Fast-food restaurants are serious business in America.
The $208 billion industry caters to the fickle taste buds of consumers, who have grown up in the shadow of McDonald's golden arches. That's created a basic ideal fast-food meal: quick delivery, tasty food and friendly service.
In recent years, however, diners have added to their expectations. They now also want healthy food and quality ingredients, as well as a dining room that offers more than bare-bones chairs and tables.
That's shifted the way Americans view their fast-food outlets. Some of the most iconic names in the industry are suffering, while upstarts are convincing consumers to shift their allegiances to their more innovative menus.
As a result, some of the country's oldest brand names in fast-food are coping with lower sales and troubling trends, such as difficulty in luring Millennial consumers through their doors. Younger chains generally doing a better job of appealing to America's tastebuds, according to a new report from the American Consumer Satisfaction Index.
"Consumers are looking for something newer and fresher," said ACSI director of research Forrest Morgeson. With the economy improving, he added, "consumers will be willing and ready to spend a little more, so they won't go first and foremost with the supplier that gives them the best price. They're willing to spend a little more money for higher quality."
As the economy recovers, fast-food restaurants need to step up their game. During the recession, price alone would get consumers through the door. In better economic times, however, diners tend to prefer quality over price.
The ACSI surveyed 5,023 people earlier this year about their experiences with fast-food restaurants. The chains were rated on a number of factors, including quality of food, courtesy of the staff, speed of delivery and cleanliness of the restaurants.
Read on to learn about the top 5 most loved and hated fast-food brands in America.