Zagat Releases 2011 Fast Food Survey

Subway, McDonald's & Wendy's Are "Mega Chain" (> 5,000 Units) Winners; Five Guys, Panera Bread & Chipotle Star Among "Large Chains" (less than or equal to 5,000 Units); For "Quick Refreshment" Starbucks, Dunkin' Donuts & Culver's are Favored

69% of Surveyors Support Calorie Count Displays; 55% are Influenced By Them

Sep 06, 2011, 09:05 ET from Zagat Survey, LLC

NEW YORK, Sept., 6, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Today, Zagat released the results of its annual National Fast Food Restaurant Survey. This year's survey covers 103 chains as voted on by 6,064 diners. The typical surveyor dined at a fast food restaurant at least once a week. They weighed in on everything from breakfast to burgers and fries to frozen yogurt, separately rating each chain on the quality of its Food, Facilities and Service on Zagat's signature 30-point scale as well as ranking their favorites.

The survey results divided the chains into four categories: Large Chains (up to 5,000 U.S. outlets), Mega Chains (over 5,000), Quick-Refreshment (focusing on beverages, ice cream and the like) and Full-Service, i.e. with table service (the Full-Service results are being reported separately). Below are lists of this year's Most Popular fast food chains:

Popular Favorites:

Mega Chains

Large Chains

Quick Refreshment

1. Subway

1. Five Guys

1. Starbucks

2. McDonald's

2. Panera Bread

2. Dunkin' Donuts

3. Wendy's

3. Chipotle

3. Culver's

4. Burger King

4. Chick-fil-A

4. Ben & Jerry's

5. Taco Bell

5. In-N-Out Burger

5. Cold Stone Creamery

Top Ratings:: This year's Top Overall Rated chains (averaging food, facilities and service ratings) are:

Mega Chains

Large Chains

Quick Refreshment

1. Wendy's,

1. Chick-fil-A

1. Pinkberry

2. Subway

2. In-N-Out Burger

2. Red Mango

3. McDonald's

3. Papa Murphy's

3. Peet's Coffee & Tea

4. Pizza Hut

4. Panera Bread

4. Culver's

5. KFC

5. Chipotle Mexican Grill

5. Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf

It's notable that the top 3 Mega-Chains (Wendy's, Subway and McDonald's) are all among the Top 3 Most Popular.

Zagat surveyors also shared their opinions on the best fast food items in a variety of categories:

Burger: Five Guys

Fried Chicken: KFC

Grilled Chicken: Chick-fil-A

Fish: Long John Silver's

French Fries: McDonald's

Coffee: Starbucks

Milkshakes: Dairy Queen

Ice Cream/Custard: Ben & Jerry's

Smoothies/Frozen Yogurt: Red Mango

Breakfast Sandwiches: McDonald's

Salads: Panera Bread

Value Menu: McDonald's

Overall Value: McDonald's

Child-Friendly: McDonald's

Drive-Thru: McDonald's

Wings: Buffalo Wild Wings

Calorie Counting: According to the survey, 69% of diners favor calorie count displays; moreover 55% report that their dining behavior has been influenced by such calorie counts.

Tim Zagat, CEO of Zagat Survey said, "For better or for worse, fast food is a major part of American culture, with our average surveyor eating at chain restaurants nearly 11 times per month. It's worth noting that the majority of surveyors are taking their health seriously and are demanding transparency from the industry. It's also encouraging to see chain restaurants stepping up and offering healthier options."

Healthy Appetite: Perhaps it's their fresh sandwiches made-to-order or the ubiquitous "five-dollar foot long", but for the third year in a row, Subway wins for Top Healthy Options, Top Service and Most Popular Mega-Chain. Jason's Deli (Large Chain), and survey newcomer Red Mango (Quick Refreshment) also rank No. 1 for Healthy Options.

Just Wingin' it: A brand new category this year - and just in time for football season - is Best Wings. The inaugural award goes to fast food chain Buffalo Wild Wings. Perhaps because it's associated with the city of Buffalo, NY, the birthplace of wings, however, BWW is actually headquartered in Minneapolis. Wingstop and KFC followed.

Simply the Best: Explaining its enormous success, McDonald's (with over 33,000 units worldwide) topped a host of categories including Best Value, Best French Fries, Best Breakfast Sandwich, Most Child Friendly and Best Drive-Thru.

Burger Mania: This year's champ for Best Burger is the ever-expanding Five Guys Burgers & Fries. In second place is cult-favorite In-N-Out Burger, followed by Wendy's where it's 'hip to be square' (burger patties), Burger King and McDonald's.  

Hot Stuff: Jump starting most Americans' mornings is the necessary cup of coffee. For the third year in a row, caffeine-craving surveyors have awarded Starbucks the title of Best Coffee. Following in an increasingly competitive field are Dunkin' Donuts, McDonald's, Peet's Coffee & Tea and Caribou Coffee.

Outtakes: Here are some of the more outrageous comments from this year's surveyors:

  • If you want to make one more bad decision on a Saturday night at 2 AM – go here
  • Rule #1: don't look inside the burrito
  • Helping generations turn into obese diabetics
  • Better than oral surgery, though it's close
  • How can a salad have 1,700 calories?
  • Consistently awful everywhere, but at least you know what to expect
  • They even fry the napkins
  • Major food groups are well covered: grease, salt and burned
  • Best known for expenses-spared facilities
  • Their marketing strategy is add more cheese and they will come
  • Always entertaining – usually a brawl or arrest to watch

For full survey results visit

About Zagat Survey, LLC

Known as the "wildly popular" "burgundy bible", Zagat Survey is the world's most trusted source for consumer generated survey information. With a worldwide network of surveyors, Zagat rates and reviews restaurants, hotels, nightlife, movies, music, golf, shopping and a range of other entertainment categories and is lauded as the "most up-to-date", "comprehensive" and "reliable" guide, published on all platforms. Zagat content is available to consumers wherever and whenever they need it: on, ZAGAT for smartphones and in book form.

SOURCE Zagat Survey, LLC