Zagat Survey today revealed the results of the first Zagat/Today Show Fast Food Survey and the 5,535 participants hailed Wendy’s as Queen of the Fast-Food Mega-Chains, and Panera Bread Co. as the Most Popular Overall. For Full-Service Chains, Australian-themed Outback Steakhouse won for Popularity and Top Food. Forty-five chains were surveyed, with voters weighing in on everything from pizza to poultry, burritos to burgers and salads to subs. The winners were announced live on The Today Show this morning, with the full results released on

To Your Health:

With the increasing public scrutiny over the nutritional value of fast-food in the last few years, from Fast Food Nation and Super Size Me to the latest trans fat debates and e.coli scares, health was certainly on the minds of Zagat surveyors. Ninety-three percent report being somewhat or very concerned with the fat and calorie content of fast-food. In the same vein, when asked how the banning of trans fats in fast-food restaurants would affect them, 96 percent of surveyors say they would eat out the same amount or more. And in the search for healthy options, sandwich specialist Subway struck surveyors as the best bet.

According to Tim Zagat, CEO of Zagat Survey,
“Not all fast-food restaurants are created equal–nor were they meant to be. Some are better at burgers and others are masters of milkshakes. This survey reveals what fast-food restaurants are doing right, and where there’s room for improvement. The big challenge right now is the public’s concerns, expressed by 93 percent of our respondents, about the industry’s health standards.”

Where’s The Beef?

The old school “Where’s The Beef?” campaign has paid off for Wendy’s in the long run, as the self-proclaimed “old-fashioned hamburgers” chain garnered 30 percent of the best burger votes compared to 22 percent for Burger King and 13 percent for McDonald’s. Wendy’s also snagged the No. 1 spot among fast-food mega-chains (i.e. those with at least 5,000 outlets) for Food, Facilities, and Popularity. Among Overall Fast-Food Chains, the fresh breads, soups, and sandwiches at Panera Bread Co. secured the top spots for Overall Popularity, Food and Facilities.

Full Service Please:

Surveyors also voted on full-service chains. Australian-themed Outback Steakhouse was named Most Popular as well as No. 1 for Food; Cracker Barrel cleaned up, winning for Facilities and Service; and Applebee’s, with its Weight Watchers menu items, led for Healthy Options.

Fry Face-Off:

In the French fry face-off, McDonald’s won easily with 63 percent of the vote, compared to just 10 percent each for runners-up Burger King and Wendy’s. Surveyors, by a 74 percent vote, also named McDonald’s the Most Child-Friendly fast-food chain.

Here A Chick There A Chick:

The “best chicken in fast food” belongs to Chick-fil-A, who won by a beak over KFC, with 29 percent of surveyors crowning it the chicken champ, while 28 percnt remained loyal to Colonel Sanders. Popeye’s Chicken and Biscuits was third in the pecking order, with 16 percent of the vote.


No surprise here, Dairy Queen was awarded the crown for its milkshakes with 36 percent of the vote, followed by McDonald’s (16 percent) and Sonic Drive-in (13 percent).

So Many Choices, So Little Time:

Despite nutritional concerns, 79 percent of surveyors say taste is the most important factor in choosing a fast-food restaurant, while 49 percent are more concerned with price/value. Among the full service restaurants, 86 percent report that the food matters most, followed by service, at 50 percent.


Surveyors spoke loud and clear about the biggest irritants associated with fast-food dining. Cleanliness was the main irritant, (cited by 49 percent), nutrition consequences (cited by 47 percent), food quality (38 percent), service (37 percent), and noise (16 percent).

Other findings:

As for surveyors’ favorite fast-food, Burgers/Fries ranked first with 39 percent, followed by Subs/Sandwiches (19 percent), Mexican (15 percent), and Pizza (13 percent). In the mascot/spokesperson showdown, McDonald’s Ronald McDonald reigned supreme, winning 25 percent of the vote, while Subway’s Jared Fogle, who lost 245 pounds on a diet of Subway subs and exercise, finished second, with 19 perent. Gaining on Jared was Jack, from Jack in the Box, with 18 percent, followed by Burger King’s The King at 13 percent.

News, Sandwiches, Burger King, Chick-fil-A, Dairy Queen, Kentucky Fried Chicken, McDonald's, Outback Steakhouse, Panera Bread, Subway, Wendy's