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Best Chain Restaurants

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by ConsumerAffairs

Research Team

Updated on 11/29/2017

Restaurant chains are part of most Americans’ routine dining experience and with hundreds of companies offering multiple cuisines, it can be hard to choose which place you want to visit. Things like location, the time of day, what you’re doing and who you’re with can all factor into your decision on a place to eat, so it is a good idea to keep some important features in mind regarding restaurant chains.

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    Compare Reviews for Top Chain Restaurants

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    Chick-fil-A
    Read 311 Reviews

    Founded in 1946 under the name Dwarf House, Chick-fil-A is an American fast food chain headquartered in Atlanta. It has over 2,000 restaurants across the United States and unlike other chains, closes on Sunday.

    Wendy's
    Read 342 Reviews

    Wendy’s is an American fast food chain that was founded over 47 years ago and is based in Dublin, Ohio. It operates over 6,000 locations and employs more than 12,000 people around the world.

    Starbucks
    Read 616 Reviews

    Founded and headquartered in Seattle, Washington over 45 years ago, Starbucks is an American coffeehouse chain that has gained worldwide popularity. Today, more than 238,000 employees operate over 24,000 locations globally.

    Taco Bell
    Read 231 Reviews

    Founded in 1962 and based in Irvine, California, Taco Bell is an American fast food chain known for its Tex-Mex menu including burritos, tacos and nachos. It operates over 7,000 locations and employs more than 175,000 people.

    Domino's Pizza
    Read 495 Reviews

    Founded in 1960 and headquartered in Ypsilanti, Michigan, Domino’s is an American pizza chain that has locations in more than 80 countries, making it the second largest pizza chain in the world.

    Dairy Queen
    Read 163 Reviews

    Founded in 1940 and based in Edina, Minnesota, Dairy Queen is an American fast food and soft-serve ice cream chain. It operates more than 6,000 stores in 27 countries.

    McDonalds
    Read 1178 Reviews

    McDonald’s was founded over 75 years ago and is one of the world’s largest fast food restaurant chains. Headquartered in Chicago, it has over 36,000 locations and more than 375,000 employees worldwide.

    Subway
    Read 316 Reviews

    Established in 1978 and based in Milford, Connecticut, Subway is an American fast food chain that specializes in submarine sandwiches and salads. It has over 44,000 locations in 112 countries.

    Pizza Hut
    Read 373 Reviews

    Established in 1958 and headquartered in Plano, Texas, Pizza Hut is an American chain of Italian-American cuisine known for it’s pizza. It operates over 15,000 locations globally and employs more than 160,000 people.

    KFC
    Read 389 Reviews

    Founded in 1930 and based in Louisville, Kentucky, KFC is an American fast food restaurant known for its fried chicken. It is the world’s second largest food chain with over 20,000 locations in 123 countries.

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    What features matter most in chain restaurants?

    How do restaurant chains offer convenient options to customers?

    Fast food and casual dining restaurant chains focus on providing quick service while maintaining food quality and a great dining experience. Having multiple options for ordering food, prompt service and multiple locations to choose from can be an important deciding factor when choosing a fast food or casual dining restaurant.

    • Ordering: Fast food chains typically have a drive-through window option and an in-store option where you order from the front counter. Casual dining restaurants typically have a carry-out system where diners can call in to order and then pick it up.
    • Service: Fast food restaurants are known for their quick service; however, casual sit-down dining restaurants strive to get diners in and out quickly as well as providing prompt service and multiple kitchen staff members.
    • Location: Fast food and casual dining chains have can more easily attract diners if they have multiple locations in larger cities. The convenience of staying close to your current location or choosing a restaurant near the route you’re traveling is often a subconscious factor in your decision.

    What kind of food choices do restaurant chains offer customers?

    Restaurants that offer multiple options and varying cuisines give diners who may be craving something different from other members of their party a good selection to choose from. Even fast food restaurants who serve one style of food typically offer multiple value meals, offering different styles of hamburgers or various Mexican platters.

    • Menus: Casual dining restaurants offer multiple styles of food ranging from smaller dishes like appetizers, soup and salad, to dinner portions that can include hamburgers and filets. Menus are often divided by cuisine styles like seafood, Italian and steak.
    • Value meals: Fast food chains provide a little bit of variety on their menus by offering multiple value meals. Value meals, for example, can include different styles of hamburgers with a choice of a side item and a drink.
    • Healthy options: Healthy menu options are becoming an important factor when it comes to selecting a place to eat. Many casual dining restaurants have a separate menu section or menu insert that lists their healthy options. Healthy options may include low-calorie dishes or gluten-free items.

    Do restaurant chains offer promotions and specials?

    Casual dining and fast food restaurants try to offer quality food at reasonable prices by promoting special deals, creating specialty menus and using a good food distributor. Although prices may fluctuate depending on the price of certain food items, diners can still find good pricing on most menus they come across.

    • Promotions: Fast food and casual dining restaurants constantly run promotions to attract customers. Promotions can be things like buy one get one free coupons, special pricing on a new menu item, holiday-themed specials and more.
    • Specialty menus: Speciality menus can include things like lunch menus that have smaller portions and cheaper prices when compared to the dinner menu, as well as dollar menus or happy hour menus that offer half-priced items during a specific time of the day.

    What kid-friendly options do restaurant chains offer?

    Almost all fast food and casual dining restaurant chains include kid-friendly options on their menu. Some fast food places include a play area for kids to enjoy before or after they eat.

    • Kids menus: Fast food kids menus offer smaller portions of regular-sized value meals and typically come with a child-friendly toy or game. Kids menus at a sit-down casual dining restaurant normally include smaller portions of regular menu items or items that kids recognize and tend to enjoy.
    • Kid-friendly seating: Sit-down restaurants should have kid-friendly seating for young babies and young children. Booster chairs and high chairs are normally readily available upon request.

    What are the different types of restaurant chains?

    Fast food

    Fast food chains are known for their speedy service, drive-through windows and counter service, where guests order at the front counter. Diners can eat in the restaurant or take their food to go.

    Casual dining

    Casual dining restaurants make up a market that is between fast food and fine dining. They provide moderately-priced menu items and table service and typically have full bar services provided by a separate bar staff.

    Family-style dining

    Family-style is used to describe a type of casual dining restaurant or family-friendly diner. Most family-style restaurants serve food on platters and customers serve themselves buffet style.

    Who visits restaurant chains?

    Families

    The majority of restaurant chains are considered casual dining or family dining, making them a great place for families to frequent for a meal.

    People on-the-go

    Whether you’re traveling, running errands or taking kids to and from various activities, fast food chains are a convenient place to quickly grab a bite to eat so you can get back on the road.

    Compare Reviews for Top Chain Restaurants

    Burger King
    Read 458 Reviews

    Burger King got its start over 60 years ago as an American fast food hamburger chain. Today, it has over 15,000 locations and more than 30,000 employees across the globe.

    Dunkin' Donuts
    Read 311 Reviews

    Dunkin’ Donuts is an American donut company and coffeehouse chain headquartered in Canton, Massachusetts. Founded over 67 years ago, it now operates more than 11,000 locations worldwide.

    Denny's Restaurants
    Read 280 Reviews

    Founded over 64 years ago as Danny’s Donuts, Denny’s is a breakfast restaurant known for its pancakes and being open around the clock to serve breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert. It operates over 1,700 locations nationwide.

    Papa John's
    Read 318 Reviews

    Based in Jeffersontown, Kentucky, Papa John’s is the third largest pizza delivery chain in the world. It employs more than 20,000 people around the world who operate over 4,500 locations.

    Little Caesars Pizza
    Read 176 Reviews

    Established in 1959 and based in Detroit, Little Caesars is the third largest pizza chain in the nation and operates franchises in Asia, the Middle East, Australia, Canada, Latin America and the Caribbean.

    Chili's Grill & Bar
    Read 181 Reviews

    Known for its Tex-Mex style cuisine, Chili’s is an American casual dining restaurant based in Dallas. It operates more than 1,500 stores worldwide.

    Applebee's Neighborhood Grill & Bar
    Read 205 Reviews

    Founded over 36 years ago, Applebee’s is an American bar and grill chain based in Glendale, California. Today, it operates more than 2,000 locations with over 28,000 employees worldwide.

    International House of Pancakes (IHOP)
    Read 138 Reviews

    IHOP began in 1958 and is based in Glendale, California. It specializes in breakfast foods and diner-style cuisine and is known for keeping late hours. It operates more than 1,500 locations and employs over 32,000 people globally.

    T.G.I. Friday's
    Read 108 Reviews

    TGI Friday’s is an American casual dining restaurant chain that was founded in 1965 in New York City. Today, it is based in Dallas and operates more than 900 locations worldwide.

    Red Lobster
    Read 131 Reviews

    Red Lobster is an American casual dining chain known for its seafood menu. Headquartered in Orlando, Florida, it has over 700 locations throughout the United States.

    Chipotle
    Read 223 Reviews

    Chipotle got its start in 1993 and is based in Denver. It specializes in making tacos and burritos and operates over 2,000 locations worldwide with an overall staff of 45,000 employees.

    Jack In the Box
    Read 121 Reviews

    Founded in 1951 and based in San Diego, California, Jack in the Box is an American fast food restaurant chain known for its variety of burgers. Today, it has more than 2,000 locations, primarily in the western United States.

    Waffle House
    Read 110 Reviews

    Waffle House is an American restaurant chain known for its diner-style menu including breakfast food and steak. Founded in 1955, it has more than 2,000 locations across the Southern United States.

    Baskin-Robbins
    Read 30 Reviews

    Established over 72 years ago, Baskin-Robbins is the world’s largest ice cream speciality shop. Its headquarters are located in Canton, Massachusetts and the company has created over 1,000 flavors since 1945.

    Chuck E Cheese
    Read 94 Reviews

    Chuck E. Cheese’s is an American chain of family entertainment and pizza centers that was founded in 1977. Today, it is based in Irving, Texas and services more than 550 stores around the world.

    Friendly's
    Read 45 Reviews

    Founded in 1935 and headquartered in Wilbraham, Massachusetts, Friendly’s is an East Coast restaurant chain specializing in sandwiches, burgers, hot dogs and breakfast food. It employs over 10,000 people nationwide.

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