One could say that fast food is the cornerstone of American cuisine. It is easy, fast, tasty, and convenient to say the least. However, as the years go on, consumers are becoming more and more intelligent about what goes into their food and interested in what fast food restaurants use to make their meals as tasty and fast as they are. These days, we want more from our fast food counterparts – higher quality ingredients, cleanliness in the kitchen and restaurant, and overall terrific service. This year, a Consumer Picks survey took place where consumers across the United States scored the top fast food restaurants across the nation. The scores are calculated based on customer loyalty to the brand in question. There are so many of these restaurants around the country, they are visited often and are a part of some people’s daily routine. However, while these restaurants are beloved by many, there is a lot we do not know about what happens behind the scenes. These here are the worst fast food restaurants in the United States, ranked by consumers, some who judge the place on service and how often their order is done properly, while others have inside information as to the restaurant’s cleanliness and what goes on in the kitchen that us mere customers do not get to see. It is eye-opening how these fast food joints are ranked and based on this, we are going to be making some serious changes in our fast food pickings.
44 percent of people who took the survey said that they would return to Arby’s solely for their roast beef sandwich. Those who have a love and hate relationship with Arby’s said that they considered the food there to be “delicious trash”.
There were also those who said that they did not feel well after eating the food there. Arby’s has been battling rumors of what their roast beef is made of (there are those who say it is made of paste, or gel – gross). Arby’s has always denied the claims but the damage to the brand has already been done. Score: 44
Starbucks’ star is not as bright as it used to be. While their branding is very strong, the amount of people choosing to get their coffee or snack from there is less and less. Starbucks has been through quite a bit of controversy of its own, with some of its employees behavior in regards to the mistreatment of customers who are African American.
The racial-bias that took place shook the public and had every single Starbucks in the country close its stores for a whole day to teach every employee how to treat their customers. Needless to day, their ranking is low among the public. Score: 44
44 percent of people asked about Wingstop said that they would happily return for their fries, chicken wings, and boneless wings. This is all good considering the spot is called Wingstop. However, many customers complained about the saltiness of the food there and how over the top it is, especially in the boneless wings.
Another complaint is that the boneless wings end up coming out soggy rather than crispy, which is a huge disappointment. Their prices and sauce selection are also said to be too high and not enough of a variety. It does not look good for Wingstop from where we are standing. Score: 44
Back in the 90s, Boston Market had over 1,100 locations across shopping plazas and malls around the country. Today, there are less than 400 of these locations open. They were known more than anything for their whole roast chicken which they would roast for you!
However, this also ended up being their downfall. There were more and more grocery stores that decided to take on the idea and roast a chicken for their customers, making Boston Market obsolete. At the end of the day, Boston Market is no longer needed as their specialty is no longer, well, special. Score: 43
Dairy Queen has been serving up blizzards and other delicious gravity-defying ice creams since 1940. However, their former glory is no longer as customers now say that their ice cream tastes like oil and plastic and melts far too fast.
Those who reviewed the chain in the survey said that in addition to the ice cream, their regular food such as hot dogs and burgers are prepared poorly and often do not come out warm to begin with. Dairy Queen has also been accused of serving undercooked chicken, which as we all know is actually dangerous (and unappetizing). Score: 43
“The Crazy Chicken” as it is translated into English, was founded in 1975 by Francisco Ochoa in Mexico. In 1980, the chain advanced to the United States with their first location in Los Angeles. Only 43 percent of customers said that they would return to El Pollo Loco, why is that?
Well, it is said that it is due to the environment actually. Customers said that they received bad service and went on to say that they were treated rudely, got their order wrong, and had to wait too long for their meal. There were other complaints of underdone food and high prices as well. Score: 43
Somehow, Taco Bell was voted America’s favorite Mexican restaurant in 2018. Some of the favorite items people order are the nacho fries, the beefy chalupa, and the CrunchWrap Supreme. However, there are those who hate Taco Bell as much as those who love it.
Customers said that the burritos at Taco Bell are some of the worst they have ever tasted. Many other customers who expressed their opinions on other surveys, said that they did not feel well after eating there and that it has become a joke now that if you want to get a stomach ache, go to Taco Bell. Score: 43
One of the longest running chains here, Bojangles’ was established in 1977 in Charlotte, North Carolina. While they only exist in 12 states, mostly on the East Coast and the South, this chain is loved for its food but also considered one of the very worst chains in the country.
They are famous for their chicken and biscuits but also do not see a lot of returning customers. One of the customers said, “So many carbs, so little flavor. It’s crying out for jam, jelly, anything to distract from the bland-yet-fluffy body. I can taste leavening in this; it tastes like baking soda.” Score: 42
Subway still has over 24,000 stores across the nation. However, it does not score high with customers and is seeing a slowing down in their sales. In 2018, Subway closed over 1,000 of its locations.
Customers are choosing to go to artisan sandwich shops or other restaurants for their needs as Subway’s quality has said to have gone down drastically. In an attempt to get their love back, they are revamping their menu and their ingredients. It does not help that Jersey Mike’s and Firehouse Subs are already a mile ahead of Subway at this point. The $5 footlong may be behind us. Score: 42
Those who reviewed Krystal often compared it to White Castle due to the size of the burgers, which are much more like sliders. Krystal is higher on this list than White Castle thanks to their Corn Pups, but there are still a lot of issues that customers had.
Consumer Reports state that Krystal is said to serve the very worst burgers in America – now that is one serious statement! They say that the buns are too large for the small patty so the ratio is seriously off. Consumers also took issue with the burger being very bland, with little to no sauce. Score: 41
This may come to a surprise to some, but Domino’s is considered one of the worst pizza spots in the country! The pizza was said to taste like cardboard, the tomato sauce like ketchup, and the toppings to be rubbery.
The company knew that people were unhappy and therefore tried to make some changes. Still, consumers seems to be unhappy with the chain as they rated them unkindly to say the least. Consumer Reports report the major issues being cleanliness in their locations as well as slow service. Perhaps they will learn from this for the future? We sure hope so. Score: 41
Fish, Chips, and Hushpuppies are what Long John Silver’s specializes in so you would think they would be a hit. Spoiler alert – they are far from it. Consumers say that the food is too salty, stale, and greasy.
They say that there is more batter than fish meat and that it served either too well done or cold. Customers are also not at all too pleased about messed up orders, long waits for their food, and less than welcoming employees. There are also those that criticize the establishment of being dirty and smelling foul. All things considered, this spot is not one to go to. Score: 41
Only 41 percent of diners return to Taco John’s. While there is a fair number of people who love their Potato Oles, there are more than do not find the establishment up to their standards. Customers do not like that it feels like dishes are just thrown together, like the salad tacos.
They also do not like that the burritos are poorly wrapped and therefore become a horrific mess to eat. Another complaint is that the food is too salty to eat and more times than not it is also too greasy. Overall, it sounds like a pretty terrible spot to decide to venture into. Score: 41
Established in 1961, Wienerschnitzel is the largest hot dog chain in the world. The restaurant chain currently serves a whopping 120 million hot dogs every single year. You would think that would mean it is loved?
Well, not so much. The restaurant sees a low customer return rate. The reason for that is said to be low-quality food. The meat itself is very low quality, there is far too much bun for the hot dog so the ratio is way off, and the cleanliness of the locations leaves a lot to be desired. The fries are also said to be rubbery in texture, so we are not going to try those either. Score: 41
No chain is safe from Consumer Reports! KFC has suffered for a long time. They closed over 1,200 locations over the last five years, and that has a lot to do with these complaints and therefore lower customer count. They have been dealing with rumors that they use steroids on the poultry they use for their chicken products.
People stopped trusting the food that KFC was serving and so they slowly stopped ordering. Diners claim that the quality of the food is very low and that each location is dirtier than the next. From bland, greasy, and stale chicken, to soggy and burnt buns and fries, KFC is not doing well. Score: 40
Cinnabon is known for being one of the most unhealthy food chains in America. While their products are indeed tasty, the amount of sugar and fat in each item is so above and beyond what is recommended per day that it gets a hit.
In addition to the health aspect of the products, consumers are not happy with the employees of the chain, saying that they are very rude. Another criticism is that the products are often stale, being reheated from their original bake hours earlier. Consumers want freshly baked goods, not reheated buns from the day before or morning of. Score: 40
Another fast food Mexican chain for the list. Del Taco has 40 percent of people returning to it thanks to their cinnamon churros and taco combos which are very affordable. However, customers are less than pleased about how long they wait to get their order and once they do get it, they are unhappy with how it turned out.
The meat in the tacos is said to be tasteless, and the amount of rice in the burritos is said to be more than anything else, overwhelming the whole dish. It remains to be seen if this chain can stay afloat. Score: 40
Einstein is known for being a “gourmet” bagel spot. However, it is fast being known for being super average. Consumers who rated the chain have said that the bagels are flavorless and that you could easily get better bagels at the grocery store. Ouch!
They also stated that their coffee is terrible, and that the service in their locations leaves a lot to be desired. The worst offender, however, is that they tend to get orders wrong way too much of the time. 40 percent of customers said they will be back but that leaves a whole 60 that will not. Score: 40
We knew this was coming. White Castle is a cult classic of a chain thanks to its immersion in films, but it does not mean they are any good. Only a select few have said that they would visit the chain again after going there the first time.
The small square slider burgers are said to be left hungry due to its size, with the bun being far too big for the patty, which is already very small. The flavor is off and the onion flavor that the grill has from cleaning is stronger than the burger itself. Score: 39
Panda Express was founded in 1983, is the largest Asian restaurant chain in America with over 2,000 locations. While the chain calls itself gourmet Chinese cuisines, diners have a lot less to say about the food and the business model. Starting with the fact that it is overpriced, consumers are also unhappy with the average food which has been slammed for being inauthentic.
There has been a lot of backlash as the chain is said to use a lot of sugar and sodium in their dishes, making them incredibly unhealthy. The way the employees treat customers is also an issue. Score: 39
Church’s Chicken is just not loved, there is nothing all too wrong about what they do other than customers do not like it. They have been around since the 50s but Consumer Report surveys say that people just do not come back for their popcorn shrimp, hand-breaded fish, and honey butter biscuits.
The flavor is said to be the biggest culprit here, or lack thereof. Diners also say that the biscuits are as hard as rocks and the chicken itself could use some more love. Overall, they need to make a major change should they wish to survive 2019. Score: 38
It all started in 2005, when Wendy’s went through a scandal that rocked the chain for a long time – the “finger in chili crisis” as it is called. There is also the 2018 live mouse that was discovered in a bag of their burger buns.
The chain is not seeing people come back (for good reason it seems) and they are trying to make a change but consumers are not buying it. Diners are not happy with the prices and delivery of their meals, stating that the quality should be higher. They have started using never-frozen patties, so perhaps they will see a rise. Score: 38
Little Caesars is known for their $5 large pizzas. While it is a great value, in this case you certainly get what you pay for. While the chain advertises that they use high-quality ingredients for their pizzas, customers beg to differ quite a bit.
They say the pizza is not fresh even if it is right out of the oven as the ingredients are not the best. The cheese is waxy and the pepperoni is rubbery. Many others say that the dough tastes like cardboard and that they will not be purchasing again. Consumer Reports survey has this chain in serious trouble. Score: 37
Checkers is known for their hot dogs, hamburgers, milkshakes, and french fries since they opened in 1986. While they are indeed still around, diners are supremely unhappy with the chains customer service and low-quality food.
The two most talked about (and not in a good way) menu items are their hamburgers and hot dogs – they may be their specialty but they are the ones that customers say are the worst. The burger consists of a flavorless patty, on a large bun, with a large leaf of iceberg lettuce to compliment it (poorly). The only saving grace they have is their shakes and fries! Score: 36
It is retro themed and therefore loved for it, but the food leaves a whole lot of people upset. Their chili dogs, corn dogs, onion rings, cheeseburgers, and milkshakes are their selling points; but they manage to mess those up royally.
Consumer Reports survey has people hating on the cheeseburger for being nothing special, as the patty is dry as a bone and the lettuce they use makes up most of the burger. They need to go back to the drawing board on that one seeing as it is hurting their reputation and ranking quite a bit here. Score: 36
The oldest chain on this list by far, A&W was founded in 1919! The chain is known for its burgers, draft root beer and their root beer floats, of course. They were beloved by many for a very long time, but other time they lost their touch and perhaps got too confident in themselves.
Customers have said that they are very unhappy with their service and the quality of the food in general. They say that the worst menu item has to be their fries, that are too greasy and taste downright awful. There is also a large issue with their cleanliness. Score: 35
Auntie Anne’s sells delicious pretzels. They are buttery, warm, salty and overall really bad yet tasty for you. The chain was founded in 1988 and was the first pretzel shop in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
You can find this chain in almost any mall across the nation, which is also its downfall. Malls are becoming more and more obsolete these days and so the chain is seeing a serious decline in their sales. Other than less foot traffic, those who do come to the counter are often upset by the state of the pretzel, which is more than likely to be stale. Score: 35
Quiznos used to have 5,000 locations nationwide. Today, they have only 800. The reason for this has to do with the financial crisis of 2008, as well as the fact that people thought that the toasted subs were too pricey for them and did not justify what they got.
Subway started selling subs for $5 for a footlong, and Quiznos just could not compete. They tried to get new customers with coupons, but they saw the writing on the financial wall and did not honor them, angering customers everywhere even more and having their master plan backfire miserably. Score: 35
Hardee’s has been a rival of McDonald’s, KFC, and Jack in the Box since it first opened its doors. They have made waves with their marketing efforts and how “out there” they are. Out of all of the chains on this list, they are the first and probably only to admit their issues.
They say that they know about the issues with cleanliness, customer service, and menu. They have yet to change their ways, however, and customers feel it and are not coming back there because of it. The score it got shows just how people feel about this chain. Score: 34
Jimmu John’s is not the smartest of chains. In 2016, they had their employees sign a non-compete clause in their employment agreements that say that they are not allowed to work at another sandwich shop or deli until two years after their employment ended with them.
As a result, several states decided to sue JJ’s, making them remove that clause. There was a huge food poisoning outbreak in 2008, 2009, and 2010 that this chain could not get out of, with people contracting E. Coli and Salmonella from their food. There was another outbreak in 2013 and in 2018. Score: 34
New York Times writer Neil Irwin, said, “You eat Sbarro not because you want Sbarro, but because it is the food that is available at the moment you want some food.” 34 percent of people who have gone to Sbarro agree with Irwin.
The chain loses diners all the time because of freshness issues with their food. Pizza’s are warmed up rather than remade and the ingredients themselves are also not up there. The chain is also often located in malls, meaning that they are getting less and less customers the more people shop elsewhere (like Amazon or Ebay). Score: 34
Burger King is known for its burgers, it is in the name after all. But they are now known for their burgers because they are no longer considered very good. Diners do not like the meat to bun ratio, they do not like the fact that there is so much onion on the burger, and the other toppings seem to disappear or are not put on at all.
The employees there have a tendency to prepare the order wrong if you wanted any sort of change, and the fact that they are introducing the Impossible non-meat option is not helping their case. Score: 33
Many people do not know this but Carl’s Jr. was actually a hot dog stand when it originally opened in 1941 in Los Angeles. Customers always seemed to take issue with something or other at Carl’s Jr., such as their inappropriate commercials, their food, or their overall marketing.
Diners have said that the burgers are large, messy, and not at all flavorful. They also noticed the price increase over the years and do not appreciate it as they said that it is not worth what you are getting for your money. Consumer Reports are making this chain sound on its last leg. Score: 33
Jack in the Box has been in the burger game since 1951. They now offer a whole lot more than just burgers, offering fries, tacos, breakfast all day, and chicken fajita pitas. Their expansion into these other areas of food have shown to be their downfall as a quality establishment.
Many of those who have gone into a Jack in the Box have said that they will not return as the food is downright gross (their deep fried tacos in particular). There have been customers who took to social media and said that their food was “vile”. There are those who are still fans, but not many. Score: 33
Are you at all surprised that McDonald’s made this list? They may have the most locations out of all of the fast food chains, but that seems to be the cause of most of their issues too. Their quality is low, both in food and in customer service, and people everywhere surveyed that way.
Their burgers rank the absolute lowest in food’s freshness category. Customers have called the chain a seriously “hot mess” of a chain, with patties dry and items not made the way they ordered them. Their Consumer Score reflects just how people feel about them every day. Score: 28