US goliaths lose out as younger diners seek fresher meals

br kfc Bloomberg A Consumer Reports survey shows major fast-food chains, including Taco Bell, KFC and MacDonald's, are struggling to woo younger US diners. The rankings are in line with sales figures. Photo: Bloomberg

New York - US Fast-food titans McDonald’s, Taco Bell and KFC are conquering the globe, but back home they are losing to the likes of In-N-Out Burger, Chipotle Mexican Grill and Chick-fil-A, according to the latest fast-food survey by Consumer Reports.

Yesterday’s survey ranked regional chain In-N-Out Burger as the US industry’s best hamburger chain, based on food quality, value and service. Rubio’s Fresh Mexican Grill was the leading Mexican chain, followed by Chipotle, while Chick-fil-A ranked highest among chicken chains.

The results track with sales figures at many of the major fast-food chains, which are struggling to find the right recipe to woo younger US diners who are increasingly seeking fresher, healthier food.

“More and more, food quality – not just low price – is emerging as a deciding factor for many Americans,” said Tod Marks, a senior projects editor for Consumer Reports.

After In-N-Out Burger, the top-rated hamburger restaurants were The Habit Burger Grill and Culver’s. McDonald’s, the world’s largest chain but a laggard when it comes to taste, finished behind 20 others, including Jack in the Box, Wendy’s and Burger King.

Yum Brands’s Taco Bell, which spiced up US sales with Doritos Locos Tacos and breakfast, finished at number eight among Mexican chains, a category led by Rubio’s, Chipotle and Qdoba Mexican Grill.

Yum’s KFC also landed the eighth position in the chicken restaurant category behind Chick-fil-A, Boston Market and El Pollo Loco.

The nation’s top pizza chain was Papa Murphy’s Take ‘N’ Bake Pizza, ahead of bigger rivals Papa John’s International and Domino’s Pizza, Consumer Reports said.

Portillo’s Hot Dogs, Jason’s Deli and Firehouse Subs were leaders in the fragmented sandwich category. Pei Wei Asian Diner was the leader in the emerging Asian segment.

Chick-fil-A, which has stirred fiery debate with its stance opposing gay marriage, led in service and clean surroundings. Del Taco took first place in the category for “more for your money”.

Privately held Subway, whose pitch man Jared Fogle lost more than 90kg on a diet of the sandwich seller’s food, was number one for healthy choices, followed by Jason’s Deli and Panera Bread.

When it comes to unhealthy “foods to fear”, Consumer Reports called out Firehouse Subs’ large sweet Thai chili pork sub that clocked in at 6 450 kilojoules, 95g of fat and 3 458mg of sodium.

US dietary guidelines recommend individuals consume no more than 8 400kJ, 65g of fat and 2 300mg of sodium daily. - Reuters


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