Wendy's, In-N-Out, Caribou Coffee top Zagat's 2012 list

Sept. 28, 2012

Wendy's and In-N-Out Burger were once again named the top overall chains in this year's Zagat Fast-Food Survey. Both brands were No. 1 in the 2011 survey as well, in the mega and large chain categories.

Zagat announced the results of its annual Fast-Food Survey of 274 national restaurant chains this week. More than 10,500 diners voted on categories such as salads, sandwiches, pasta and pizza, as well as food, décor and service.

Last year's survey results were polled from about 6,000 diners and 103 chains.

Consumers who participated reported eating at a chain restaurant 9.4 times a month. Chains were rated on Zagat's 30-point scale.

The survey divided restaurants into four categories: Mega chains (more than 5,000 U.S. locations), large chains (up to 5,000 U.S. locations) and quick-refreshment (beverages, ice cream, etc.). The survey also covered 117 full-service chains – those with table service. Results are listed below.

Most popular mega chains:

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

Most popular large chains:

  1. In-N-Out Burger
  2. Panera Bread
  3. Chipotle
  4. Five Guys
  5. Chick-fil-A

Most popular quick-refreshment chains:

  1. Starbucks
  2. Dunkin' Donuts
  3. Ben & Jerry's
  4. Peet's Coffee/Tea
  5. Auntie Anne's Pretzels

Top overall chains

With all criteria considered, the top overall mega chains are:

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

The top overall large chains include:

  1. In-N-Out Burger
  2. Fazoli's
  3. Panera Bread
  4. Papa Murphy's
  5. Chipotle

The top overall quick-refreshment chains are:

  1. Caribou Coffee
  2. Rita's Italian Ice
  3. Peet's Coffee/Tea
  4. Culver's
  5. Tim Hortons

Food, décor and service

The top five mega chains, in order, for food were Wendy's, Subway, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and Burger King.

The top ranking large chains for food include In-N-Out Burger, Papa Murphy's, Chipotle, Panera Bread and Bojangles, respectively.

For quick-refreshment chains, top food brands include Rita's Italian Ice, Ben & Jerry's, Haagen-Dazs, Peet's Coffee/Tea and Culver's.

The top five mega chains listed for décor include Wendy's, McDonald's, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and Subway, respectively.

Large chains with the best décor include, in order, Fazoli's, Panera Bread, On The Border Mexican Grill, Corner Bakery Café and Buffalo Wild Wings.

Quick-refreshment brands with the best décor are Caribou Coffee, Peet's Coffee/Tea, Starbucks, Culver's and Tim Hortons, respectively.

For service, Subway was ranked on top of the mega chains, followed by Wendy's, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and McDonald's.

For large chains, top service went to In-N-Out Burger, Papa Murphy's, Jimmy John's, Fazoli's and Panera Bread.

Quick-refreshment chains with the best service include Caribou Coffee, Rita's Italian Ice, Culver's, Peet's Coffee/Tea and Tim Hortons.

Top menu items

Zagat's survey respondents also ranked their favorite menu items. They include:

Best burger: Five Guys

Best fried chicken: KFC

Best grilled chicken: Chick-fil-A

Best fish: Long John Silver's

Best french fries: McDonald's

Best coffee: Starbucks

Best milkshakes: Steak 'n Shake

Best ice cream/custard: Rita's Italian Ice

Best breakfast sandwiches: McDonald's

Best salads: Wendy's

Best value menu: McDonald's

Best overall value: McDonald's

Best child-friendly chain: McDonald's

Best wings: Buffalo Wild Wings

Best healthy options: Panera

In the Full-Service category, Cheesecake Factory was named most popular, while neighborhood restaurant Cheddar's was named with the Top Food, Top Decor and Top Overall. For service, O'Charley's was listed as No. 1.

For more information, visit the Zagat blog.

Read more about trends and statistics.

Topics: Coffee / Specialty Beverages , Customer Service / Experience , Food & Beverage , Marketing / Branding / Promotion , Trends / Statistics

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