Feature

The 11 worst fast food restaurants in America

Consumer Reports' most recent ranking of our nation’s fast food restaurants

Whether they like pizza, hamburgers, chicken, or sandwiches, Americans want more than just cheap meals when they eat out at fast food restaurants. The quality and freshness of the food, as well as the quality of the service, have become top priorities when choosing a spot to grab a quick bite, as shown by Consumer Reports' most recent ranking of our nation's fast food restaurants.

Consumer Reports surveyed more than 32,000 readers who ate more than 96,000 meals at 65 chains. The magazine found that the less ubiquitous fast food restaurants and the regional ones were the most popular with diners.

Those who were surveyed had to look at five criteria to rank each chain: food quality and freshness, value, politeness, speed of service, and cleanliness of the dining area. Based on these criteria, they then had to come up with a grade out of 100.

The top loser: Sbarro, which specializes in New York-style pizza. The chain has been doing so badly it closed more than 150 locations in North America in February and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy a month later.

Other well-known names that made the list of the worst fast food restaurants include McDonald's, Burger King, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell.

11. Panda ExpressConsumer Reports' Grade: 73/100The only Asian fast food chain on this list, Panda Express allegedly offers gourmet Chinese cuisine, but the quality and freshness of its food is only so-so and its dishes are too pricey, according to the survey. Meanwhile, the quality of its service fared relatively well.

10. Taco BellConsumer Reports' Grade: 73/100The best-known Mexican fast food chain in the country, Taco Bell also ranked as the worst Mexican fast food chain in America, receiving particularly bad grades for its mediocre food quality and freshness. It recently entered the breakfast market, going head to head with McDonald’s.

9. Little CaesarsConsumer Reports' Grade: 73/100Pizza restaurant Little Caesars, which was started in Michigan more than 50 years ago, ranked especially low on the quality and freshness of its food, despite advertising its fresh-quality ingredients.

8. Domino'sConsumer Reports' Grade: 73/100Another global pizza chain ended on the worst fast food restaurant list. Domino’s fared poorly on all criteria including the quality of the food, the value of its food, the speed of its service, and the cleanliness of its dining areas — but its wait staff received a relatively high mark for politeness.

7. Pizza HutConsumer Reports' Grade: 73/100One of the most famous pizza chains in the world, Pizza Hut was started by two brothers more than 55 years ago in Kansas. Now part of Yum! Brands, it has about 6,000 restaurants in the U.S.

6. CiCi's PizzaConsumer Reports' Grade: 72/100CiCi’s Pizza, which launched in the 1980s in Plano, Texas, now has about 500 restaurants in 34 states. Although the chain received bad grades for the quality of its food and the cleanliness of its restaurants, it did okay with the speed of its service and politeness of its waiting staff.

5. Burger KingConsumer Reports' Grade: 71/100Another burger giant chain fared poorly in the rankings, with mediocre food quality and freshness and bad value for its food. Burger King, which debuted a Gay Pride Whopper this week, has about 13,000 franchised restaurants.

4. McDonald'sConsumer Reports' Grade: 71/100Every minute, McDonald’s sells Americans nearly 1,500 burgers, which it touts as being 100 percent USDA-inspected beef, free of preservatives, fillers, extenders, and so-called pink slime. But none of that prevented Consumer Reports’ readers from rating its food quality and freshness as one of the worst.

3. Church's ChickenConsumer Reports' Grade: 71/100Church’s Chicken, also established in the 1950s, sells fried chicken, fries, biscuits, and jalapenos. The chain, known as Texas Chicken outside the U.S., has more than 1,600 locations worldwide.

2. KFCConsumer Reports' Grade: 69/100KFC’s food quality and freshness, its value, and the cleanliness of its dining area all got bad reviews. The chain, which has famously sold its fried chicken in buckets since the 1950s, has restaurants throughout the country.

1. SbarroConsumer Reports' Grade: 65/100Sbarro, which specializes in New York-style pizza, placed especially low in this year’s list because of its poor food quality and lack of freshness. The company filed for bankruptcy earlier this year — the second time it’s done so in about three years.

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