Wendy's named top overall QSR in Zagat's 2011 list

Sept. 5, 2011

McDonald's, Subway and Wendy's were big winners in this year's Zagat's National Fast Food Restaurant Survey, released today.

Wendy's was named the top overall mega chain, based on food, facilities and service. McDonald's topped numerous categories, including drive-thru and value. And Subway was listed as the healthiest option and the best service model.

The survey covered 103 chains broken into four categories – large chains (up to 5,000 U.S. outlets); mega chains (over 5,000); quick-refreshment (focusing on beverages, ice cream, etc.); and full-service (with table service).

There were more than 6,000 diners polled for this year's results. They averaged a trip to a quick-service establishment at least once a week.

Each chain was rated on the quality of its food, facilities and service based on Zagat's signature 30-point scale.

This year's top overall mega chains, based on food, facilities and service ratings, include:

  1. Wendy's
  2. Subway
  3. McDonald's
  4. Pizza Hut
  5. KFC

Food: Wendy's beat out Subway, followed by KFC, Pizza Hut and Burger King.

Facilities: McDonald's earned No. 1, followed by Wendy's, Subway, Burger King and Pizza Hut.

Service: Subway topped the poll, followed by Wendy's, McDonald's, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell.

In the large chains category, the top brands, in order, include Chick-fil-A, In-N-Out Burger, Papa Murphy's, Panera Bread and Chipotle Mexican Grill.

Food: In-N-Out Burger was No. 1, followed by Chick-fil-A, Papa Murphy's, Five Guys and Chipotle Mexican Grill.

Facilities: Panera Bread topped the survey, followed by Chick-fil-A, Pei Wei Asian Diner, McAlister's Deli and In-N-Out Burger.

Service: Chick-fil-A was No. 1, followed by In-N-Out Burger, Papa Murphy's, Jimmy John's and Panera Bread.

The quick-refreshment list, in order, includes Pinkberry, Red Mango, Peet's Coffee & Tea, Culver's and Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf.

Most popular chains

It's notable that the top three mega chains (Wendy's, Subway and McDonald's) are also among the Top 3 Most Popular.

The top 5 list of most popular mega chains includes:

  1. Subway
  2. McDonald's
  3. Wendy's
  4. Burger King
  5. Taco Bell

For large chains, Five Guys earned the most popular spot, followed by Panera Bread, Chipotle, Chick-fil-A and In-N-Out Burger.

And for quick-refreshment chains, Starbucks topped the popularity list, followed by Dunkin' Donuts, Culver's, Ben & Jerry's and Cold Stone Creamery.

P.F. Chang's China Bistro is the most popular full-service chain, followed by the Cheesecake Factory, Bonefish Grill, California Pizza Kitchen and Maggiano's Little Italy.

Specific food categories

Zagat surveyors also shared their opinions on the best food items in a variety of categories, including:

Burger: Five Guys, followed by In-N-Out Burger, Wendy's, Burger King, McDonald's.

Fried Chicken: KFC, followed by Popeye's, Church's Chicken, Bojangles' and Culver's.

Grilled Chicken: Chick-fil-A, followed by El Pollo Loco, Panera Bread, Wendy's, McDonald's.

Fish: Long John Silver's, followed by McDonald's, Captain D's Seafood, Culver's, Burger King.

French Fries: McDonald's, followed by Five Guys, Wendy's, In-N-Out Burger, Chick-fil-A.

Coffee: Starbucks, followed by Dunkin' Donuts, McDonald's, Peet's Coffee & Tea, Caribou Coffee.

Milkshakes: Dairy Queen, followed by Cold Stone Creamery, Sonic Drive-In, Chick-fil-A, Ben & Jerry's and McDonald's (tied).

Ice Cream/Custard: Ben & Jerry's, followed by Bruster's Real Ice Cream, Haagen-Dazs; Rita's, Carvel.

Smoothies/Frozen Yogurt: Red Mango, followed by Pinkberry, Jamba Juice, Smoothie King, TCBY.

Breakfast Sandwiches: McDonald's, followed by Panera Bread, Chick-fil-A, Einstein Bros., Dunkin' Donuts.

Salads: Panera Bread, followed by Wendy's, Jason's Deli, Cosi, Corner Bakery Café.

Wings: Buffalo Wild Wings, followed by Wingstop, KFC, Zaxby's, Pizza Hut. The "Best Wings" category, with Buffalo Wild Wings on top, is new to the survey this year.

Other survey results

In addition to earning the Best French Fries and Best Breakfast Sandwiches honors, consumers polled are lovin' McDonald's for the chain's value menu, overall value, child-friendly options and drive-thru.

Also according to the survey, 69 percent of diners favor calorie count displays, and 55 percent report that their dining behavior has been influenced by such calorie counts.

"For better or for worse, fast food is a major part of American culture, with our average surveyor eating at chain restaurants nearly 11 times per month. It's worth noting that the majority of surveyors are taking their health seriously and are demanding transparency from the industry. It's also encouraging to see chain restaurants stepping up and offering healthier options," said Tim Zagat, CEO of Zagat Survey.

The full list of results is available online.

Read more about trends and statistics.

Topics: Customer Service / Experience , Food & Beverage , Operations Management , Trends / Statistics

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