Hooters, Hard Rock, Friendly’s Score Low Marks On Chain Restaurant Survey

The idea behind chain restaurants is — or at least it should be — to provide customers with dependable, consistent food and service at multiple locations. And many chains succeed in at least trying to fulfill these goals. But according to a recent survey of nearly 48,000 Consumer Reports readers, some chains are struggling to maintain a mediocre level of service and quality.

The names that topped the survey — including Biaggi’s Ristorante Italiano, Elmer’s, and Le Peep — which looked at 102 different chains from around the country, may not be household names in all parts of the country, but some of the survey’s bottom-dwellers are more well-known.

No chains scored below-average for the taste of the food or the menu offerings — after all, most chains have robust menus aimed at pleasing as many diners as possible — but several restaurants, including Hooters, the Hard Rock Cafe, and Buffalo Wild Wings, scored less-than-stellar marks for value.

These same three eateries also received the worst possible ratings from CR readers for the level of noise in the dining room.

Overall, the Pub Style/Grill restaurant category had the least impressive scores, with several restaurants — like Ruby Tuesday, Chili’s, and Applebee’s — scoring unremarkably average ratings.

Over in the Family restaurant section, a number of bigger name chains — IHOP, Denny’s, Shoney’s — receiving almost all average ratings with the exception of slightly above-average menus.

Meanwhile, Johnny Rockets’ negative noise factor dragged the restaurant to the next-to-last position in the category. Bringing up the rear in family restaurants is ice cream eatery Friendly’s, of which I have many happy childhood memories, but which scored below-average numbers for service, mood, and cleanliness.

The whole list is available in the August 2012 issue of Consumer Reports.