The Chain Gang

In-N-Out Sits Atop the Fast-Food Heap

Fast-food obsessives have exceeded all expectations by demonstrating a little taste in their pursuit of 99-cent burritos, heat lamp-thawed burgers, and freakish Double-Downs. In a Consumer Reports survey of national fast-food restaurants that tracked readers’$2 98,000 visits to 53 different establishments, California’s In-N-Out Burger emerged as the true king among burger chains, vaulting to the top for the quality of its food, service, overall value, and speed. This leaves the Golden Arches, Wendy’s, and Burger King in its dust. It’s hardly surprising — who doesn’t love In-N-Out? — but there were some upsets to be found.

The rankings are full of upsets for our long-established chains, with newer juggernauts like Chick-Fil-A beating out KFC for the top position in the world of chicken and newly sustainable Chipotle grabbing the blue ribbon above eight other Mexican chains. While news that superior fast-food businesses are winning out over the long-dominating dreck sounds rather encouraging for the national diet, the study stops short of calling the findings a killshot in the food revolution.

While better-tasting food has certainly pulled a coup of sorts here, another discovery reminds us of the hill we’re yet to climb as a country: Only 13 percent of the survey’s participants actually ever chose a healthy menu option during one of the 98,000 visits, meaning burgers, nuggets, and refried beans are still more popular for a quick lunch than salads, soups, or wraps. In other words, while the future of fast food suddenly looks a little brighter, it still might be a while before Kale Cities grow across the country.

In-N-Out Burger beats McDonald’s in Consumer Reports fast food Ratings [Consumer Reports]
Consumer Reports magazine: August 2011 [Consumer Reports]

In-N-Out Sits Atop the Fast-Food Heap