biggest chains often earned some of the lowest ratings on taste. For example, when it comes to Mexican food, Taco Bell scored only a 6.0 out of 10, while the winner in that category, Chipotle, scored a 7.7. KFC scored 6.6 out of 10, while category winner Chick-fil-A earned a 7.6. As for burgers, McDonald's got only a 5.6 out of 10 -- the bottom of the ratings. Burger King fared little better with a 6.3. Post continues after video.

"Chains like McDonald's and Taco Bell boast supersized values, but consumers don't necessarily think they offer much bang for the buck," says Tod Marks, a senior editor at Consumer Reports. Instead, the magazine recommends:


The best overall
  • For burgers. "In-N-Out Burger rated highest of all 53 chains rated in Consumer Reports Survey with high scores for food, service, value and speed." Runners-up: Back Yard Burgers, Burgerville, Culver's, and Five Guys Burgers and Fries.
  • For chicken. "One chicken chain topped the rest hands down: Chick-fil-A. With 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." Runners-up: none.
  • For Mexican. "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." Runners-up: Baja Fresh, Qdoba, and Rubio's Fresh.
  • For subs. "If you're craving a top-notch wedge, hero, hoagie, or sub served quickly with a smile on the side try Jason's Deli or Firehouse Subs. Readers gave them the highest marks for food and favorable scores for politeness of staff and speed of services among 11 sandwich and sub chains." Runners-up: Jersey Mike's Subs, Jimmy John's Gourmet Sandwiches, Potbelly Sandwich Shop, and Schlotzsky's.
  • For pizza. "The single standout for pizza: Papa Murphy's Take 'N' Bake Pizza, which 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." Runners-up: none.
The best value

If you're most concerned about price, you're not alone. The survey also found that 22% of the people polled eat out at fast-food restaurants less often than they used to for financial reasons, and 54% cited low prices as a reason for picking a restaurant.


To save money, check the "Food" section of the Money Talks News Deals & Coupons page for coupons before you head for fast food, or dine at the restaurants that Consumer Reports says will stretch your dollar the furthest:

  • Best value. Cici's Pizza, In-N-Out Burger, Papa Murphy's Take 'N' Bake Pizza.
  • Worst value. KFC, Round Table Pizza, and Sbarro.
If time is money, you'll want to know this:
  • Slowest service. KFC, Pizza Hut, and Popeyes.
If you're hungry for something healthy in a hurry:
  • Healthiest. "Subway, with a 'Fresh Fit' menu and spokesman Jared Fogle (an everyday guy who lost 245 pounds partly by living on the chain's low-fat subs), had the most diet-conscious eaters: Almost half of respondents who ate there said they chose a nutritious meal. But not all sandwiches are created equal, even at Subway, where the footlong Italian B.M.T. sub packs 900 calories and 40 grams of fat."

More on Money Talks News and MSN Money:

Aug 26, 2011 9:11AM
Yeah, this is a pretty fail survey.  Having traveled most of the East Coast regularly, I've never even HEARD of most of those places.

I'm sorry, but if your "chain" is 2 stores in East Bumble____, South Dakota, I really don't care, even if your burgers taste like heaven. Now, if they cured cancer, that's another story. Hooray 76 out of your 100 customer total love your food. Great, how does that bit of information help the real world?
Aug 25, 2011 9:37PM
Yeah, whatever.  Virtually none of the "winning" restaurants have stores in my part of the country.  I'm told we are to get a Culver's in the near future.  For now, we have to be happy with McDonald's. 
Aug 26, 2011 1:40PM
I, too, have never heard of a single one of the choices.  Now if you want to talk Terry's Turf Club (which appeared on the food channel), I certainly don't recommend people flock to Cincinnati, just for the best burger.  On the other hand if you want to go on 93 North out of Whitefish, Montana to the Point of Rocks to get either a prime rib burger or Bison burger, you would be as well served if you tried the Bison Burger in Hell's Kitchen in Minneapolis.  There are no reasonably priced good burgers on the entire East Coast.  This should be fun for the discussion about places we've never experienced.Smile
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