Wendy’s, McDonald’s score well in Zagat survey

by Eric Schroeder
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NEW YORK — Wendy’s, McDonald’s and Subway were among the big winners recognized by Zagat as part of the 2011 Zagat Fast-Food Survey.

The survey, conducted by Zagat Survey, L.L.C., covered 103 chains as voted on by 6,064 Zagat.com diners. The survey results were divided into four categories: mega (over 5,000 outlets), large (up to 5,000), full-service (with table service) and quick-refreshment (focusing on beverages, ice cream, etc.).

“For better or for worse, fast food is a major part of American culture, with our average surveyor eating at chain restaurants nearly 11 times per month,” said Tim Zagat, chief executive officer of Zagat Survey. “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.”

Among the “mega” fast-food chains, Wendy’s was ranked No. 1 for food for the second year in a row, followed by Subway, KFC, Pizza Hut and Burger King. Falling out of the top five from last year was Taco Bell.

Taking the top prize in the “large” category for top food again was In-N-Out Burger, followed by Chick-fil-A, Papa Murphy’s, Five Guys and Chipotle. In 2010, Papa Murphy’s was ranked No. 2 and Chick-fil-A was ranked No. 3.

In the “full-service” category, Bonefish Grill ranked No. 1 for food for the second year in a row, followed by P.F. Chang’s China Bistro, Carrabba’s Italian Grill, Maggiano’s, and Cheesecake Factory. California Pizza Kitchen, which ranked No. 5 last year, fell out of the top five this year.

Among “quick-refreshment” chains, Ben & Jerry’s Scoop Shops again were rated No. 1, followed by Bruster’s Real Ice Cream, Haagen-Dazs, Red Mango and Pinkberry, the latter two of which replaced 2010 top five finishers Peet’s Coffee & Tea and Rita’s.

The “top service” award in the mega fast-food chain category went to Subway, while Chick-fil-A took home the award among large chains, Bonefish Grill won among full-service chains and Caribou Coffee took top honors among quick-refreshment chains.

Looking at specific categories, respondents ranked McDonald’s No. 1 in six categories: best french fries, best value menu, best value, best breakfast sandwiches, best drive-thru and most child friendly. Also scoring well in the survey was Panera Bread, which ranked No. 1 for best salad, No. 2 for best breakfast sandwich, No. 3 for best grilled chicken and No. 4 for best value.

Other fast-food chain category winners included:

• Best burger — Five Guys
• Best fried chicken — KFC
• Best grilled chicken — Chick-fil-A
• Best coffee — Starbucks Coffee
• Best milkshake — Dairy Queen
• Top ice cream/custard — Ben & Jerry’s Scoop Shops
• Top smoothies/frozen yogurt — Red Mango.

Among the major category winners, all were repeat winners from 2010 except for Red Mango, which displaced Jamba Juice from the top spot in the smoothies/frozen yogurt category.

The survey marks the second from Zagat specifically targeted at chain restaurants, including quick service chains. Established in 1979, Zagat Survey is the world’s largest provider of consumer survey-based information on dining, hotels and entertainment. The surveys traditionally have focused principally, but not exclusively, on fine dining restaurants.

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