Fast food took root in the US the 1950s and has flourished into a $255 billion industry. These restaurants — globally associated with American culture — evoke surprising passion, with many developing a cult-like loyalty from customers. But which chain is the best?
Using proprietary data collected by Restaurant Business and its sister research firm Technomic, we looked at nearly 100 of the largest US chains and rated them on three criteria that we considered the most telling for all-around fast-food excellence: financial performance, customer satisfaction, and overall value. Our calculations accounted for sales growth, average sales at each location, consumer-sentiment ratings, and the average cost of a meal, among other metrics. Read more about the methodology here.
Towering sales figures alone weren’t enough to make the cut, as a number of fast-food heavyweights — such as McDonald’s and Taco Bell — didn’t crack the top 25 in our ranking. Rather, customers tend to gravitate toward more specialized and regional brands that offer a higher-quality experience, including fresh, sustainable ingredients, at an affordable price, according to Restaurant Business.
10. Jason’s Deli
Headquarters: Beaumont, Texas
US sales: $654 million
Number of US restaurants: 262
Financial performance rank: 34
Customer satisfaction rank: 12
Value rank: 15
Nutrition is a priority at Jason’s Deli, which has eliminated artificial trans fat, most artificial MSG, and all artificial colors, dyes, and flavors from its food over the past 10 years. In addition, the chain serves fresh produce — delivered to its locations six days a week — as well as more than a dozen USDA-certified organic ingredients.
The family-owned chain has set up shop in 30 states in the South and Midwest over 40 years of operation.