Fast food restaurants Americans are avoiding in 2020
The United States is the land of fast food. Restaurants like McDonalds, Burger King, and Taco Bell make billions of dollars every year, serving fast food to hungry customers. Fast food is also known for being really bad, and these restaurants are no exception. But which fast food restaurant is worst? There’s only one way to find out!
30. Carl’s Jr./Hardee’s
Fast food restaurants have long been hesitant to make major changes, and had they not made some drastic improvements, Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s would rank much higher on this list. After years of using tasteless, hypersexual commercials to promote their menu, these chains have toned it down for the better.
The commercials aren’t the only thing that’s changed. The food at Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s still has its problems, but the chains’ food of today is much better than that of the past. With that being said, the improvement in quality over the years doesn’t match the massive increase in menu item prices.
29. Little Caesars
Most of the restaurant chains on this list leave a lot to be desired with regards to value, but Little Caesars is a rare exception. No one is going to argue that Little Caesars pizza is the best pizza in their town, or even good pizza at that. However, there aren’t many places where you can buy a large pizza for just $5.
Little Caesars pizza isn’t great, but it’s certainly edible. And in a world where fast food restaurant prices constantly increase, it’s refreshing to see a restaurant chain with a mediocre menu offer fair prices, at the very least. That’s more than can be said for many of their competitors.
Pricing and value is a common theme on this list, and Quiznos is no exception. The fast food chain has had major financial woes over the years, closing thousands of restaurants in recent years. The biggest problem? Pricing. Customers don’t see the value in shelling out a ton of money for a mediocre sandwich.
Quiznos sandwiches are pretty average when it comes to the taste department. They’re not terrible sandwiches, but they’re not great by any means. And with prices nearly double those of their competitors, Quiznos is having a tough time getting people in the door. Something’s got to change.
Though the fast food chain is very popular on social media, Wendy’s is still falling behind when it comes to serving high-quality, fairly priced fast food. The restaurant’s square-shaped patties have lost their luster, as customers have lined up to complain about mediocre food and high prices. And the complaints don’t stop there.
A video surfaced in 2018 in which a live mouse was seen crawling around in a bag of Wendy’s hamburger buns. The video went viral, spooking millions of potential customers. No amount of PR or social media personality can make the internet forget about the shocking incident.
When people think of fast food, they traditionally imagine hamburgers, french fries, and maybe pizza. Cinnabon is atypical for the industry, as the restaurant chain primarily sells cinnamon rolls. Seeing as it’s a niche product, Cinnabon has a tough time getting customers to return for a second visit.
For the most part, the food at Cinnabon is fine. But considering the price for a cinnamon roll is almost equal to the price of an entire meal, many patrons don’t see the value. Why spend all your lunch money on a cinnamon roll when you can buy a hamburger, pizza, or sandwich for almost the same price?
Before recent changes, Domino’s was easily one of the worst fast food restaurants in the world. The fast food chain had a reputation for serving pizza that tasted like cardboard, and customers weren’t happy. The tomato sauce was said to taste like ketchup, toppings weren’t fresh, and the customer experience was poor.
Fortunately, Domino’s has changed course and is now headed in the right direction. The fast food chain has made all sorts of improvements, from improving ingredients and quality to finding ways to make the restaurant experience as accessible as possible. Domino’s hasn’t yet escaped this list, but the restaurant is finally headed in the right direction.
24. Dunkin’ Donuts
As with many other fast food chains on this list, Dunkin’ Donuts has increased its prices throughout the years while making few positive improvements to the quality of its menu items. A national fast food chain that primarily serves donuts is a niche concept, and with so many local donut shops, Dunkin’ rarely stands out from its competition.
In recent years, the fast food restaurant has tried to rebrand to “Dunkin’,” as opposed to the “Dunkin’ Donuts” title that’s widely recognized across the United States. It’s unclear whether the change in name and emphasis on breakfast rather than just donuts will be a positive one. As of now, the restaurant remains a mediocre and overpriced option.
23. Dairy Queen
If Dairy Queen didn’t have a reputation for its delicious dessert options, the restaurant probably wouldn’t be on this list — because it probably would not exist today. Blizzards and ice cream are great, but the non-dessert items at the fast food chain are pretty abysmal.
Guests frequently complain about Dairy Queen’s hot dogs and hamburgers. It seems as though the restaurant’s cooks haven’t been able to find consistency in how they cook burgers and hot dogs, as there have been complaints about food being overcooked and undercooked. Dairy Queen’s desserts are great, but the rest of the menu leaves a lot to be desired.
The food might not be great, but there’s a reason McDonald’s is the most popular fast food restaurant in the world. Hamburgers and other menu items barely meet the minimum health and safety requirements, but the food is priced accordingly. At least when your burger is bad, you have the satisfaction of knowing you only spent a dollar on it!
That’s not to say McDonald’s doesn’t have its problems. The restaurant has kept its prices low for years, but they finally seem to be creeping back up to the rest of the pack. If that continues to be the case, McDonald’s will climb back up the list.
Known for their world-famous root beer, A&W is a staple of American fast food. The restaurant has been around since 1919, serving draft beer, hamburgers, and root beer floats. A&W’s root beer floats are incredible, but unfortunately, the rest of the menu doesn’t quite live up to expectations.
Guests have complained about the restaurant’s french fries being too greasy, they claim most of the restaurants are dirty and unsanitary, and they also mention that service times are subpar for a fast food chain. A&W appears to be headed in a negative direction, and it seems to be destined to climb the rankings of this list until something changes.
20. Jack in the Box
Famous for their iconic mascot and hilarious television commercials, Jack in the Box has grown to become one of the largest fast food restaurants in the United States. On the surface, it appears like the chain is doing great. The menu has a ton of variety, and prices are fairly reasonable. But below the surface, there’s a different story.
Perhaps having variety on the menu is a strength. But Jack in the Box has yet to discover a go-to menu option like the McDonald’s Big Mac, Burger King’s Whopper, or In-N-Out’s Double-Double. And though some customers have enjoyed the menu experimentation, others have complained about the subpar quality of new menu items.
19. El Pollo Loco
One of America’s most popular Mexican-style fast food restaurants, El Pollo Loco isn’t held in very high regard by customers. The restaurant hits the trifecta when it comes to bland food, ridiculous prices, and poor atmosphere. El Pollo Loco’s food is just good enough to not be terrible, which keeps it from being any higher on the list.
Customers have complained about rude staff, dry food, prices that are too high, and much more. There have even been occasions where a restaurant will run out of chicken. Perhaps the restaurant’s lack of locations across the U.S. has saved it from being higher on the list. If more people were talking about El Pollo Loco, more people would notice how bad the food is.
18. Raising Cane’s
It’s not too often you come across a fast food restaurant that exclusively sells chicken strips. Raising Cane’s has become one of the fastest-growing chains, thanks to the restaurant’s awesome chicken. However, a couple of major problems with the restaurant’s food and service have upset frequent customers.
For the most part, the food at Raising Cane’s is pretty good. But one major problem with the chicken is that several restaurant locations haven’t been able to find a consistent way to prepare it. Customers often complain that the chicken is soggy or overcooked. Still, Raising Cane’s looks like it’s headed in the right direction.
17. Pizza Hut
One of America’s largest fast food pizza restaurants, Pizza Hut has become a staple in the business of selling low-quality pizza at a reasonable price. The worldwide brand boasts thousands of restaurants in the United States alone and has been in business since 1958. But after decades as the top fast food pizza brand in America, it appears as though things are changing.
Like many other fast food chains on this list, Pizza Hut has raised prices throughout the years. And when the quality of food doesn’t increase with the prices, customers are bound to be unhappy. If things continue as is, Pizza Hut could be in trouble sooner or later.
16. Papa John’s
While many restaurants on this list can boast a few redeeming qualities, like a stellar entree or reasonable pricing, Papa John’s cannot. The food is not only mediocre in quality, but it is also very expensive for a fast food pizza chain. That’s a recipe for disaster in the fast food business!
Papa John’s is one of the most expensive fast food pizzas, and it isn’t much better than any of its competitors. Perhaps the reason the company spends so much money on sports advertisements is because it knows sports fans are too lazy to look up which pizza is cheapest when they’re making an order!
15. Sonic Drive-In
One of the more unique nationwide fast food restaurants, Sonic boasts happy hours, carnival-style food, and servers who bring food out on roller skates. However, the novelty seems to have worn off over the decades. In fact, customers have had a growing list of complaints in recent years, from food quality to dining and service.
Sonic patrons often point out that the food isn’t quite as fresh as the food of its competitors. Others mention the service doesn’t meet their expectations. Ultimately, Sonic is a restaurant stuck decades in the past, hoping its novelty will capture the attention of those looking for nostalgia.
Known for its chicken, Popeyes is a rare fast food chain that focuses its efforts on being the primary destination for fried chicken. But with Chick-fil-A’s emergence, Popeyes has struggled to get customers back in the door. In 2019, the restaurant decided to do something crazy to compete, by offering a menu item that would be brand new to the menu.
The new menu item? A chicken sandwich, Chick-fil-A’s primary menu item. The release went viral, with millions of customers eager to try it. But there were two major problems: The chicken sandwiches weren’t as good as Chick-fil-A’s, and Popeyes actually ran out of chicken sandwiches!
13. Del Taco
Another Mexican-style fast food chain to make the list, Del Taco serves food that most customers would describe as bland. Guests have had complaints about several things, from service and wait times to how much rice is used in burritos and the ingredients used in menu items.
As of recently, Del Taco has had some success with its meatless tacos, with customers leaving some positive reviews. But as of now, it’s too early to tell whether that momentum will carry or fade. Del Taco certainly doesn’t have the best reputation, so it wouldn’t be shocking for this to be a blip on the radar.
There are plenty of edible fast food options that aren’t Wienerschnitzel. Sure, food might be cheap there, but it’s cheap for a reason. Customers frequently complain about the restaurant’s meat — whether it’s the taste or the fact that food is charred to the point that it’s inedible. The problems don’t stop there, either.
One of patrons’ biggest complaints has been the bread-to-meat ratio. Put simply, there isn’t enough hot dog compared to bun in each order. Then there are the fries, which have been the subject of plenty of ridicule. Are they rubbery or mushy? Customers might debate one way or the other, but either way, they’re not good.
11. Jimmy John’s
Seemingly always at the center of controversy, Jimmy John’s simply isn’t as good of a fast food restaurant as management seems to think it is. In 2016, employees were forced to sign a notorious noncompete clause, prohibiting them from working at other delis until two years after their employment with Jimmy John’s.
The ordeal led to several states taking Jimmy John’s to court, and the restaurant ultimately removing the clause from contracts. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the restaurant has seen at least five E. Coli outbreaks in the past decade or so. The real crime is the fact that Jimmy John’s hasn’t been sued for its bad food!
10. White Castle
The food at White Castle is fine, but that’s not the problem. What’s the point in going to a fast food restaurant (and paying fast food prices) to order some White Castle sliders you could just as easily buy them at the store and reheat at a lesser price? The in-restaurant experience at White Castle has lost its luster.
If there is a problem with the food at White Castle, it’s the fact that the burgers are no different than the burgers one might buy frozen at a grocery store and heat up. There are occasionally problems with the buns, and the patties can be thin and bland. Something needs to change.
9. Auntie Anne’s
The fact that the majority of Auntie Anne’s locations are set up inside of shopping malls is red flag number one. Pretzel shops aren’t largely successful because of the fact that pretzels are a novelty item. And at Auntie Anne’s, they’re both overpriced and underwhelming. That’s a recipe for disaster.
Customers have made a lot of complaints about food and poor customer service, with the biggest being that pretzels can occasionally come out stale or even burnt. These complaints, added to the fact that malls across the United States are closing down, paint a gloomy picture of what the future might look like for Auntie Anne’s.
The past few years have not been too kind to KFC. What was once one of America’s favorite fast food restaurants has slowly transformed into a mediocre, run-of-the-mill chain that people largely ignore. That’s mainly due to KFC’s specialty: its chicken.
KFC chicken has been at the center of some crazy rumors. One of those rumors alleges that the restaurant injects its chickens with steroids to make them larger in size. Though KFC has denied these claims, many customers no longer trust the restaurant. The chicken preparation has also been a problem, with chicken coming out soggy, dry, or burnt far too often.
The roast beef sandwich is the most popular item at Arby’s and, well, it’s far from great. Some customers have referred to it as overpriced garbage. Seriously, the food at Arby’s is ridiculously overpriced given the ingredients and preparation involved. And as if that isn’t bad enough, it gets a lot worse.
Countless rumors have circled about the fast food chain, but the rumors might not even be as bad as reality. In 2012, a customer received a human finger in their order. You read that right, somehow the fast food chain is still in business, despite serving a human finger!
6. Boston Market
The original concept of Boston Market simply doesn’t play today. The fast food chain made its primary focus to make rotisserie chicken more convenient for customers. In the 1980s, that may have been what consumers wanted, but in today’s day and age, that is simply not a need of fast food customers.
The food at Boston Market isn’t great, and it isn’t terrible. But the biggest problem is that when people elect to eat fast food, they don’t want to eat home-style food. If they want home cooking, they can cook at home. It seems pretty counterintuitive, but the concept is something Boston Market still struggles with today.
In a sea of fast food restaurants that serve hamburgers, french fries, and soda, Checkers blends into the pack. The chain doesn’t have a moneymaker entree like a Big Mac or Whopper. Instead, it has a variety of forgettable, low-quality food. Not only does the food have preparation problems, but it’s also extremely unhealthy.
It’s estimated that more than three-fourths of the meals on the Checkers menu have higher levels of saturated fat than the majority of its fast food competitors. The food might be reasonably priced, but that pricing doesn’t take into consideration the increased risk of heart disease!
4. Long John Silver’s
When it comes to menu items that customers might not trust being prepared by a minimum-wage fast food chef, fish seems like it would rank pretty high on the list. So it’s a major shock that a fast food chain like Long John Silver’s has been in business for as long as it has.
But while it’s impressive Long John Silver’s has managed to stay in business, the praise ends there. No one wants to eat fast food fried fish. There are just too many risk factors: It could be stale, too dry, too salty, too greasy, or too battery — and usually, it’s at least one of these things.
When people think New York pizza, they think of a lot of things. Summed up, they think of good pizza. Sbarro is not that. Sbarro serves pizza that feels low quality and doesn’t feel fresh. Often located in the food courts of malls that appear on the verge of going out of business, Sbarro doesn’t have many redeeming qualities.
With plenty of competition even in the realm of fast food pizza, Sbarro simply does not meet expectations. And those expectations were low to begin with. It’s not reasonably priced, the ingredients aren’t known for being super fresh, and ultimately, the experience is either poor or forgettable.
2. Burger King
The “Worst Fast Food Burger in America” title belongs to none other than Burger King. It’s surprising the fast food chain even has a recognizable entree like the Whopper, considering hardly anyone seems to go there and virtually nobody is an avid fan of the restaurant.
Though Burger King is easily the worst fast food burger chain in the United States, there is hope (at least for restaurant management). That’s because the chain is heading in a new direction, introducing vegan burgers and tacos. Burger King deserves its shame for being awful, but at least there could be encouraging news on the horizon.
1. Taco Bell
With Taco Bell, the question isn’t how bad it is, but rather where to start. Portions are small, ingredients are bad, and digestive problems are imminent. In fact, Taco Bell is known for causing stomach pains and diarrhea, yet that doesn’t stop the restaurant’s loyal fans from buying food anyway. What’s funny is those same fans have observed that the food isn’t even very filling!
Taco Bell may have some loyal fans, but that shouldn’t save the fast food chain from being ranked as the worst fast food restaurant in America. When the majority of consumers’ bodies reject the food for essentially not being edible, there’s no choice but to point out that Taco Bell isn’t all that great.