Large Chains Receive Poor Grades in Consumer Reports' Fast Food Survey

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Large Chains Receive Poor Grades in Consumer Reports' Fast Food Survey


YONKERS, N.Y. -- Consumer Reports subscribers do not "quiero" Taco Bell, McDonald's, Arby's, Quiznos, Domino's or Pizza Hut, according to the findings of the magazine's first fast food survey, which were released yesterday. More than 36,000 of the magazine's subscribers reported on their experiences during a combined 98,000 visits to 53 chains. The six aforementioned fast-food purveyors scored poorly when it came to food quality and service.

"Chains like McDonald's and Taco Bell boast supersized values, but consumers don't necessarily think they offer much bang for the buck," said Todd Marks, Consumer Reports' senior projects editor. "Fifty four percent of our subscribers cited low prices as a reason for picking a particular fast-food restaurant."

On the positive side, several chains were given high food grades. No. 1 on the list was In-N-Out Burger. The California-based chain earned high scores for food, service, value and speed.

Winning by a landslide among chicken fast-food chains was Chick-fil-A, which earned top grades for politeness of staff, quality of food, value and speed of service.

Among sandwich retailers, Jason's Deli and Firehouse Subs earned the top scores. The only standout pizza fast-food restaurant was Papa Murphy's Take ‘N' Bake Pizza.

Perhaps one surprise was that although McDonald's received negative grades from readers, its former subsidiary, Chipotle Mexican Grill, earned high scores for quality of food, politeness of staff and speed of service.

In addition to the fast-food chains' scores, the survey uncovered some other insights. The first is that consumers want better food. Even among the top-rated fast-food restaurants, no restaurant received more than a 54 percent "excellent" rating for its food. At the lowest-rated retail chains, those who graded the food as excellent dipped to 11 percent or below.

Secondly, Consumer Reports readers do not like the overall experience at fast-food restaurants as much as they do at casual full-service eateries such as Cracker Barrel, Outback Steakhouse and Red Lobster. Sixty percent of respondents said they were "very pleased" with their fast-food dining experiences, compared to 68 percent for casual-restaurant patrons.

The full results of the survey are available at