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Zagat consumer survey ranks restaurant chains

Five Guys, Bonefish Grill, Chick-fil-A perform strongly

Subway, Five Guys and Starbucks are among the nation’s most popular quick-service chains, according to Zagat’s 2011 Fast-Food Survey, the company said Tuesday.

Wendy’s, Chick-fil-A and Caribou Coffee earned top overall ratings for food, service and facilities, respectively, by consumers who eat at quick-service restaurants at least once a week.

Among full-service chains, Bonefish Grill, the seafood brand owned by Tampa, Fla.-based OSI Restaurant Partners, swept the top ranks for food, facilities and service, as well as best seafood.

The annual survey by Zagat, the New York-based consumer survey brand, covers 103 restaurant chains voted on by 6,064 diners who weighed aspects such as which had the best breakfast, the best burger and fries, and the best coffee in both quick-service and full-service categories.

Five Guys Burgers & Fries was voted again this year as having the best burger, according to respondents, beating out cult favorite In-N-Out Burger in second place, and Wendy’s in third. Burger King and McDonald’s rounded out the top five.

In the full-service category, Red Robin Gourmet Burgers won for best burger, followed by Steak n Shake, The Cheesecake Factory, Chili’s and Ruby Tuesday.

In other repeat performances within the quick-service segment, Starbucks won for best coffee for the third consecutive year, Chick-fil-A won for grilled chicken, and KFC was named for best fried chicken.

Within full-service, IHOP again was voted to have the best coffee. The Cheesecake Factory took the top spots in several categories: best salads, appetizers, desserts and value.

McDonald’s also won in a number of categories this year, including best value, best fries, best breakfast sandwich, most child-friendly and best drive-thru.

A new category in this year’s survey was wings. Buffalo Wild Wings took the inaugural crown, followed by Wingstop and KFC.

Consumers were also asked to rank chains based on qualities such as overall food, service and facilities.

Among quick-service brands, rankings fell into three categories: mega chains over 5,000 units; large chains up to 5,000 units; and quick-refreshment, focusing on beverage chains, ice cream and the like.

Within the large chain category, In-N-Out Burger was ranked highest for food. Panera Bread won for best facilities and Chick-fil-A won for service.

Among mega chains, Wendy’s won for food, McDonald’s for facilities and Subway for service.

And among quick-refreshment chains, Ben & Jerry’s won for food, and Caribou Coffee had both the top-ranked facilities and the best service.

Zagat also asked consumers about the impact of menu labeling, and 69 percent of respondents said they favor the addition of calorie counts to menus.

More than half – 55 percent – said their dining behavior has been influenced by calorie postings.

Tim Zagat, chief executive of Zagat Survey, said in a statement, “For better of 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,” he added.

For the third year in a row, Subway was ranked highest for its healthy options. The sandwich chain also took top honors for service and as most-popular mega chain.

Read the full report

Contact Lisa Jennings at [email protected].
Follow her on Twitter: @livetodineout

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