Burgers and fries may be iconic fast-food items, but it turns out that Americans are looking for something fresher when they go out to eat these days.
The $228 billion fast-food industry exists to serve the whims of consumers, many of whom grew up hearing slogans like Wendy's "Where's the beef?" and McDonald's "You deserve a break today." Yet today, Americans are more likely to snub the all-beef patty and look for a break from older fast-fast chains.
That may be why some of the country's most storied fast-food restaurants are at or near the bottom of a new ranking from the American Consumer Satisfaction Index, which surveyed 4,786 customers about their experiences at fast-food restaurants. The competition from newer upstarts is pushing older chains like McDonald's (MCD) to up their game with better quality food and new dishes.
"A few years ago, the burger chains seemed a bit tired in the eyes of a lot of consumers," said ACSI director David VanAmburg. "The perceptions were they weren't places. I'm going to get something new and exciting."
While McDonald's has improved its standing with consumers since last year, it still lands at the bottom of ACSI's list. The chain earned an ASCI score of 69, better than last year's 67, but the lowest of the group and far below the industry average of 79. McDonald's appears to be in the midst of a turnaround under CEO Steve Easterbrook, who introduced all-day breakfast last year.
"McDonald's has always been at or near the bottom," VanAmburg said. "This year one would certainly point to adding Egg McMuffins to their all-day menus to providing a little boost."
Read on to learn about America's nine favorite fast-food restaurants.