Jason Alden/Bloomberg/Getty; Courtesy Taco Bell
Somewhere, Ronald McDonald is weeping into his quarter pounder with cheese: According to a new reader survey from Consumer Reports, McDonald’s makes the worst burgers in America.
Subscribers weighed in on the food at 65 different chains across the country — evaluating a grand total of 96,208 meals eaten — and found a few other losers: namely Taco Bell for worst burritos, KFC for worst chicken and Au Bon Pain for worst sandwiches.
Who snagged the top spots? The Habit Burger Grill, a West Coast chain, was rated number one for burgers, followed by In-N-Out Burger, Five Guys Burgers and Fries, Smashburger and Fuddruckers. In the burrito race, Chipotle Mexican Grill came in first.
Portillo’s Hot Dogs, which has mostly Illinois locations, was named favorite spot to grab a sandwich or sub (Subway—which is the world’s largest chain with 40,000 restaurants in 106 countries—came in second to last). As far as finger-lickin’ good chicken, readers found it at Chick-fil-A.
What swayed readers’ taste buds? For starters, food quality was a higher priority than finding grub in a convenient location. The survey speculated that younger adults are willing to travel further away for a higher-quality meal, leaving some traditional chains in the dust. Meanwhile, more modern chains are thriving: “Fast-casual dining in places like Chipotle … lets the consumer guide the staff to prepare their meal just the way they like it,” Darren Tristano, executive vice president of food-service research and consulting firm Technomic, told CR.
Something else nontraditional chains like Noodles & Company and Panera are doing: catering to health-conscious consumers by serving meat produced without using antibiotics in animal feed.
The survey acknowledged that smaller national and regional restaurants, including Jason’s Deli, Schlotzsky’s and Papa Murphy’s Take ‘N’ Bake Pizza, are also making inroads in the fast-food world by serving higher-quality fare and focusing on a dine-in rather than drive-through experience. The higher menu prices that result? Consumers don’t seem to mind.
This could give a whole new meaning to “happy meal.”