The Ultimate Chain Restaurant Nutrition Guide: Who Is Hiding Information About The Food, And Who Isn't.


What does IHOP have to hide that Denny’s doesn’t? And what’s so mysterious about Krispy Kreme? Why is their info so difficult to find, while competitor Dunkin’ Donuts has extensive, easy to locate information on their website? These are the questions we found ourselves asking after evaluating 51 chain restaurants websites and their nutritional information pages. Or lack of them.

We rated the restaurants on the availability/completeness of information, how easy it was to locate and retrieve the information, and whether or not there was additional information such as allergy info.

The best sites had it all. We saw nutrition calculators, tips for healthy eating, gluten info, allergy info, and special information for diabetics. The worst sites had nothing at all. We were surprised to find that it wasn’t simply small restaurant chains that were failing to provide nutritional information. There were several major restaurants that completely failed to provide even basic information about their food.

IHOP, California Pizza Kitchen, Olive Garden, Bennigan’s and TGIF were among the biggest names that failed to provide any nutritional information. Applebee’s made excuses in their FAQ about “distributors,” but similar restaurants like Chili’s seem to have no problem providing information for their entire menu. Red Lobster provided allergy info and nothing more. Quiznos provided nutritional information on only two of its menu items, while competitor Subway had some of the most extensive information around. What are these restaurants hiding?

We challenge the restaurants who received ratings of “Nonexistent” or “Poor” to address the way in which they provide nutritional information to their customers. Because if a restaurant is hiding something in their website, goodness knows what’s in the food. —MEGHANN MARCO

Restaurant
Nutritional Information Provided For All Items?
Nutritional Info Easy To Locate?
Allergen Info?
Rating?
Is there a nutrition page?
Applebee’s
No
No
No
Nonexistent
No, Just some Weight Watchers stuff
Arby’s Yes
Yes
Yes
Excellent
Yes
A&W Yes
Yes
Yes
Excellent
Yes
Baskin Robin’s Yes
Yes
Yes
Excellent
Yes
Bennigan’s No
No
No
Nonexistent No
Boudin’s No
No
No
Nonexistent No
Burger King Yes
Yes
Yes
Excellent
Yes
California Pizza Kitchen No
No
No
Nonexistent No
Chipotle Yes
No
No
Poor
PDF only
Chili’s Yes
No
Yes
Average
PDF only
Chic-Fil-A Yes
Yes
Yes
Excellent
Yes
Dairy Queen Yes
Yes
Yes
Excellent
Yes
Denny’s Yes
Yes
Yes
Average
PDF only
Domino’s Pizza Yes
Yes
No
Above Average
Yes
Dunkin’ Donuts Yes
Yes
Yes
Excellent
Yes
Fat Burger No
No
No
Nonexistent
No
Friendly’s No
No
No
Nonexistent
No
Fudrucker’s No
No
No
Nonexistent
No
Hardee’s Yes
Yes
No
Above Average
Yes
Hooter’s No
No
No
Nonexistent
No
In-N-Out Burger Yes
No
No
Average
Yes
International House of Pancakes No
No
No
Nonexistent
No
Jack In The Box Yes
No
Yes
Average–the Nutrition & Allergy info is hidden away on the “Our Food” page.
No
Jamba Juice Yes
Yes
No
Above Average
Yes
KFC Yes
Yes
Yes
Excellent
Yes
Krispy Kreme Yes
No
No
Poor
PDF only
Little Caesar’s Yes
Yes
No
Above Average
Yes
Lone Star S
teak House
Yes
Yes
No
Above Average
Yes
Long John Silver’s Yes
Yes
Yes
Excellent
Yes
McDonald’s Yes
Yes
Yes
Excellent
Yes
Olive Garden No
No
No
Nonexistent
No
Outback Steak House No
Yes
Yes
Poor-No specific information on menu items, but plenty of suggestions on eating. healthier
Yes
Papa John’s Yes
Yes
Yes
Excellent
Yes
Panda Express Yes
Yes
Yes
Excellent
Yes
Perkin’s No
No
No
Nonexistent
No
Pizza Hut Yes
Yes
Yes
Excellent
Yes
Quiznos No
No
No
Poor–only two items listed on “nutrition” page.
Yes
Red Lobster No
No
Yes
Poor–no nutrition page, only brief allergy page.
No
Red Robin No
No
No
Nonexistent
No
Ruby Tuesday’s Yes
No
No
Poor–hard to find. pdfs suck
PDF only
Sbarro Yes
Yes
No
Above Average
Yes
Sonic Yes
No
No
Poor–nutrition guide is extensive, but it’s only available by 9-page pdf
PDF only
Starbucks Yes
Yes
No
Above average (they have no allergy info, but give a customer care phone number)
Yes
Steak ‘N Shake Yes
Yes
No
Above Average
Yes
Subway Yes
Yes
Yes
Excellent–extensive info, as one would expect.
Yes
TGIF No
No
No
Nonexistent
No
Taco Bell Yes
No
Yes
Above Average– the nutrition calculator is great, but not super-easy to find.
Yes
Taco John’s No
Yes (though it’s “under construction”)
No
Poor–they tease you with a Nutrition link on the home page, but then it’s “under construction” and they give you phone number.
No
Uno’s Chicago Grill Yes
Yes
Yes
Excellent–nice presentation
Yes
Wendy’s Yes
Yes
Yes
Excellent
Yes
White Castle Yes
Yes
No
Above Average
Yes


Comments

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  1. acambras says:

    Ha — if you’re eating at a place called Fat Burger, do you really need to go online to find out nutritional information? Is it that much of a mystery?

  2. timmus says:

    Excellent — it’s about time someone nailed Applebee’s and Quizno’s balls to the wall. Those corporations are dumbasses… if I’m counting calories I’m only going to eat at places that allow me to make a semi-accurate count, even if it’s just a small greaseburger.

  3. GenXCub says:

    Agreed. I lost 60 pounds using the Weight Watchers points system and I did it all from eating out because I could use online menus with nutritional info. Taco Bell has some great low calorie choices that you wouldn’t think to order like any of their Spicy Chicken items.

  4. Vinny says:

    They can’t give you allergens at Starbucks mainly because they don’t produce their own baked goods. If you look at their pamphlet they do say that even the nutritional info varies because independent suppliers do their food.

    Nonetheless, the ones that provide no information are pretty surprising….

    Oh, and Ruby Tuesday’s provides most of the nutritional information on the menu… Or at least they used to…

  5. zl9600 says:

    Great great great effort here! Thanks for providing. Would be awesome to include contact information so we could badger some of the non-compliant people. Chipotle? Jeesh, they claim they are all about doin’ good things.

  6. mike1731 says:

    I’ve used a program made by CalorieKing.com, which has a fairly extensive database of food sorted by restaurant and also general groceries. Just for fun, I looked up IHOP — the Colorado Omlette w/o pancakes clocks in at 800 calories; Country Fried Steak and Eggs has 1535 calories. Maybe that answers your question as to why they don’t post caloric info on their web site…?

  7. pestie says:

    I love Quiznos, but it pissed me off when I went to their web site looking for nutrition information and couldn’t find any at all. These guys seem to have found a single “nutrition” page that lists two products. What the hell are these guys smoking?

  8. Whoever compiled this information did a great job– I would like to also point out that many of Chipotle’s offerings are not good for you at all. Another reminder that “All Natural” does not equal “Healthy”

    A great Chipotle fan website has an online calculator that tallies together the information from Chipotle’s crappy PDF:

    http://www.chipotlefan.com/index.php?id=nutrition_calculat

    Enjoy!

  9. He says:

    I just went to the Ruby Tuesday’s website there’s a “Download Nutrition Info” link right on the menu pages. Also, the “Smart Eating Choices” have the info in the html. As long as you accept that the rest of the menu is Stupid Eating, you don’t even need the pdf. They sure beat the hell out of the other identical chains.

  10. SoCalMan says:

    There is nothing mysterious about Krispy Kreme: they do an excellent job at posting their nutritional value for their doughnuts and frozen drinks on their website.

    From the front page, mouse over “Doughnuts” in the left nav, and pick either glazed or varieties. The next page has a very bright yellow “Nutritional Info” button on the right side of the page, just below the header. Both the US and Canadian nutritional info is presented.

    As for your disdain on PDF, this allows a company to provide a consumer a uniform, easy-to-print page, unlike many HTML pages bogged down with frames and tables.

  11. tokenfemale says:

    In and out has always been really good about full disclosure – they used to have a calculator on their website, where you could add/remove ingredients and get a result.

    I did find this: http://www.in-n-out.com/nutritional_info.asp through google, but it doesn’t look like it’s actually LINKED on the site anymore. I have no idea why.

  12. Mike_ says:

    Taco Bell’s Nutrition Guide is clearly linked right at the top of their homepage. Can’t miss it. You’ve got it listed as not-easy-to-find.

  13. lpranal says:

    I’ve been looking FOREVER for buffalo wild wings nutritional info, still no luck it seems…

  14. SoCalMan says:

    If you go to the “Menu” link at In-N-Out, the landing page http://www.in-n-out.com/menu.asp clearly has a “Nutritional Information” link.

  15. Wally East says:

    acambras, I suppose you expect to eat Scottish at a place called McDonald’s?

    Besides, do you think Fatburger is providing a turkey burger just for the taste of it? They also have a veggie burger and a salad “wedge.” Wouldn’t it be great to know what you’re getting nutritionally when you order one of these items?

  16. gbbound says:

    Buffalo Wild Wings has nutritional info on their sauces (http://www.buffalowildwings.com/menuNew/pdf/nutrition.pdf) but I haven’t found any other nutritional info.

  17. brilliantmistake says:

    The Dunkin Donuts site helpfully tells you there are no crustaceans in their donuts.

  18. HotTubber says:

    Lately, I’ve only been eating out at those places that have decent and available nutritional information.
    Needless to say, I don’t eat out very much!

  19. SmoovyG says:

    Baja Fresh has their entire menu online along with nutritional data here. I almost wish I hadn’t looked it up, though – I didn’t realize how many calories the Ultimo Burrito packed until now…

  20. ZLRider says:

    If you ask Quiznos for nutrition information, you get back exactly… nothing. I love their food but judging by the taste and lack of nutritional info, I’m guessing it’s not any better for me than a Big Mac and fries. MMMM… Toasty!

  21. Meg Marco says:

    Sorry for any sites where we missed the info! We’re updating with anything you find. We want this to be as complete as possible!

  22. reginae says:

    “They can’t give you allergens at Starbucks mainly because they don’t produce their own baked goods.” -Vinny

    Okay, I’ll hand you that, but I don’t think many people would argue with the fact that Starbucks does produce their own drinks — and many people need to know the allergen content of those, as well.

  23. SoCalMan says:

    I completely support the premise of this thread, as it provides consumers one place to look for nutritional information. I appreciate that you are making in-line changes to the article, and it is organic at this time.

    My only beef is how arbitrary nature of the rating system. When I walk into a fast food restaurant, I don’t expect the nutritional info to be posted on the front door (internet terms: the main page). I expect it to be posted at the counter (internet terms: menu page).

    And why do you consider PDF a negative?

  24. kad9k says:

    Wow, I can’t thank you enough for this! This has been my pet issue lately, and I hope that a post on Consumerist will nudge some of the delinquents into shape! I frequently choose Chili’s or Subway over restaurants I like better, simply so I can know what I’m eating.

    Oh, and I’m not sure if it fits your criteria for chains, but Panera Bread provides extremely detailed info on its site, and is a great choice for dieters.

  25. As a new vegan, a good site for nutrition information is pretty much a prerequisite for me eating there.

  26. faust1200 says:

    I agree that there should be a standard for disclosure however with most of these chains I really don’t want to know!

  27. amazon says:

    I SUPER hate it when an eatery doesn’t have allergy info. I mean really, if you buy your desserts separately, is it really that hard* to check the ingredients on the box before you throw it out (and inform your customers of this info)?

    *(Yeah, yeah, my experiences point to “yes”)
    :(

  28. WhatThe... says:

    When I was pregnant and developed gestational diabetes, couldn’t give business to any restaurant that didn’t have complete nutritional information available. No Applebees for me.

  29. Chris says:

    Great post. Original research is a great addition to the Consumerist menu, Meghann.

  30. I agree with Chris. I am glad to see the Consumerist team putting together some original content. I look forward to seeing the results of the IDT spy. Let us know if you guys ever need some help researching or investigating an item.

  31. facetastic says:

    I used to do a lot of reporting on the restaurant industry, and was FOREVER trying to get nutritional info. The fast-food chains are the best about providing it, and had info up before everyone else. In the last three years, more of the sit-down places have started to follow suit, thanks to a growing public interest in nutrition, but for the most part they still refuse. Their excuses were normally one of three variations:

    1. Their restaurants are franchises, and so they don’t have complete control over how the food is prepared in each individual location.
    2. They have “regional” menus, and corporate can’t be expected to collate all the information for the different menus throughout the country.
    3. The menu is constantly changing; the corporate chefs innovating, and it’s impossible to keep up.

    All obvious bullshit: you’d better believe that every Applebee’s has strict instructions on how to prepare each and every meal — especially since many of the meals come frozen from a main supplier (just add grease and fry). But by claiming to have no real control over how each individual location chooses to alter their menu, they can pass the buck.

  32. facetastic says:

    Red Lobster has all relevant nutritional info for items on their “Lighthouse Menu”.

    And it should be noted that Uno’s has an AWESOME on-site computer in the lobby of selected restaurants that calculates the nutritional value of your whole meal. It also gives you menu suggestions based on your health goals (I believe they have “fitness meals” “heart healthy meals,” etc.) When I last spoke to on of their PR guy, he said that the machines were so popular with customers that they planned to put them in many more locations, but no word on when.

    • Anonymous says:

      @facetastic:
      Thank you for this fabulous resource. I have food allergies, and have been so frustrated by places like Olive Garden and Applebee’s who are so secretive about their ingredients.

      Captain D’s is another chain that’s terrible about it-no info on their website, and they wouldn’t give me any more information even when I e-mailed them.

  33. ValkRaider says:

    I find it interesting how you picked you chains. For instance “FatBurger” is very regional. Same with In-N-Out. Sonics are not everywhere. Nor are Ruby Tuesdays or White Castle.

    And you have Hardees – but not their other chain, Carl’s Jr.

    Some more chains for you:

    Burgerville
    Blakes LotaBurger
    Whataburger
    Dion’s Pizza
    Krystal
    Checkers
    Pizza Schmizza
    Hot Dog on a Stick
    Houlihans
    Hometown Buffet, Old Country Buffet, and Country Buffet
    Waffle House
    Cracker Barrel
    Hooters

    I am sure there are many more, these are just ones I can think of off the top of my head that I have eaten at.

    Oh, and “Fatburger” was named after the era when “Fat” was slang for “cool” or “neat” or whatever. 1952. Fatburger is awesome…

  34. ValkRaider says:
  35. acambras says:

    Oh, and “Fatburger” was named after the era when “Fat” was slang for “cool” or “neat” or whatever. 1952. Fatburger is awesome…

    So maybe now it should be called Phatburger?

  36. Vinny says:

    Okay, I’ll hand you that, but I don’t think many people would argue with the fact that Starbucks does produce their own drinks — and many people need to know the allergen content of those, as well.

    You are correct, but I can’t think of anything in the ingredients that would cause an allergic reaction, or at least anything that wouldn’t already be known to the person ordering the drink. There aren’t any “secret” ingredients in Starbucks drinks, unlike, for example, Chinese food, where you may have some kind of nut in there and not know it.

  37. strlytgazr says:

    Another site you all may find interesting is HealthyDiningFinder.com. You can enter your ZIP and it will list all the restaurants that offer nutritional information in a radius you specify.

  38. jeblis says:

    Awesome post. As mentioned before dietfacts.com has some of these restaurants. Quiznos has to post there nutrition info in Australia so you can get that info.

  39. robertstacksghost says:

    The Taco John’s info is outdated. They have a fully functional PDF version on their site:
    http://tacojohns.com/NutritionDetails/TacoJohnsNutritionCh

  40. ChrisFurniss says:

    I’m less concerned with calories and nutritional content than I am with the source of their meat. Any chance we could get an investigation into that?

  41. valleywanker says:

    In-n-Out still doesn’t list Trans Fat info!

    They also probably use HFCS in theer buns but don’t list ingredients.

  42. synergy says:

    I’d love to see the calorie counts on the stuff sold at IHOP. I’ve gone in there once, maybe twice and just couldn’t do it. Too many sauces, greases, and overly large portions.

  43. NeonCat says:

    If you are dieting, you probably shouldn’t go to Krispy Kreme, although as a loyal former resident of Winston-Salem, you should go to Krispy Kreme as often as possible, as well as use Texas Pete hot sauce and smoke Camel and/or Winston cigarettes.

  44. Juliekins says:

    I’d like to call out Old Chicago (specifically their parent company, the Rock Bottom Restaurant Group) for actually having the balls to flip me the “nutritional analysis is too expensive” excuse once when I e-mailed them regarding their heart stopping but very tasty Italian Nachos. “Too expensive?” You’re a restaurant conglomerate, for chrissakes! The CEO might have to buy his kids BMWs instead of Mercedes if they go to the expense of having their food analyzed…oh noes!

    At one point a couple of years ago, they had a low fat/low carb menu on an insert in their regular menu. It included nutrition information and everything. They’ve since discontinued that menu and most of the foods on it, even though the particular salad I liked was a hot seller according to the waitstaff I spoke with.

    I don’t know if this CSPI initiative has been linked here before (I think it has…) but they want any restaurant with more than 20 outlets to be required to publish nutrition info on the menu. I think it’s a fan-fucking-tastic idea.

  45. IdontKNOW says:

    @ValkRaider: FatBurger was made in an era when fat meant neat or cool? When did that stop? People still use it.

    NeonCat, what the hell are you talking about?

  46. Cris says:

    I wanted to add my thanks to Meghann and the Consumerist team for this article. I’ve referred to it several times before visiting a restaurant, and have even started filling in some of the gaps, like my article on Olive Garden at thelifeledger.com/2007/03/27/calories-in-olive-gardens-mea….

    After recently losing 75lbs, I have made several lifestyle changes, one of which is educating myself on what exactly I’m eating – articles like this one make it easier to make healthy meal choices. It’s sobering to read the caloric value of meals I used to eat – things I thought were healthy are not, and things I used to “treat myself” are downright artery-clogging.

    One of the first steps to healthy consumption is to educate myself on the true cost of anything I consume, and the Consumerist makes that easy. Thanks again!

  47. anclife says:

    Just curious, what do you think of the MEAL act? http://cspinet.org/new/200311051.html (link to info on bill)… I think it’s a great idea for quick,easy info (that’s the point of fast food right?quick and easy…) Only thing is some people don’t want to see it…. maybe if they could have readily available pamphlets with the info so it would be a choice?

  48. tigerjade says:

    This is a little late to the thread, but I get Quizno’s nutritional info from their Australia site: http://www.quiznos.com.au/menu-nutrition.shtml. No answer to numerous requests as to why we can’t have this info in the U.S.

  49. art_smith01 says:

    All that Applebee’s post on the web site is the Weight Watcher items. Claiming they have too many supplies to list the nutritional values of other foods. Applebee’s are all exactly the same. I’m sure they have the information, they just don’t want people to have it because if people knew how man calories they were consuming they would likely eat elsewhere. With the problems of obesity, this is corporate irresponsibility. There are two ways to change it. “Vote” with your wallet and eat elsewhere, or complain. Below are the address of the Chairman and CEO of the company. If enough people complain it could force a change.

    Chairman, Lloyd L. Hill
    President, CEO, and Director, David L. Goebel
    4551 W. 107th St., Ste. 100
    Overland Park, KS 66207

    Phone: 913-967-4000
    Fax: 913-341-1694

  50. scarletmaeve says:

    The numbers on the Australian Quiznos site need to be converted to US standards- so if your using these numbers without converting the grams to reflect the size of US Quiznos subs, you have by far the wrong calorie count. The Cal difference would be comparable to eating a Big Mac and attributing to it a cheeseburger’s calories.

    This is undoubtedly one of the reasons why obesity is so prevalent in adults and children in our society. Its time we hold these businesses responsible for fooling the public and encourage them to disclose what exactly we are eating! After all, once we have all the nutritional information, the consumer can decide whether to ignore their caloric intake or plan a more conservative diet.

  51. apultynovich says:

    I have Celiac disease which requires a strict medical diet. I have found your website very useful. BTW, I avoid wheat which could be in some flavored coffee, so I would always ask the person serving just to be safe.

  52. Sunshine97 says:

    Wanted to let everyone know that “Red Robin” now has their Nutritional Information on their Web site along with a really neat program that lets you customize a meal.

  53. scudman says:

    Great Article. I just thought that everyone should know that Carls Jr. Has it posted in plain view, and it is posted on there website

  54. casual-observer says:

    At Bennigans, the have so many wonderful burgers.. I got the Bleu cheese burger.It is HUGE..I wasn’t eexpecting that. So I cut it in two and brought the rest home to eat today… well, in the process of heating. I put the top of the bun in the toaster, and separated the meat and frizzled onions into the microwave. The toaster, set on a normal cycle darkened the bread, indicating a lot of sugar in the bun, and there was a lot of grease from the onions on the plate, I measured it.. it was a teaspoon and a half recovered just from the onions.. I think I know why they don’t post the information.

  55. ShalakaBrinston says:

    I want to chime in that I am no longer going to restaurants that don’t offer nutrition information. I know that the restaurants I go to don’t have the healthiest foods but I’d like to be able to make informed decisions about what I am eating in those establishments.

    As an FYI Quiznos does have extensive information online since this article was published.

  56. UlulaniAhenobarbus says:

    How about any Chinese restaurants. I had an argument at work when someone was telling me that Chinese food is “good” for you and there is nothing bad about it. I saw an MSNBC article that talked about how bad Chinese food is in just about every way. I wonder if they are giving full disclosure.

    ?

    jamlnburg

  57. Anonymous says:

    Houston’s seems to hide completely. Their website has no nutirtion info, and they don’t even have an email address to ask. I wanted to have an office party there, but several secretaries won’t eat in a place that won’t list calories, and I can’t blame them – some salads in the city list their calories at 260, and some at 1780 – all bets are off without some guidance.