Fast Food Chains in America, Ranked from Okay to Terrible
Fast food is quick, convenient and cheap, but it’s also losing its edge. Consumers are interested in high quality and fresh food, cleanliness and great service. However, many fast food chains are struggling to meet their customer’s standards. As a result, guests don’t return.
A Consumer Picks survey found consumer scores of America’s popular restaurants. The scores are based on customer loyalty to the brand.
Read on to find out the worst fast food restaurants in America and why they’ve failed their customers.
Only 44 percent of customers return to Arby’s for its huge roast beef sandwiches. Some diners call the food at Arby’s expensive and “delicious trash.” Many guests also say that they get sick after eating its food. To make matters worse, Arby’s has been dealing with a nasty rumor and an extra ingredient in their sandwiches that will make you lose your appetite.
About 44 percent of diners go back to Wingstop for their chicken wings, boneless wings, fries and ranch. Many reviewers compliment their house-made ranch and sweet fries. However, the company still gets some complaints from customers. The biggest issues are the food’s saltiness and the boneless wings.
32. Boston Market
In the 1990s, Boston Market boasted 1,100 locations in malls and shopping plazas across the nation. Today, that number has shrunk to 400 stores. Boston Market offered customers rotisserie chicken, so they don’t have to deal with the process of cooking a whole chicken at home. However, the chain’s main attraction is also its downfall.
31. Dairy Queen
Where else can you find ice cream that’s served upside down? Known for its thick blizzards that defy gravity, Dairy Queen has been serving up ice cream since 1940. But guests mock the chain, saying that their cold dessert isn’t even real ice cream. It tastes like plastic and oil, and it melts too fast.
30. El Pollo Loco
El Pollo Loco is Spanish for "The Crazy Chicken." Founded by Francisco Ochoa, the fast food diner first opened in Mexico in 1975. The U.S. didn’t get a taste of El Pollo Loco until 1980, when the company opened in Los Angeles. Only 43 percent of customers return to El Pollo Loco. What’s wrong with it? From service to food, El Pollo Loco suffers from a low quality environment.
29. Taco Bell
In 2018, Taco Bell was voted "America's favorite Mexican restaurant." The Beefy chalupa, Nacho Fries, and CrunchWrap Supreme are their most popular items. But how could Taco Bell also be the worst in the country? Many guests criticize the food.
Established in 1977, Bojangles' first set up shop in Charlotte, North Carolina. The business only exists in 12 states, including Alabama, Maryland and Florida. Bojangles' gets some praise for their food, but the company is still considered one of the worst fast food chains in the nation. The chicken and biscuits joint doesn’t attract enough returning customers.
Although Subway has more than 24,000 stores across the country, it also holds a low return score. The famous five-dollar footlongs and Fresh Fit Choices just don’t cut it anymore. In 2018, the company closed more than 1,000 stores.
Many customers who review Krystal often compare it to another restaurant called White Castle because of their tiny hamburgers. Krystal scores slightly better than White Castle in this list. Although guests like Krystal’s Corn Pups, the burger joint still has some flaws.
Before 2009, customers complained that pizza from Domino’s tasted like cardboard. The meat that the business used for toppings was gross. People also thought the tomato sauce tasted like ketchup. In other words, Domino’s was committing crimes against pizza. The company was well aware of it too.
24. Long John Silver’s
Long John Silver’s exclusively sells fish and chips and hushpuppies. However, the fried fish flops and the hush puppies flounder. The food is hard to enjoy because it’s too stale, salty and greasy. The majority of the fried fish consists of batter instead of meat. Other common complaints include the food being either cold or overcooked.
23. Taco John’s
Taco John’s only sees 41 percent of its diners come back a second time. Customers love the Potato Olés, but many of them don’t return because the rest of the menu is a total mess. For instance, salad tacos appear carelessly tossed together, while burritos are wrapped incorrectly.
The World's Largest Hot Dog Chain, Wienerschnitzel, was established in 1961. Today, the chain serves more than 120 million hot dogs every year. But the company has a low customer returning score. Why is Wienerschnitzel falling short? The culprit is the low-quality food.
Suffering for decades, KFC went from 5,472 locations in 2002 to 4,270 restaurants in 2016. KFC has been dealing with rumors that they inject their chickens with steroids to create "mutant chickens" or "Frankenchickens." Although the chain has denied these claims, consumers say that they still don’t trust the food.
Cinnabon attracts guests with freshly-baked pastries, like warm, gooey cinnamon buns. But only 40 percent of their customers return. Struggling to survive, Cinnabon has tried to spice up the brand. However, many consumers still aren’t biting into the changes.
19. Del Taco
The Mexican fast food chain, Del Taco, serves up taco combos and cinnamon churros to keep 40 percent of customers coming back. Guests note that it seems as if they’re waiting a long time to order and receive their food. The majority of diners don’t return because of the unappetizing food.
18. Einstein Brothers
Just 40 percent of U.S. customers choose to eat a "gourmet" bagel for breakfast at Einstein Brothers. The bagel chain receives bad reviews for its mediocre food quality and freshness. The bagels are bland, compared to grocery store bagels from Safeway and WinCo Foods.
17. White Castle
A low number of consumers love White Castle. The burger joint is famous for its small, square hamburgers, but that might actually be the company’s weakness. Guests leave unsatisfied because of the hamburger’s size. To get full, diners must buy more than just one tiny burger.
16. Panda Express
Founded in 1983, Panda Express has more than 2,000 stores across the nation, making it the largest Asian restaurant chain in the country. Panda Express offers gourmet Chinese cuisine and lets diners create their own meal. However, the food is actually so-so and the items are overpriced.
15. Church’s Chicken
Established in the 1950s, Church’s Chicken specializes in chicken, biscuits and fries.With an inferior score based on the Consumer Picks survey, Church’s Chicken struggles to win back guests. Consumers just aren’t big fans of the chain’s food, like the hand-breaded fish, honey-butter biscuits and popcorn shrimp.
With an unimpressive returning customer score, it seems no one is interested in Wendy’s square hamburgers, sea salt fries and their signature Frosty. Many consumers take shots at Wendy’s for its 2005 "finger in chili crisis" or the live mouse found in a bag of burger buns in 2018.
13. Little Caesars
Little Caesars is famous for its catchphrase, "Pizza! Pizza!" It’s also well-known for selling a large pepperoni or cheese pizza for only $5. Sounds like a great deal, right? Unfortunately, the saying, "You get what you pay for," is true with Little Caesars.
Checkers has specialized in hamburgers, hot dogs, french fries and milkshakes since 1986. However, the chain gets mocked for their customer service and low-quality food. Guests say the service is too slow, even when there are no other customers in line.
11. Sonic Drive-In
How can anyone resist a retro-themed restaurant with happy hour and carnival-style food? Sonic exclusively sells cheeseburgers, onion rings, corn dogs, slushies, milkshakes and chili dogs. However, the business’s biggest downfall is that the food isn’t fresh or high quality.
Founded in 1919, A&W is known for its draft root beer, root beer floats and burgers. As one of the oldest hamburger chains in the country, A&W is loved for its root beer more than its food. Customer complaints usually have to do with food quality and customer service.
9. Auntie Anne’s
Auntie Anne’s sells doughy treats, like hot, salted pretzels. Established in 1988, the pretzel shop first opened its doors in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. This chain is often found at malls, which is its biggest downfall. With fewer people going to malls in recent years, Auntie Anne’s found itself losing customers.
The toasted subs chain, Quiznos, collapsed due to store closures and financial woes. In 2008, Quiznos had 5,000 restaurants across the country. Today, there are only 800 Quiznos stores left. The company even filed for bankruptcy in 2014. Customers’ biggest complaint? The subs are too expensive.
Hardee’s is mainly located in the South and Midwest states. Hardee’s is best known for its charbroiled hamburgers and controversial advertisements, such as using supermodels to create "sexy" commercials. Throughout their history, the company has had intense rivalries with Jack in the Box, McDonald’s and KFC.
6. Jimmy John’s
Notorious for its "Freaky Fast, Freaky Fresh" slogan, Jimmy John’s (JJ’s) has a history of bad luck. In 2016, the sandwich shop made their workers sign a crazy non-compete clause, forbidding employees from working at other delis until two years after the end of their JJ's employment. In response, several states took JJ’s to court. JJ’s was forced to remove the clause from any hiring paperwork.
"You eat Sbarro not because you want Sbarro, but because it is the food that is available at the moment you want some food," said Neil Irwin from The New York Times. About 34 percent of returning Sbarro customers agree with him.
4. Burger King
Burger King has made headlines for rolling out tacos and vegan impossible burgers. But the chain is famously known as the original Home of the Whopper. Only a small percentage of customers opt for Burger King’s flame-grilled patties due to convenience.
3. Carl’s Jr.
Founded in Los Angeles in 1941, Carl’s Jr. was originally a hot dog stand. Today, the chain is memorable for its controversial advertisements and charbroiled burgers. However, customers aren’t impressed with the food or marketing. Some customers find their hypersexualized commercials offensive.
2. Jack in the Box
Famous for their round-headed mascot and funny commercials, Jack in the Box has been in the burger business since 1951. Although the chain also offers tacos, fries, all-day breakfast and chicken fajita pitas, Jack in the Box suffers from an embarrassing low rating.
McDonald’s seems to be everywhere we look. However, the most famous fast food restaurant in the country is also the worst chain in the country. Although McDonald’s can crank out and sell a lot of burgers, the quality of the food is poor. More customers prioritize quality over quantity.