Fast food took the 20th century by storm and rapidly grew into a 570 billion dollar industry, with 200 of those billions being generated in the United States alone. You could say Fast Food is part of the American identity. Over 4 million people make a living working in the more than 200,000 fast food restaurants that populate the country. Fast food restaurants provide millions of Americans with tasty and inexpensive food every day. While many people turn to fast food for the convenience, many others have grown to love the types of delicious offerings these franchise restaurants offer.
When it comes to fast food, people are often rabidly loyal and swear up and down that their favorite is the best choice, and each chain has millions of supporters and detractors. So, like me, you may have wondered which fast food restaurants are objectively the best?
Fast food restaurant offerings will often vary in price, quality, and overall taste across the board. We have taken the time to analyze dozens of customer satisfaction surveys and come up with a list of the top 15 fast food restaurants in America.
Whether you are going on a road trip and want to know where your next meal should come from, or you are merely curious, read our list to learn which fast food restaurants rouse the most passionate support from people across the country. If you like burgers, chicken, Mexican, or healthy sandwiches you will find something to your liking here.
McDonald’s: The golden arches are instantly recognizable anywhere in the world. McDonald’s global reach is a thing of wonder. This American fast-food company founded in California in the 1940s now serves over 69 million people in more than 100 countries every day. While not the tastiest of our list, their impact cannot be denied.
KFC: Kentucky Fried Chicken started out as a roadside restaurant specializing in seasoned fried foods and is now a worldwide phenomenon that consistently challenges the hamburger’s market dominance. KFC offers deliciously seasoned chicken by the bucket, chicken sandwiches, as well as biscuits, coleslaw, mashed potatoes, and various other side dishes.
Arby’s: America’s second largest sandwich franchise was founded on the premise that sometimes people are in the mood for something other than a burger. Arby’s specializes in roast beef sandwiches, but they also serve turkey and chicken sandwiches and wraps. Their classic roast beef is very lean and very tasty.
Subway: Subway’s eat fresh motto has set them up as a popular healthy alternative to the industry’s greasier options. Subway is America’s largest sandwich shop and one of the world’s fastest-growing franchises. They specialize in foot-long submarine sandwiches and salads; however, you will also find some delicious wraps, Paninis, and various baked goods in their menu.
Taco-bell: Taco-bell is known for their inventive and ingenious ways to serve all manner of Tex-Mex food. Their menu includes hard and soft shell tacos, burritos, quesadillas, and nachos, as well as other specialty offerings. Taco Bell’s menu is a favorite among stoners craving for a snack due to its affordability and deliciousness.
The first five spots on our list represent the Big Five⸺the obvious choices.
The next ten restaurants are smaller franchises that nonetheless have millions of loyal and rabid supporters.
Sonic Drive-In: Sonic is perhaps the last “big” place to still serve food delivered by carhops to your car. Sonic’s menu consists of American staples such as burgers, fries, onion rings, corn dogs, and a variety of slushies and milkshakes. If you are looking for a unique fast food experience find a Sonic near you.
A&W: A&W restaurants are set apart from the crowded fast food market by their root beer on draft. The franchise started humbly as a root beer stand in 1919 and now operates in 16 countries worldwide. While you are here, accompany your root beer float with some tasty cheese curds, hot dogs, chicken sandwiches or classic burgers.
Chipotle Mexican Grill: Chipotle is a Mexican themed restaurant that was founded on the premise that food served fast did not have be “fast” food. They pride themselves on offering high-quality ingredients prepared with classic cooking techniques. Chipotle’s highly customizable menu is comprised of salads, burritos, and tacos. Their guacamole is to die for!
Zaxby’s: Here, the menu is comprised of chicken wings, sandwiches, and salads, served with a variety of delicious side dishes. What sets Zaxby’s apart from the crowd is their extensive offerings of specialty sauces perfect for dipping, dunking, drizzling, and tossing. Zaxby’s also offers customers a catering service for special events and larger parties.
Whataburger: Not to be confused with What-a-burger restaurants, Whataburger is one of the smaller regional chains on our list. Nevertheless, those lucky few to have a Whataburger franchise near them know that their menu is comprised of delicious oversized burgers, and classic chicken and fish sandwiches.
Pei Wei: Pei Wei Asian Diner offers wok-seared premium ingredients prepared into bold Asian dishes. Pei Wei boasts about providing sit-down quality with take-out convenience. Their menu includes thoughtfully crafted rice bowls, noodles, and even bento boxes. Classics like Orange Chicken and General Tso’s are available as well as a plethora of traditional sides like Wonton Soup and Spring Rolls.
Firehouse Subs: Another entry in the Fast Casual dining experience, Firehouse subs offers sandwiches made with higher quality, fresher ingredients than your average sub shop. Founded in Florida, Firehouse now operates in 44 states. Enjoy a variety of upscale Hot and Cold sandwich options that include classics like tuna, pastrami, and Honey Ham.
Captain D’s: This entry in our list is one of the best fast food seafood services in the country. Captain D’s has a long 48-year history acting as providers of premium seafood at affordable prices. The Captain D’s experience is enhanced by the beachy décor and handcrafted menu. While here enjoy an assortment of breaded fried fishes and shrimp, as well as lobster rolls served with a variety of healthy side dishes.Advertisement
Panera Bread: Panera Bread was named the Healthiest Fast Casual Restaurant by Health Magazine in 2008. Think of Panera Bread as fast casual bakery/café. Their menu includes a variety of bagels, baguettes, hot and cold sandwiches, salads, soups, and an assortment of pastries and baked goods. Fan favorites include a Roasted Turkey Avocado BLT and a Cream of Chicken Wild Rice Soup.
In-N-Out: In-N-Out Burger is an institution and has long been hailed as America’s best fast food restaurant, and we agree. Recently In-N-Out came out on top in Market Force’s customer loyalty survey, with an astonishing 76% customer satisfaction rating. This is astonishing because Market Force’s study is on a national level and In-N-Out is only available on the West coast. The In-N-Out menu garners a cult-like following and consists of classic burgers and animal style fries. Perhaps the simplest menu on our list but without a doubt, the tastiest.