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Posted Thursday, June 28, 2012
Yonkers, NY — Whether you’re traveling the interstate, looking for a sumptuous supper, or just want to get away from the kitchen this summer, Consumer Reports surveyed 47,565 diners to help find the best meals and best deals at 102 of the nation’s biggest sit-down chain restaurants.
“Americans spend about $1.7 billion per day at restaurants. That’s close to the amount they spend each year on indigestion remedies. Clearly, diners deserve a sure thing: a clean place that provides tasty food, good value, and solicitous service” said senior projects editor Tod Marks.
Consumer Reports survey, which was based on more than 110,500 restaurant visits, offers something for just about every palate: steaks and burgers, barbecue, seafood, Italian, Mexican, and Asian. It also includes chains that offer more specialized fare, for example fondue at The Melting Pot; Japanese hibachi cooking at Benihana; Cajun treats at Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen.
Nine chains earned high marks across the board for the four attributes in the Ratings—taste, value, service, and mood—plus praise in three other key areas: menu variety, cleanliness, and a lack of noise. They were: Biaggi’s Ristorante Italiano, Black Angus Steakhouse, Bob Evans, Bravo Cucina Italiana, First Watch, J. Alexander’s, Le Peep, Elmer’s and Fatz Eatz & Drinkz.
Among the lower-rated chains were two family restaurants (“family” because they’re typically informal, cater to kids, are open long hours, and don’t serve liquor): Friendly’s and Waffle House. Both drew low marks for cleanliness and mood; Friendly’s was also criticized for lackluster service. The pub-style Buffalo Wild Wings Grill & Bar was another laggard, criticized for value and noise.
Complete restaurant ratings on all 102 popular chains, tips to save, more trends and survey results are available in Consumer Reports August issue or online at www.ConsumerReports.org starting June 28, 2012.
On average, readers were very satisfied with roughly half of the 102 chains. But there’s room for improvement. Only Cheddar’s Casual Café, which touts “always affordable food,” received top marks for value, and just 19 chains got especially high marks for flavorful food. On one-fourth of all visits, readers found their restaurant too noisy. Among the chains more prone to noise complaints were Texas Roadhouse, Hard Rock Café, Buffalo Wild Wings Grill & Bar and Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen. Bad service was another complaint, especially at Hard Rock Café, Buffalo Wild Wings Grill & Bar, Chevys Fresh Mex and Benihana.
“Since our previous restaurant report, we see that many more chains are providing detailed nutritional information about the food they serve, more healthful menu choices, and details about where their ingredients come from,” Marks said.
Patrons singled out First Watch and Legal Seafoods as most likely to offer healthful dishes. Least likely to sell healthful fare were Buffalo Wild Wings, Quaker Steak & Lube, Waffle House, Hooters, and Johnny Rockets, according to respondents.
Spirited competition among the chains means that consumers can use a toolbox of tactics to find bargains. Here are some examples:
Send a letter to the editor.
Sign up for the Chatham Chatlist.
Promote your brand at chathamjournal.com.