What are the best chain restaurants in America? Consumer Reports sent 47,565 people out for dinner to find out. Diners rated 102 sit-down restaurants on taste, value, service, noise, menu, cleanliness, and mood. The top nine restaurants rated consistently high in all of these categories.
Here's what surprised me about the results: The top restaurants are mostly regional chains, not the mega national chains we all know about. Not what I expected to see! That's why you might see this list and think -- I've never even heard of half of these places! Keep reading to find out if your favorite restaurant is on this list.
Consumer Reports Top Chain Restaurants in America
- Biaggi's Ristorante Italiano, 23 locations in 12 mostly Midwestern states
- Black Angus Steakhouse, 45 locations in California, Washington, Arizona, Alaska, New Mexico, and Hawaii
- Bob Evans, almost 600 locations in 18 states
- Bravo Cucina Italiana, 47 restaurants in 20 states
- First Watch, about 100 restaurants in 13 states
- J. Alexander's, 33 locations in 13 states
- Le Peep, 60 locations in 14 states
- Elmer's, 25 locations in the Northwest
- Fatz Eatz & Drinkz, 48 restaurants in the Southeast
And the worst chain restaurants? Friendly's and Waffle House. Sorry, guys. Looks like you need to clean up your act ... literally. Buffalo Wild Wings Grill & Bar is near the bottom of the list thanks to the service and the noise levels. Apparently diners don't really enjoy loud dining -- which makes me wonder why some places like Hard Rock Cafe crank the music so high. I know it's supposed to be all rock 'n' roll, but nobody likes screaming over their onion blossoms!
Anyway, it's great to see these smaller (or at least medium-sized) chains getting some recognition for keeping their customers happy. Maybe it's just easier to get it all right if you're a chain of 30 restaurants instead of trying to make the magic happen in dozens of restaurants all over the country. The big exception looks to be Bob Evans. Six hundred restaurants! Apparently they're doing something right.
I think I might keep this list handy for the next time I'm on a road trip somewhere. I've never been to any of these restaurants (I don't recall seeing any of the in New York City) and I'm starting to wonder if I'm missing out.
If you want to see ratings for all 102 restaurants, check out the August issue of Consumer Reports. The issue also has tips for saving when eating out.
Are any of your favorite restaurants on the top-nine list?
Image via goodiesfirst/Flickr