Consumer Reports: Chick-fil-A, Wendy's, Papa Murphy's Tops

​Advice culled from a fast-food survey among Consumer Reports readers in the August issue: "Next time you have a craving for fast food, think twice about slowing down for Burger King, KFC, McDonald's, or Taco Bell."

These big names fared quite poorly in the poll of 36,733 readers who rated 53 chains in categories of food, value, staff, and speed. According to the magazine, chains with the highest scores for food boasted 42 to 54 percent of customers who called the fare excellent -- but no more than 11 percent said the same for the four major aforementioned chains. Here are nine other interesting nuggets to take home:

9. The slowest places to get fast food were KFC, Popeyes, and Pizza Hut. This is a great example of the phrase adding insult to injury.

8. In-N-Out Burger topped burgers joints in all categories -- and scored better overall than any of the 53 chains. Burgerville, with 39 stores in Oregon and Washington, was runnerup, followed by Five Guys Burgers and Fries. White Castle and Checkers scored somewhere in the middle of the patty pack. Wendy's, Jack in the Box, and A&W Restaurants were lower still. Of the 18 burger emporiums listed, Burger King came in next-to-last, and McDonald's last.

7. Chipotle Mexican Grill ruled the Mex chains for taste. Among other Mexican franchises found locally, Qdoba placed next, in pretty much a statistical dead heat with Moe's Southwest Grill and Baja Fresh Mexican Grill. Way down in last place: Taco Bell.

6. Survey respondents averaged lunch or dinner four times a month at a fast-food outlet. Thirteen percent dined at fast-food chains ten times or more per month.

5. Not all Subway sandwiches are equal: The footlong Italian BMT sub is loaded with 900 calories and 40 grams of fat.

4. Fast-food restaurants weathered the recession better than casual or white-tablecloth restaurants; guess that's not a big surprise. The National Restaurant Association predicts restaurant sales will grow about 3.6 percent this year, to $604 billion. Twenty-seven percent of that sum is expected to be spent at fast-food establishments.

3. Chick-fil-A scored highest in taste among poultry pushers. Boston Market came in a close second. KFC ended up in the cellar. Pollo Tropical, sad to say, was not among those rated.

2. Papa Murphy's Take 'N' Bake Pizza ruled the pizza category. Interesting concept: Patrons order an uncooked pie that they take home to bake. We'll wait to see if one opens in these parts anytime soon. In other Consumer Reports pizza survey news: Papa John's placed above Pizza Hut, with Domino's falling behind those two. Sharing last place were Little Caesars and Sbarro, both of which scored very poorly.

1. Wendy's French fries -- "crispy outside, moist inside... enhanced by browned and earthy taste of skins," outscored all other fast-food fries. Five Guys "big baked-potato flavor" placed second, followed by McDonald's, KFC, and Fuddruckers. Burger King came in fifth of the quintet. Unimpressed tasters found that the "fatty taste has about the same intensity as potato flavor."

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