Fast food saw a rise in popularity in the 1950s, and since then, fast food restaurants have been an American staple. For a while, consumers were happy to pick up a filling and delicious burger from McDonald’s on their way home from work. They had no problem feeding their families a bucket of chicken from KFC.
Times are changing, though. Trends are moving towards quality, healthy, fresh food. A lot of fast food restaurants just can’t meet those demands. A Consumer Picks survey tallied up consumer scores of the most popular restaurants in America based on customer loyalty. Keep reading to find out which restaurants got the lowest scores.
It’s hard to walk by an Auntie Anne’s without being tempted by the smell of fresh pretzels, however, it turns out that a lot of people are able to resist that temptation. Auntie Anne’s first opened in 1988 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Now you can find a location in almost every shopping mall across America.
This shopping mall strategy is kind of backfiring on Auntie Anne’s nowadays. People are shopping online more than ever, which means fewer trips to the mall. Also, there have been complaints about the pretzel shop selling stale and burnt pretzels.
Arby’s is known for its towering roast beef sandwiches. Not many fast food restaurants are offering up this kind of fare. However, despite its unique menu, Arby’s only sees a return customer rate of 44 percent. Some people even believe that Arby’s meat isn’t meat at all, but fake deli slices made out of paste and powder.
There has also been one instance of a customer claiming to have found human skin in their sandwich. Of course, that wasn’t true, but the rumor still persists.
You might be wondering how Starbucks ended up on this list. From the outside, it seems like one of the most successful brands in America. Well, despite being a major coffee chain, Starbucks is struggling to receive more customers. This might be due to Starbucks’ image issues. People haven’t forgotten about that barista who called the cops on two black customers back in 2018.
Also, people are starting to notice that the fare at Starbucks isn’t as healthy as it claims to be.
Burger King is perhaps the most iconic burger joint in America. This fast food restaurant has been around since 1953. For a while, Burger King was able to coast on its name alone, but it looks like those days are coming to an end.
People aren’t talking about the new Whopper. Burger King is trying to diversify its menu to no avail (nobody wants a Burger King taco). There have also been customer complaints about the scarcity of burger topping and overwhelming onion taste.
Pizza Hut first hit the scene in 1958. Since then, the restaurant has become one of America’s most frequented pizza chains. However, despite running 6,000 stores across the country, Consumer Reports rank the restaurant at a C-. Domino’s has overtaken Pizza Hut as the king slice.
The most common criticism against Pizza Hut is that the food is always late. Also, people aren’t always in the right mood for such a heavy and oily crust.
Sonic has done a great job marketing their brand. The marketing is so appealing that it is sometimes difficult to resist driving by for a milkshake.
Their biggest gripe with customers is that their hot dogs, hamburgers, chili dogs, and corn dogs don’t taste fresh. People love their desserts, but it’s difficult to run a fast food restaurant on dessert alone, especially when you’re paying for the equipment and ingredients to make savory menu items.
McDonald’s, Mickey D’s, The Golden Arches
McDonald’s is the most famous and most successful fast food enterprise in America. The golden arches are nothing short of iconic. That doesn’t mean that this joint is immune to criticism, though. Remember when rumors spread they were using pink sludge for their meat? People still wonder about those chicken nuggets.
They might advertise patties that are made of 100 percent USDA-inspected beef, but their burgers are ranked the lowest in freshness and food quality.
A&W was never quite able to escape McDonald’s massive shadow, but even so, people seem to generally like this place. There is an issue with variety, though. Immediately once you discover that A&W has a fast-food chain, you start to question. “Do they only serve root beer flavored items?” When you think of A&W, you think of root beer first.
Also, some consumers think the burgers and fries at this establishment are much too oily.
Hardee’s is best known for its charbroiled burgers and provocative advertising, This restaurant that was established in 1960 is located in the south and midwest states. Hardees has had a history of feuding with other chains such as Jack in the Box and KFC.
At least Hardee’s seems to be self-aware. In 2003, they launched a campaign revealing they knew about the complaints regarding their terrible service and nasty food. Still, their dirty dining areas and poor service upset people to this day.
Subway saw its heyday in the early 2000s. People flocked to this restaurant because they believed it to be a healthy alternative to traditional fast food joints. It turns out, Subway isn’t all that healthy. In 2017, the brand achieved 42,000 locations in over 100 countries. But despite their rapid expansion, most people seem to visit for convenience. Only 42% of customers return for seconds.
The most common complaint about Subway is how long it take to actually get a sandwich.
You can bet that many guests that consume Cinnabon are in the mood for freshly-baked pastries. The problem is that only 40 percent of their customers return for more. The company is struggling to survive, so they’ve tried to spice up their brand.
Still, not many are biting. On top of that, the quality of food and service at Cinnabon gets bad reviews. Having “rude employees” makes it hard for people to support consistently. Reheating the goods instead of giving out fresh ones also discourages folks.
People always murmur that Del Taco isn’t real Mexican food. While that may be true, everyone needs to remember that it’s fast food. Still, there’s more to why only 40 percent of customers return to the diner.
Many believe that the food at Del Taco is merely unappetizing. They put too much rice in the burritos, and the meat lacks the desired flavor. Thankfully, they’ve recently added Beyond Meat in hopes to satisfy customers in the coming years.
Einstein Brothers Bagels
They might advertise “gourmet” bagels, but the restaurant often receives bad reviews for mediocre food quality and freshness. There’s nothing gourmet about that. When you compare the taste of their bagels to those from grocery outlets, customers choose their grocer a majority of the time.
Consumers also came down hard on their customer service and coffee. One thing that should be universally known is never to give folks lousy tasting coffee. That mixed with bad service is a no-go.
While White Castle may be famous for its tiny burgers, that could also be the restaurant’s downfall. Many complain that the size of the burgers doesn’t fill them up, forcing them to buy more than one.
Another complaint is that the buns feel like they’re from the supermarket. With the buns being larger than the meat, it doesn’t help that there are issues with the patties tasting too much like onions.
Panda Express has more than 2,000 stores in America, making it the largest Asian food chain in the nation. You might be able to create your own meal, but do you really want to eat so-so Chinese cuisine?
BuzzFeed once invited those of Chinese descent to have Panda Express for the first time, and the results weren’t pretty. They recorded the event and Chef David Chang said, “Do I gnaw on my own thumb, or do I get orange chicken?”
They aren’t Popeyes, nor are they KFC. Church’s Chicken rests below the top tier fried chicken places, and for a good reason. The fast-food chain struggles to bring back customers when there’s more than likely a KFC nearby.
Shockingly, customers describe the biscuits as being rock hard. That one critique is enough to scare away visitors. Church’s does plan on improving things in 2019 in hopes of getting on people’s right side. We’re going to have to wait and see what happens.
While Wendy’s might have a plethora of treats that can be alluring, the numbers don’t reciprocate that. Many still remember the live mouse found in a bag of burger buns in 2018. And you can’t forget about that “finger in chili” crisis from 2005.
It’s like the only thing they have going for them are their spicy chicken nuggets, but they always pick and choose when they have them available. Customer do appreciate that their patties are “fresh and never frozen,” though.
Little Caesars outdid every other pizza place when they began selling a large cheese or pepperoni pizza for only $5. Have you ever heard the phrase “you get what you pay for”? If not, then it applies here.
Little Caesars might say their products are fresh and high-quality, but customers don’t feel the same at all. From the toppings to the sauce, their pizza’s can taste “off.” Some have even gone as far as to say the pizza tastes like cardboard!
Since 1986, the fast-food chain Checkers has specialized in hot dogs, french fries, milkshakes, and hamburgers. The most significant pain point for Checkers is that their service is too slow. Customers complain that employees take forever, even when there is no one else to serve.
Another issue that people have are the “tasteless” patties. They also say that they put a “giant flavorless” pieces of lettuce which do nothing for the burgers. The compliments they do receive stem from their fries and banana milkshakes.
When it comes to quality sub making, Quiznos doesn’t fall short. Their food is rated well, and you can make it however you wish. What’s not to like there? Sadly, the chain filed for bankruptcy in 2014 and went from having 5,000 stores to only 800 across the country.
Well, what’s the issue there? Their biggest problem is that they’re too expensive! When Subway began selling footlongs for $5, Quiznos failed to keep up the pace.
Known for their “Freaky Fast, Freaky Fresh” slogan, Jimmy John’s has had a slew of bad luck. In 2016, they forced their employees to sign a non-compete clause, not allowing them to work at other delis until two years after their tenure with Jimmy John’s.
Not only that, but the chain also caused several food poisoning outbreaks. In 2008, 2009, and 2010, people got sick from either E. Coli or salmonella after eating a sub from Jimmy John’s.
Thanks to custom pizza shops like Blaze Pizza, a chain such as Sbarro doesn’t get as much traction as it used to. Not only that, but people complain about the lack of freshness when they bite into a Sbarro pizza.
“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. He couldn’t have said it any better.
Jack In The Box
If there’s anything that Jack in the Box has going for them, it’s the round-headed mascot who’s facial expression rarely changes. Do you really want their two tacos for 99 cents? Not even serving breakfast all day didn’t help their ratings, either.
People on social media describe the food as “a wet envelope of cat food” and flat out “vile.” While this all may be true, there are still people who can’t resist the tacos even after admitting they’re gross.
Out of everyone who has gone to Wingstop, only 44% return for their boneless wings, fries, and ranch. Reviewers complain about the food’s saltiness and heaviness. However, they do deserve praise for their house-made ranch and sweet fries.
The chain’s boneless wings tend to drown in salt, which is why many customers don’t like the meals. On top of that, the chain has high prices and iffy sauce options. But if you’re in the mood for salt and house-made ranch, give Wingstop a visit.
During the 1990s, over 1,100 Boston Market restaurants served customers across the U.S. As of 2018, that number has lowered to 400 stores. Boston Market offers customers a makeshift American home meal, including rotisserie chicken and plenty of Thanksgiving dishes all year-round. However, it seems like their former strength is now their downfall.
Over time, grocery stores offered their own rotisserie chickens and Thanksgiving sides. Customers now had the same product, but cheaper. Not to mention that the chain fails to meet the demands of vegan options.
Dairy Queen has been serving blizzards and upside-down ice cream since 1940. But despite its long service, many customers poke fun at the chain. They say that Dairy Queen ice cream tastes too much like oil and melts too quickly to be real dairy.
But Dairy Queen’s worst reputation surrounds their food. Their hot dogs are soggy, they burger patties are burnt, their buns are squishy. They’re received plenty of criticism for frequently undercooking their chicken.
El Pollo Loco first opened in Mexico in 1975. The U.S. didn’t receive a taste until 1980, but after a store opened in Los Angeles, the chain rapidly expanded. The store’s name means “The Crazy Chicken,” and 57% of customers agree–but not in a good way.
Overall, El Pollo Loco has a low-quality environment. Customers complain that the servers are rude and slow, and that the food is bland. Cooks tend to overcook chicken and also undercook chicken and somehow keep it dry.
Taco Bell first opened its doors in 1962, California. In 2018, it was voted “America’s favorite Mexican restaurant.” But despite the delectable nachos, CrunchyWrap Supremes, and Baja Blasts, the data doesn’t confirm that Taco Bell is a favorite.
According to Consumer Reports, diners’ least favorite Taco Bell meal is their burritos. In addition, many menu items don’t fully satisfy the customer. That’s on top of people receiving stomach pains and irritation after eating there.
Bojangles’ has been serving up Southern American food since 1977. The chain spans 12 states and receives some praise for their cajun seasoning. But simply serving up Southern chicken doesn’t attract enough customers.
While some customers love their biscuits, others despise them. Taste testers for the Washington Post describe them as salty and burnt. On top of that, they criticized the food for providing “so many carbs, so little flavor.”
Krystal is a burger chain that started in 1928 Georgia and assimilated throughout Southeastern U.S. Because of their slider-sized hamburgers, many customers compare Krystal to White Castle. However, the joint’s focal point also seems to be its biggest flaw.
Consumer Reports says that Krystal serves the worst burgers in America. Because the buns are so big, the patties disappear inside. The meat is bland and comes with little sauce. Krystal’s main redeeming factor are their Corn Pops.
Since 1960, Domino’s Pizza has delivered cheesy meals to peoples’ doors. But before 2009, many people complained that their pizza tasted like cardboard. The tomato sauce tasted similar to ketchup, and the toppings felt slimy and gross. In fact, even the restaurant admitted that their food wasn’t great before 2009.
To be fair, Domino’s has greatly improved its food quality in the last ten years. But it’s still a far cry from higher-quality pizza restaurants.
Long John Silver’s
Long John Silver’s is a fast food chain that specializes in fish. If you’re wary about eating fish fast food, you have a right to be. Consumers complain that their protein is stale, greasy, and far too salty. Most of the fried fish contains more batter than meat.
Long John Silver’s other pride are their hushpuppies, but these can often come out cold or overcooked. On top of that, the restaurant has received criticism for slow service, filthy tables, and an awful smell.
The other big John in fast food leans toward Mexican food. Taco John’s is a classic “West-Mex” chain with almost 400 restaurants in 27 states. However, only 41% of diners return after eating there. Sure, their Potato Olés are good, but the rest of the menu is just a mess.
Consumers argue that salads and tacos are carelessly tossed together, and that burritos are wrapped incorrectly. Like other fast food chains, their dishes are also overwhelmingly salty, and oil leaks out of the shells.
Since Wienerschnitzel first opened in 1961, it has become the world’s biggest hog dog chain. But despite serving over 120 million hot dogs each year, their customer service is declining. Why? It’s likely because of their low-quality meals.
Despite having options to cook the meat to your liking, many Wienerschnitzel customers receive their food burnt. There’s also way more bread than meat, which overshadows why people eat there in the first place.
Kentucky Fried Chicken
KFC is a classic American fried chicken joint. But despite their popularity, the chain went from 5,472 restaurants in 2002 to 4,270 locations in 2016. KFC has suffered from rumors of their “mutant chickens” being shot up with steroids.
Not only does their food often fail in quality, but the restaurant itself tends to be filthy. Although the chain advertises crispy, crunchy chicken, much of it comes out slimy and soggy.
Funded by the same company who made Checkers, Rally’s is another drive-in burger chain that boasts “Crazy Good Food.” Unfortunately, only 38% of customers agree. The chain is one of the only places where one can score some Monsterella Stix, but other than that, their dishes are sub-par.
Rally’s has clearly been suffering, since many locations have closed down or otherwise held weird hours. People have mentioned that the food is “passable” at best.
Cici’s is another American pizza chain, but unlike other restaurants, it serves the food buffet style. Cici’s has 442 stores across 32 states, and recently redesigned their branding. This change may have to do with its low rating on Consumer Reports.
Customers don’t like the pizza’s low quality, which are often served on dirty dishes. The crust ends up soggy and cold on the buffet line. However, Cici’s ranked highly in politeness of staff and speedy service.
Carl’s Jr. has served American burgers since 1941. But despite its longevity, the chain has declined in popularity. According to a Consumer Picks survey, only 33% of responders wanted Carl’s Jr. over another chain.
Customers find Carl’s Jr. burgers to be more bland for more calories. The sandwiches are often poorly constructed, involving burnt meat and messy construction. Like other burger joints, Carl’s Jr. is also incredibly greasy and unremarkable at best.
Most people prefer their fried chicken without a side of politics. Although Chik-Fil-A has plans to expand into more U.S. states and Canada, certain areas refuse to support their business. Since their president’s political speech in 2012, certain towns and universities refuse to support the restaurant.
Although some people love their chicken nuggets and waffle fries, others find their food to be too greasy. Many still feel hungry after eating all of Chik-Fil-A’s meals. However, the chain has been praised for its kind servers.
Just Saying: Fatburger Has “Fat” In The Name
For being “The Last Great Handburger Stand,” Fatburger doesn’t always receive the best reviews. This casual burger chain began in California and extended to 19 other countries. For a fast food joint, though, these meals are a bit on the pricey side.
While their onion rings are incredible, their burgers produce so much grease that they can soak the bun. Their restaurant might receive a better rep with more polite servers and overly simple burgers.