Some very big fast food chains — McDonald's, Taco Bell and KFC — will have a tough time swallowing this.
Their own customers say their signature items are the worst in their categories, according to a exhaustive consumer survey of the chain's own customers by Consumer Reports.
McDonald's makes the worst burgers. KFC offers the worst chicken. Taco Bell sells the worst burritos. This according to 32,405 Consumer Reports subscribers, in a survey whose results are bound to leave some high-powered fast-food executives scratching their heads today.
"A lot of the big chains leave a lot to be desired. This is a wake-up call," says Tod Marks, senior projects editor at Consumer Reports. "Whether or not they choose to sleep through it is their choice."
Fast food is big business. Americans will spend more than $683 billion eating out this year, estimates the National Restaurant Association. That's close to $2 billion a day. While the convenience, low price and predictability big chains offer are a big plus, that's no longer enough for a generation of patrons who demand higher-quality, better-tasting food.
"The landscape is changing as Millennials come into adulthood," says Marks. Younger consumers not only embrace value, but also quality and social issues, he notes. This is hitting the big chains — slow to embrace these consumer needs — especially hard.
- McDonald's ranked last in burgers. Of 21 burger chains national and regional, McDonald's was at the very bottom, with a 5.8 rating. At the top was a regional chain, The Habit Burger Grill, rating 8.1.
McDonald's did not immediately comment.
- KFC ranked last in chicken. Of eight chicken chains, KFC finished in the cellar with a 7.1 rating. At the top was Chick-fil-A, with a 8.0 rating.
In a statement, KFC spokeswoman Karen Sherman said: "KFC is committed to providing our guests with our world-famous chicken and meals, our Southern hospitality and service and a great value. We won't be satisfied until we are No. 1."
- Taco Bell ranked last in burritos. Of eight Mexican chains, Taco Bell was at the bottom with a 6.3 rating. Chipotle finished on top with 7.8.
Taco Bell did not immediately comment.
For the big chains, says Marks, the biggest problem may be the franchisees who are pushing to keep costs low — even as some non-franchised competitors boost food quality and prices.
Even though these big fast-food chains are mostly doing OK financially, Marks warns that won't necessarily remain the case if they don't improve — just ask the car giants. "Who would have ever thought that GM would fall to the to the position it's currently in?" he asks.