Science Confirms In-N-Out Burger Is The Best And McDonald's The Worst

Almost a year ago, our survey-loving siblings at Consumer Reports asked several thousand readers to rate burgers from 18 burger chains and to no one’s surprise, McDonald’s came in dead last. Not satisfied with merely finding the best and worst beef-on-a-bun, CR decided to go for the super-sized option, rating 53 restaurants in five categories to find which ones provide the best food, service and value to customers.

In a survey of more than 36,000 readers, California-based In-N-Out Burger didn’t just garner the highest rating among hamburger chains, it also received the highest marks of all 53 eateries in the survey. Five Guys and Burgerville filled out the rest of the top three burger chains.

It would be a gross understatement to say the bigger burger chains didn’t perform very well. Wendy’s was the best of the mega chains, ranking 15th out of 19 hamburger restaurants, while Burger King and McDonald’s took up the final two spots in that category.

But BK and the Golden Arches still managed to avoid being the absolute lowest-rated chains on the entire survey. That dishonor went to beleagured pizza chain Sbarro, which only managed to score a non-negative rating for its ability to get you your pizza in a timely manner.

The CR survey doesn’t paint a pretty picture of the pizza industry in general, with Domino’s and Pizza Hut the second- and third-worst scores in the entire survey, respectively.

Chipotle, which topped the Mexican food category, showed that it’s not impossible for a chain restaurant to have a large number of outlets and still deliver a decent product. Meanwhile, Taco Bell finished near the bottom of the group of eight chains, edging out last-place finisher Del Taco.

While Popeyes and KFC squabble over whose fried fowl is finer, the clear winner in the survey’s chicken division was Chick Fil-A, which received high marks for food, value, staff and speed. Trailing far behind all cluckers was KFC with low marks for everything except its employees.

Overall, Consumer Reports readers gave 21 of the 53 chains high marks for food. Meanwhile, only three chains — McDonald’s, Sbarro and Little Caesars — managed to score the lowest CR rating for food quality.

In addition to the reader survey, the magazine sent out a pair of sensory experts to get their opinion on who, if anyone, delivers the best fries. The experts noshed on fried potatoes at Wendy’s, Five Guys, McDonald’s, KFC, Fuddruckers, and Burger King and found:

Wendy’s has the right to brag, and we scored its fries Very Good. Our experts gave Wendy’s a slight edge over McDonald’s because its fries were “a bit more potato-y.” The others were close too, except Burger King; its fries tasted fatty, had less intense potato flavor, and rated only Good.

This is the part where you tell us what you think is the best fast food chain — not just in terms of food, but also when it comes to service and value.

Fast Food Chains [Consumer Reports]