Consumers Pick Favorite Chains

August 16/New York/PRNewswire -- Zagat has revealed the results of its latest survey, covering 97 major fast food chains and 39 full-service chains as voted on by 6,518 diners who ate at chain outlets on average 10.7 times per month. The survey respondents weighed in on everything from chicken and cheeseburgers to smoothies and seafood, separately rating each chain on the quality of its Food, Facilities and Service using Zagat's signature 30-point scale.

"It's virtually impossible to live anywhere in America without having a fast food chain outlet in the neighborhood. We know that these chains play an important role in feeding our population. That's the reason why we undertook this survey and why we believe the results are so important," said Tim Zagat, CEO of Zagat Survey.

The survey results divided the chains into four categories: Large (up to 5,000 U.S. outlets), Mega (over 5,000), Full-service (with table service), and Quick-refreshment (focusing on beverages, ice cream and the like). The full survey results are available on with the highlights following.

Winners: Wendy's is this year's Top Food champion, dominating the Mega-chain category. Also holding onto its title is west coast burger chain In-N-Out Burger, which again takes Top Food among Large Chains. New to the survey is regional seafood chain, Bonefish Grill, which stormed the competition to take top food honors in the Full-service category, while Ben & Jerry's prevailed in the Quick-refreshment category.

Health Nut: Celebrating their commitment to health-conscious menu items are this year's winners for Top Healthy Options. Subway wins in the Mega-chain category, specializing in sandwiches made with only the freshest ingredients, while Jamba Juice's all natural fruit smoothies helped them take the prize in the Quick-refreshment category. Jason's Deli won for healthy options among large chains, and Bonefish Grill's specialized seafood menu was judged most healthy in the full-service category.

Digesting Values: Value-oriented restaurants offering good but inexpensive alternatives to home cooking are especially appreciated during the current economic times. Taking home the prize for Best Value among fast food establishments is McDonald's, which also celebrated top honors for its Breakfasts, Value Menu, Child Friendliness and Drive-Thrus. The remaining top-ranked values among Fast Food chains are (in order) Panera Bread, Chipotle, Taco Bell and Chick-fil-A. The top three full service winners for Best Value are Olive Garden, Cracker Barrel and The Cheesecake Factory.

Coffee Talk: Surveyors have ordered a double-shot of love for Starbucks, which wins in the category of Best Coffee once again. The Seattle-based coffee behemoth with over 10,000 branches beat out rival Dunkin' Donuts, which came in second, followed by McDonald's in third place.

Milkshakes and Burgers and Fries: Whether being served from a drive-thru window or a server on roller skates, burgers, fries and shakes remain the most timeless fast food menu items. This year, Virginia-based burger chain Five Guys has earned bragging rights in the hotly contested Best Burger category, edging out regional and mega-chain competitors alike. However, no chain has been able to dethrone McDonald's which wins in the category of Best French Fries for the third straight survey. In the category of Best Milkshakes, Dairy Queen has stepped into the spotlight taking home this year's prize. The top five rankings in all of these categories are as follows:

Best Burger
1) Five Guys 
2) In-N-Out Burger  
3) Wendy's
4) Burger King
5) McDonald's

Best French Fries
1) McDonald's
2) Five Guys
3) In-N-Out Burger
4) Wendy's
5) Burger King

Best Milkshakes
1) Dairy Queen
2) Cold Stone Creamery
3) Sonic Drive-in
4) Chick-fil-A
5) Ben & Jerry's

Five Dollar Foot-long: Zagat surveyors looking to "eat fresh" have chosen Subway as the Most Popular in the Mega-chain category. This year, the uber-popular sandwich franchise beat out McDonald's, Wendy's and Burger King, which came in second, third and fourth, respectively. Other winners in the Popularity category include Panera Bread (Large Chains), Starbucks (Quick-refreshments) and P.F. Chang's (Full-service).

Category Winners: Here is a list of some of the other category winners:

Fast-Food Chains
Best Fried Chicken: Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC)
Best Grilled Chicken: Chick-fil-A
Best Fish: Long John Silver's
Best Salads: Panera Bread
Most Child-Friendly: McDonald's
Best Value: McDonald's

Full-Service Chains
Best Steak: Outback Steakhouse
Best Pasta: Maggiano's
Best Breakfast: Cracker Barrel
Best Seafood: Bonefish Grill
Best Desserts: The Cheesecake Factory
Most Child-Friendly: Chuck E. Cheese's

For additional results, visit

From the August 30, 2010, Prepared Foods E-dition