Best, worst fast-food restaurants

Consumer Reports readers rank the chains. The results probably won't surprise you.

By Kim Peterson Jun 30, 2011 3:53PM
Image: Family eating burgers (© Bananastock/Jupiterimages)The largest fast-food chains also have the worst food and service, according to a survey of Consumer Reports readers.

The magazine asked nearly 37,000 subscribers to rate 53 fast-food chains, and said the lowest marks went to McDonald's (MCD), Burger King, KFC and Taco Bell. All of those chains had uninspiring food and so-so service, Consumer Reports readers said.

"Chains like McDonald's and Taco Bell boast supersized values, but consumers don't necessarily think they offer much bang for the buck," an editor at Consumer Reports told Reuters.

Only 11% of subscribers said the food at those four chains was "excellent," but 15% to 19% described the food as fair, poor or very poor. McDonald's was last place in the hamburger category.

And woe to Sbarro, the pizza chain currently in bankruptcy. About 27% of customers said the food there was fair, poor or very poor.

By the way, the chief executive of Taco Bell Australia recently described his company as the Hyundai of fast food while Chipotle is the BMW. And there's nothing wrong with that! Check out that discussion in the following video.

Post continues after video:
So why do people keep frequenting these joints if they don't care for the food? More than half of those surveyed said low prices kept them coming back.

Who did readers like best? In-N-Out burger topped the charts, beating everyone else in the categories of food, service, value and speed. And as far as chicken restaurants go, Chick-fil-A came in first, with KFC, a division of Yum Brands (YUM) ranking last.

Chipotle Mexican Grill and Papa Murphy's Take 'N' Bake Pizza ranked at the top of their respective categories.

Here are other results from the survey:

Best value: In-N-Out Burger, Papa Murphy's and CiCi's Pizza

Worst value: Sbarro, Round Table Pizza and KFC

Slowest service: KFC, Popeyes and Pizza Hut

No healthy meals: Only 13% of readers said they ate a healthy meal the last time they went to a fast-food restaurant. Those packaged salads aren't moving quickly.

Favorite of diet-conscious eaters: Subway

Jun 30, 2011 6:50PM
I agree KFC is slow and overpriced, especially when chicken is so cheap.  I made KFC (original) as a teenager in the late 60's and make a pan-fried version with fewer spices, but it's very close and MUCH less expensive.  For each 2 lb of chicken parts: place in a plastic bag and shake until mixed together: 1.5 cups of flour, 1 tbsp salt, 1 tbsp dry Italian seasoning, 1 tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp pepper.  In a small bowl, whisk together a raw egg and a 1/4 cup milk (eggwash).   Rinse the chicken parts with water, shake the excess off, then soak each piece in the eggwash, allowing the excess to drain for several seconds before placing it in the flour-mixture, closing the bag and shaking briefly.  If desired, the eggwash and flour and be repeated for a double-coating.  Place each floured piece in a frying pan in which 1/4" of oil has been heated over medium-low flame for a couple minutes.  Heat each side for about 13-15 min or brown, check with an instant read or meat thermometer for 175F.  Real KFC original was, originally, placed in 350F oil in a pressure cooker, heated on high until 15 psi pressure was reached, then turned on low heat for seven minutes.  I like the pan fried better!
Jun 30, 2011 6:27PM
I drove from Chicago to Sacramento a while back and I went to the McDonalds in Lincoln Nebraska and in Cheyenne Wyoming and they were just awful. Lincoln Nebraska I had to ask twice for fries that were fresh ( the problem was the oil appeared to have not been changed in sometime) and in Cheyenne the hamburger was undercooked and again bad oil with the fries. There I took a full refund and left. I have not and will not return to McDonalds ever again.
Jul 1, 2011 5:40AM
Two words .... Five....Guys...  They put all these guys to shame.  For an extra buck,,, I'll take something that actually tastes good
Jul 1, 2011 8:05AM
It seems like about half of the time I go to McDonalds the hamburger is under cooked.You would think the problem would be over cooking when the hamburger is an 1/8 of an inch thick.
Jul 1, 2011 10:39AM
I just don't get why people think Chipolte is good...they have HORRIBLE food. In Texas we know what good Mexican type food (such as Tex Mex) is and Chipolte loses on every aspect.
Mar 18, 2012 6:47PM
If you travel through Las Vegas, or Salt Lake City try Cafe Rio.  I am sure you will like it. 
Nov 23, 2011 11:04AM

Hey there,how can a cardboard hamburger patty be under or overcookedSmile?  I thought that was what MickyD's served, a cardboard,salted, patty covered with slop on a bun

Nov 23, 2011 11:06AM
No one mentioned SuperTaqueria out in California Central Coast for Mexican fast food. It might be slop but........Yummilicious!
Jul 1, 2011 6:20AM

I don't know where these people surveyed live but service here in Tucson, AZ @ the 4 places listed is not slow nor is the food fair to poor.

HOWEVER, if I went to In&Out I would be waiting over 30 minutes for a hamburger! I have been there once & don't see the attraction! 

My friend & I get together once a week @ different mom & pop shops around town to find the best cheeseburger!  Great company & fantastic burgers!

Sep 11, 2012 12:39AM
I have had Horrendous luck ( food service, food quality , and company feedback ) with Hardees in Al;abama . After repeated attempts at contacting The Hardees food Chain about the horrendous service , cleanliness and food . Then the promise of being catacted for a followup of my complaint . This whole Company is a joke
Jun 30, 2011 6:25PM
Give me a #4 ... Double Quarter Pounder & McD Fries any day!
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