Zagat opines on fast food for first time

by Eric Schroeder
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NEW YORK — Wendy’s took home the prize as top food champion, while McDonald’s offers the best breakfast sandwiches and Panera Bread has the best salads, according to the 2010 Zagat Fast-Food Survey.

The survey, conducted by Zagat Survey, L.L.C., covered 97 fast-food chains and 39 full-service chains as voted on by 6,518 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.).

“It’s virtually impossible to live anywhere in America without having a fast-food chain outlet in the neighborhood,” said Tim Zagat, chief executive officer of Zagat Survey. “We know that these chains play an important role in feeding our population. That’s the reason why we undertook this survey and why we believe the results are so important.”

Among the “mega” fast-food chains, Wendy’s was ranked No. 1 for food, followed by Subway, KFC, Taco Bell and Burger King. Taking the top prize in the “large” category for top food was In-N-Out Burger, followed by Papa Murphy’s, Chick-fil-A, Five Guys and Chipotle. In the “full-service” category, Bonefish Grill ranked No. 1 for food, followed by P.F. Chang’s China Bistro, Maggiano’s, Cheesecake Factory and California Pizza Kitchen.

Among “quick-refreshment” chains, Ben & Jerry’s Scoop Shops were rated No. 1, followed by Haagen-Dazs, Bruster’s Real Ice Cream, 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 Peet’s Coffee & Tea took top honors among quick-refreshment chains.

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

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 — Jamba Juice.

The survey marks the first 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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