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Expectation Versus Reality: This Is What Food Can Really Look Like At Top Fast Food Chains

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Burger King worst fast food

Let’s face it, fast food is going downhill fast. And as people are turning to healthier, fresher options, fast food joints are trying to play ketchup (sorry, we had to). Ratings orgnization Consumer Reports conducted a story of 32,000 people ranking 65 fast food chains from the best to the worst. Between this study, restaurant reviews, and other surveys about the bad fast food, we’ve compiled a list of the all-time worst fast food restaurants in the United States.

25. Arby’s

According to the Arby’s slogan, they’ve got “the meats.” The roast beef loving fast food joint touts their meats as a big draw for customers. Unfortunately, there are apparently not as many people who crave roast beef to satisfy their fast food needs as one would think. Along with (completely debunked) rumors about what goes into their roast beef, the fast food chain has been struggling.

Arbys worst fast food


Then, there was that terrible news story from 2012 when a 14-year-old boy from Michigan found a piece of a severed finger in his roast beef sandwich. But we like to forget about that incident, for the sake of our stomachs. Overall, only 44% of Consumer Reports’ survey participants said they would go back after eating at Arby’s one time. They did not like something about it, and we cannot put our finger on it.

24. Dairy Queen

We will admit, it is not like Dairy Queen named themselves Burger Queen or Fries Queen. The fast food chain knows that their strength is definitely in the ice cream and blizzards that they serve up. But that does not mean customers should drop all of their standards when it comes to their non-dairy based food.

Dairy Queen worst fast food


Anyone wondering why only 43% of participants in the Consumer Reports survey said they would eat at Dairy Queen again could simply turn to one Chicago Tribune write up about their burgers. The Tribune called DQ’s burgers “as poorly made as a fast food burger can be” and added that “the gray and limpid patty was dry and flavorless.” Compared to other fast food options on this list, Dairy Queen should be breathing a sigh of relief.

23. Taco Bell

A lot of people will probably be angry about this one. The cult classic Mexican fast food joint Taco Bell made its way onto this list as only 43% of customers surveyed said they’d want to go back to Taco Bell after having a meal there.

Taco Bell worst fast food


Across the Internet, customers have claimed that the food at Taco Bell is not filling, while some claim that it is almost too filling and leads them to have some, to put it gently, gastrointestinal issues. That’s why some customers have decided to “think outside the bun” and outside of the tortilla, and head on over to another food option.

22. Bojangles

In 2017, the Washington Post did something that would send shock waves down the southern portion of the United States. They dissed Bojangles, specifically the beloved Bojangles biscuits, writing, in part “Meh. Not a good biscuit!” Even North Carolina Senator Thom Tillis stepped in to defend the home of ‘Famous Chicken ‘n Biscuits.’

Bojangles worst fast food


Sen. Tillis tweeted, “With all due respect to The Washington Post, their food tasters need to get their tastebuds checked out. Bojangles makes the best ‘fast food’ biscuits, period.” Well, Senator, it seems that not everyone would agree. Only 43% of Consumer Reports taste testers would come back to Bojangles after trying their food. But this isn’t the worst southern favorite on this list.

21. Subway

It seems that even though people these days seemingly increasingly want to “eat fresh,” they don’t necessarily chose to go to Subway. The fast food sandwich company is definitely feeling the pain in their bottom lines. In 2018, Subway closed over 1,000 stores, and has chosen to remodel or possibly close a bunch more.

Subway worst fast food


The same Subway that once advertised its ability to slim people down is now doing some downsizing itself. Not even a five dollar footlong sandwich seems to do the trick anymore. Customers who responded to the Consumer Reports survey reported that the chain’s sandwiches were bland and boring. Only 42% said they would return for another meal at Subway.

20. Krystal

Fast food joint Krystal is a small chain with only about 350 stores in the United States, but it definitely makes its presence known in the southeast part of the country. For anyone not familiar with Krystal’s food, think White Castle’s square sliders and you basically get the idea.

Krystal worst fast food


Consumers have complained that the patty-to-bun ratio of their burgers is way off, and that the burger itself is lackluster and bland. And there’s not really much to set their burgers apart, as most of them just come with some onions and mustard. But these burgers are nothing compared to some of the others on this list.

19. Domino’s

Back in 2010, Domino’s launched their great “Pizza Turnaround.” In response to dropping sales and some terrible reviews that called their pizza “cardboard,” “mass produced,” “boring,” “bland,” “lacking,” and “processed,” CEO Patrick Doyle decided to completely change their 49-year-old recipe. And with all of that hard work and rebranding, many would think that customers would be pleased with the new pizza offerings. Apparently not.

Dominos worst fast food


Only 41% of Consumer Reports survey participants said they would go back to the pizza place. So just imagine how bad the numbers would have been before the company changed their recipe. Luckily for Domino’s, their pizza fares far better than some of the other similar joint on this list.

18. Long John Silver’s

Long John Silver’s, a fast food restaurant that is known for selling mainly fried fish, has found itself underwater with some customers. While many online reviews complain about the overall taste of the sea food establishment’s fare, that is not the only reason why customers are so salty.

Long John Silvers worst fast food


From bad customer service experiences, to long lines, to downright dirty facilities, Long John Silver’s has gotten less than tasteful reviews. One reviewer who worked at a Long John Silver’s said the floors were so greasy, he had to purchase new shoes. Overall, only 41% of consumers said that they would return.

17. KFC

Yes, one of America’s biggest fast food chicken chains has made its way onto this list. The restaurant formerly known as Kentucky Fried Chicken (but now prefers to go by its cool acronym “KFC”) apparently did not impress fast food reviewers. But KFC’s low rating has a little bit more to do with the restaurant structures themselves than the food.

KFC worst fast food


After surviving a strange rumor that KFC’s food was made from “mutant chickens” (totally not true) a few years ago, the fast food joint is apparently opening new locations across the country. But they might want to keep in mind what Consumer Reports says when opening new stores. KFC landed itself on this list mostly because of its reportedly dirty locations and lack of fresh options.

16. Del Taco

Imagine waiting seemingly forever at what is supposed to be a quick fast food stop. Now imagine that when it finally comes, the food is completely unpleasant and unappealing. That is what many customers who reviewed Mexican chain Del Taco said about their experience visiting the fast food joint.

Del Taco worst fast food


According to Consumer Reports’ survey, only 40% of people who tasted Del Taco’s food said it would be worth coming back for a second visit. It seems like they will have to go somewhere else for their tacos and cinnamon churros. But no matter what, we would not suggest trying out some of the other unappetizing options on this list of the nation’s worst fast food.

15. White Castle

As if White Castle was not famous enough, it was catapulted to stardom after the release of the 2004 comedy Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle. The entire movie was basically based off of two friends who decide that they want to go to White Castle and end up taking some unexpected detours.

White Castle worst fast food


But many Consumer Report taste testers are probably wondering why Harold and Kumar wanted to go to White Castle so badly in the first place. The square burger sliders are basically just a sad, square patty, American cheese and a few chopped onions. Patrons can even get them in suitcase form. Still, a suitcase full of sliders was not enough to persuade people, as only 39% of consumers said they would return.

14. Panda Express

Panda Express is basically a hometown mall staple. And while the fast food chain touts that it serves up authentic Chinese food, including egg rolls, fried rice and lo mein, many who have eaten there say that the food is anything but authentic.

Panda Express worst fast food


Taste testers for Consumer Reports were not too impressed by Panda Express, and only 39% of them said they would return for another meal at the Chinese food chain. But the good news for any Panda Express lovers out there, is that the chain ranked well in terms of cleanliness and service quality. To be honest, nothing could stop us from free samples.

13. Wendy’s

To give people an idea of why Wendy’s ended up on this list of the worst fast food restaurants in America, please refer to the picture below. According to a Reddit user, this is what happened when they requested that their Wendy’s chili comes with extra onions. Something tells us that this is not what the user had in mind.

Wendys worst fast food


If this picture does not do the job of grossing someone out, then should we remind everyone about the 2018 viral video of a Wendy’s employee finding a mouse inside a bag of hamburger buns? Actually, we would rather not. Instead, let’s focus on the fact that only 38% of reviewers said they would come back to Wendy’s for another meal. Still, we can’t complain about their Frosty game.

12. Little Caesars

Little Caesars is known for having some pretty crazy cheap deals when it comes to pizza. We mean, who could possibly argue with a large pepperoni pizza for $5? But according to online reviews, the price tag for Little Caesars pizza is one of the chain’s only redeeming qualities.

Little Caesars worst fast food


Of those surveyed for the Consumer Reports’ survey, only 37% of reviewers said that they would order Little Caesars again after trying it once. Online, opinions are not much better. One review called Little Caesars “the absolute worst in terms of everything.” Another review said that “it was the second worst pizza I ever had.” Sounds like not everyone is in favor of the reign of the Little Caesars empire.

11. Checkers

There might not be anything more frustrating than waiting forever for food to be prepared, and seeing that there is no one else in the restaurant. What other food could they possibly be preparing? For taste testers selected for the Consumer Reports’ survey, long wait times were the top complaint about Checkers, even when there was no one else dining at the time.

Checkers worst fast food


But it seemed that after the long wait, the food did nothing to help out Checkers’ scores. After trying out some of the classic options – from hot dogs to milkshakes – only 36% of customers said that they would go back to visit the black-and-white decorated fast food joint.

10. Sonic

Sonic has become somewhat of a cult classic among fast food lovers. Between their parking lot style roadside delivery to servers just skating up to car doors, the entire experience that Sonic provides has drawn a lot of visitors. But the problem is whether Sonic draws customers back once they try the quirky fast food joint for the first time.

Sonic worst fast food


Unfortunately, many reviews say that the food at Sonic does not live up to the hype. The Chicago Tribune said of the Sonic burger that “the oversized bun deserves the most scorn, though the pallid-looking patty deserves to be covered up with something.” In the end, only 36% of customers in the survey said they would be back.

9. Quiznos

Quizos definitely has not had it easy. There was the drop in store branches from over 4,700 locations in 2007 to less than 400 in 2017. Then there was the bankruptcy filing in 2014. After that, there was the Quiznos buyout in 2018. But once hearing from customers, it seems clear why the sandwich shop has seen its fair share of struggles.

Quizznos worst fast food


Of those surveyed for the Consumer Reports study, only 35% said they would return to eat at Quiznos. In the past, some have complained about the price of sandwiches, especially in comparison to the quality. But, fortunately for Quiznos, there are still other sandwich joints that seem to be faring far worse.

8. Hardee’s

For anyone who does not know Hardee’s, go ahead and ask any friends from the South and they will surely know about this Southern-established staple of a fast food chain. Hardee’s serves hexagon-shaped burgers to try to set itself apart from the competition, but according to taste testers aesthetics are not the only way Hardee’s distinguishes itself.

Hardees worst fast food


The Chicago Tribune wrote that the Hardee’s burger “toppings lack flavor, and, worst of all, the meat has a spongy texture without any recognizable beef flavor.” That’s some criticism served well done. Consumer Report taste testers agree, and only 34% said they would return after trying the food at Hardee’s. And that’s the cold, Hard(ee’s) truth.

7. Jimmy John’s

There are a few ways to tell if a fast food restaurant is struggling. One way to determine that is to see the promotions the restaurant is running to try to get people to flock to their locations. And for Jimmy John’s, the sandwich shop is literally willing to buy someone a home in order for them to live in a “delivery zone” of one of their restaurants.

Jimmy Johns worst fast food


The 2019 promotion asks customers to prove that they live outside of the delivery zone in order to enter. Once they enter, they could win $250,000 towards a home that offers Jimmy John’s delivery as one of its amenities. We are wondering who will apply, considering that only 34% of Consumer Report survey takers said they would order from Jimmy John’s again.

6. Sbarro

Picture this: A person is at a busy, likely dirty New York City underground transportation hub. They are completely desperate for food after all that traveling. The options are dark. For anyone who has actually been in that situation, they know that the option for the most desperate of people is probably Sbarro pizza.

Sbarro worst fast food


One New York Times food reviewer summed it up perfectly when he wrote, “you eat Sbarro not because you want to eat Sbarro, but because it is the food that is available at the moment you want some food.” Couldn’t have said it better ourselves. So it’s no surprise that Sbarro was not a favorite for taste testers. Only 34% said they would return. And now for the top – or should we say bottom – five worst fast food restaurants.

5. Burger King

Whichever taste testers rated Burger King as number five on this list clearly did not try the fast food joint’s famous chicken fries. Back in the day of Whopper glory, the giant burger was considered to be one of the biggest. Now, with portions getting even bigger, the Whopper barely stands out among the crowded field.

Burger King worst fast food


Now, Burger King burgers are standing out in a different way. Online, there are tons of posts about some weird, barnacle-looking bumps on their burgers, like what is pictured above. Not a good look. Among the Consumer Reports crowd, only 33% of people said they would return. But if the King is number five, just wait until you see which fast food restaurant takes the throne for worst food.

4. Carl’s Jr.

It seems like every day, Carl’s Jr. is launching a new product to try to draw customers in. And it might be a good idea, considering that many fast food lovers online complain about the quality and selection at Carl’s Jr.

Carls Jr worst fast food


The fast food chain has become the first to offer a CBD-infused burger (in Colorado), followed shortly thereafter by a promotion for bacon truffle cheese fries and a vegan Beyond Burger. But try as they might, people are still not too pleased with Carl’s Jr., and only 33% of people who took the Consumer Reports survey said they would return to the burger joint.

3. Jack In The Box

For anyone who wants to see Internet rage, just search “Jack In The Box food reviews” on Google. There are all the highlights anyone would expect, including people calling the food “tough and tasteless,” “a mess – just gross,” “horribly put together,” and “so gross and cold we threw it away and left.”

Jack In The Box worst fast food


Beyond the food, there are plenty of reviews about bad service at Jack In The Box, including among those who were surveyed for Consumer Reports. Only 33% of people who ate at Jack In The Box said they would return. Sounds like the majority of people would rather keep Jack out of the box and out of their diet.

2. Cici’s Pizza

Sure, Cici’s Pizza has a ton of options, from the obvious pizza buffet, to pasta offerings, to a salad bar, to a range of desserts. But that does not mean that those options are particularly good. One reviewer online called Cici’s Pizza the “Dollar Tree of food establishments,” while another called it “actually seriously terrible.”

Cici's Pizza worst fast food


While taste testers for Consumer Reports were actually impressed by the polite serving staff and the fast service, it was not enough to save the fast food pizza buffet. Only 28% said they would go back to Cici’s, no matter how many pizzas are offered in the buffet. That’s definitely a burn. And now, onto the winner, or should we say loser?

1. McDonald’s

This ranking is going to hurt a love of McDonald’s fans who are “Lovin’ it.” And there seem to be plenty of people who absolutely love McDonald’s, or are at least willing to deal with their menu items if there not any other options. The mammoth fast food joint touts that they sell 68 million burgers every day – 75 burgers a second.

Mcdonalds worst fast food


But just because McDonald’s might be winning the popularity contest does not mean that the food is all that great. Consumer Reports taste testers would agree, since only 28% of them said they would go back to the Golden Arches after tasting the items on their menu.

Honorable Mention 1. A&W

When most people think about the brand A&W, likely the first thing that comes to mind is root beer. But A&W is more than just a soft drink, the brand also includes one of the oldest fast food chains in the country, with over 1,000 locations nationwide.

Worst fast food AW


Consumer Reports survey participants were not rooting for this root beer chain. They called the restaurant’s fries “greasy and terrible” and “like consuming a cup of oil.” The chain was also slammed for its poor customer service and dirty restaurants. While A&W redeems itself slightly for serving their drinks in the famous frosty mugs, overall customers were not impressed and only 35 percent said they would be returning to the store.

Honorable Mention 2. Auntie Anne’s

What began as a small pretzel shop in Lancaster, Pennsylvania has now become one of the most well known pretzel pit stops in the country. Auntie Anne’s has basically made a name for itself as a classic mall staple. And that used to be a good thing. But with less and less people heading to malls, Auntie Anne’s was starting to feel left behind.

Worst Fast Food Auntie Annes


To make up for a loss in sales, Auntie Anne’s started to expand its menu beyond sweet and savory pretzels and hot dogs. But the problem, according to Consumer Reports, is not the food, but the customer service. Only 35 percent said they would return.

Honorable Mention 3. Church’s Chicken

Fried chicken fans come to Church’s Chicken for their famous biscuits, fries, and, of course, fried chicken. But according to online reviews, many leave the chain claiming they are not fans of this particular fried chicken. One reviewer said that the chicken had a “funny taste to it.” Not exactly an appetizing endorsement.

Church's Chicken worst fast food


Other reviews complain about the “filthy, dirty” dining area, expired food, poor management, and burnt fried chicken. Consumer Review survey participants also felt burned by the company, particular some hard biscuits. In the end, only 38 percent said that they would come back to Church’s Chicken for another meal.

Honorable Mention 4. Einstein Bros. Bagels

Anyone headed to a place called Einstein Bros. Bagels are going to come into the experience expecting some pretty good bagels, considering the name. The problem for Einstein Bros. Bagels is that many customers say that the bagels do not live up to the name.

Einstein Brothers worst fast food


Reviews from Consumer Reports’ survey have customers saying that the bagels served up at the chain were bland, even when compared to grocery store brands. What came inside the bagel was not much better, which surveyers saying that the vegetables lacked freshness and, for some, taste. Others reported incorrect orders and long lines. Overall, only 40 percent said they would return.

Honorable Mention 5. Cinnabon

Cinnabon has made a name for itself for its ooey gooey cinnamon buns, served warm with a ton of sweet icing on top. So what could be so bad about that? And what could make only 40 percent of Consumer Report survey participants say they would return to the fast food chain?

Cinnabon worst fast food


Some complained of reheated, old cinnamon buns. But a lot of the bad reviews for Cinnabon had to do with customer service at the chain. Many might have left enjoying their cinnamon buns, but a bad experience with the workers the restaurant left a bad taste in their mouths, nonetheless.

Honorable Mention 6. Wienerschnitzel

For anyone who is a huge hot dog fan, Wienerschnitzel seems like it would be a good option for fast food. The fast food joint claims to be the world’s largest hot dog chain, with about 358 locations nationwide and serving 120 million hot dogs every year.

Wienerschnitzel worst fast food


But those who participated in the Consumer Report survey said that the hot dogs that Wienerschnitzel is serving up lacks in flavor, and that locations are extremely dirty. One online review simply reads “omg this was terrible.” Others complain of terrible customer service, burnt hot dogs, and being “absolutely repulsed” by the restaurants lack of cleanliness.

Honorable Mention 7. Taco John’s

When Taco John’s was founded in 1969, the owners set out on a quest to make the fast food joint the go-to stop for “West-Mex” food, a play on traditional mexican dining. Since, it has opened over 400 locations in the midwest and mountain states.

Taco Johns worst fast food


But while customers are usually impressed by their signature Potatoes Oles dish, the rest of the menu left Consumer Report survey participants dissatisfied. Only 41 percent of participants said that they would return to a Taco John’s after trying their food. And it’s not just this survey. Online, the restaurants have been reviewed as “absolutely appalling,” with one writing “unreal. Never seen anything this bad.”

Honorable Mention 8. El Pollo Loco

El Pollo Loco is another Mexican fast food chain that has unfortunately found itself a spot on this list as an honorable mention. The mainly Mexican chicken joint put a bad taste in customers mouths, and only 43 percent of Consumer Report survey participants said that they would ever return to El Pollo Loco.

El Pollo Loco worst fast food


While some of the criticism this fast food place has received is focused on its food, most of the complaints online and in the survey focus around customer service and the high prices for food. One reviewer wrote that the chicken was delicious “but chaotic, confused, terrible service.”

Honorable Mention 9. Wingstop

Wingstop has tried to make a name for itself for being, well, a stop for wings. The restaurant boasts a menu with a wide range of wing options – from boneless to bones-in, with a ton of flavor options. But according to Consumer Report survey participants, customers are salty about how salty the menu options are.

Wingstop worst fast food


Others complain about the boneless wings being overly drenched in sauce. Above all, online reviews are usually focused around some pretty terrible customer service experiences. Only 44 percent of those surveyed said that they would stop by a Wingstop again. The others said they would stop going all together.

Honorable Mention 10. Starbucks

This honorable mention is sure to be one of the most controversial on this list. Starbucks lovers, don’t come for us. Come for the 66 percent of Consumer Report survey participants that said they would not return to Starbucks after trying it.

Starbucks worst fast food


Survey participants complained that the food offerings at Starbucks were lackluster and overpriced. Others complained about long lines, bad customer service, and poor quality coffee. Some online reviews have labeled Starbucks “the fast food coffee,” when compared to smaller, boutique cafes. Once a star, Starbucks Coffee only had 44 percent of Consumer Report participants claiming they would come back to Starbucks again.

Sources: Consumer Reports, The Week, The Fiscal Times, Chicago Tribune

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