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McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC, and Taco Bell lose in a Consumer Reports fast food survey

Posted Thursday, June 30, 2011

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In-N-Out Burger, Chick Fil-A, and Papa Murphy’s Take ‘N’ Bake Pizza top their categories

Yonkers, NY — McDonald’s popular slogan may be "lovin it" but consumers beg to differ, the fast food icon was joined by Burger King, KFC and Taco Bell among the lower ranked chains in Consumer Reports first ever major fast food ratings.

The survey, based on responses from 36,733 subscribers who made more than 98,000 visits to 53 fast-food chains revealed that readers found them to offer uninspiring food, only so-so service. Other major chains with relatively low scores: sandwich shops Arby’s and Quiznos and pizza joints 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, Consumer Reports. “Fifty four percent of our subscribers cited low prices as a reason for picking a particular fast-food restaurant.”

The full results of the story are available at ConsumerReports.org on June 30th and in the August issue of the magazine on newsstands July 5th.

By contrast, CR’s survey revealed good deals and even better meals at dozens of ever-present fast-food restaurants. Consumer Reports readers gave 21 of the 53 chains high marks for food. Among the winners:

  • For burger fans, 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 8 leading Mexican food chains, and earned high scores for food, politeness of staff and speed of service.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Other Key Findings:

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.

For the complete ratings of 53 popular fast-food quick-service chains, to find out which chains offer the best food according to Consumer Reports readers, or to learn more about survey results, visit ConsumerReports.org starting June 30th, or pick up a copy of August issue of Consumer Reports wherever magazines are sold.

 
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