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Fast Food Industry ResearchFast food is prepared and served quickly, and often consumed quickly as well. A spin-off of street food, a classification that spans eras and cultures, modern fast food has focused on being economical, filling, and tasty, often in that order. Within the foodservice industry, fast food restaurants are termed Quick Service Restaurants, or QSRs, and may also be termed Limited Service Restaurants, indicating the absence of traditional table service from a wait staff. Within the American food industry, the leading fast food chains include McDonalds (the quintessential fast food chain), Burger King, Subway, Taco Bell, Wendys, KFC, and Arbys. As this list implies, hamburgers, other sandwiches, Mexicanstyle foods, and fried chicken are standard fare in the American fast food industry. In the U.S. market, fast food chains have faced increasingly competition from street foods, which have been seen a significant revival in consumer interest and appreciation. Healthfulness, moreover, is an increasingly concern of contemporary fast food chains and their customers. Consumers may or may not view prepared foods available at retailers such as supermarkets as being competitive with fast food in terms of cost and taste. Fast food restaurants compete heavily on cost and convenience, particularly as it relates to getting food quickly. Food retailers may be in a stronger position to meld healthful eating and prepared foods together. less...




In this reportOverview August 2011 Ratings Winners and losers The big picture How to avoid temptation Who makes the best fries? Sinking sub! How good are the chains' main dishes? Fast-food facts

Four big names lose36,733 readers rate the food, value, staff, and speed at 53 chainsLast reviewed: August 2011

This article appeared in August 2011 Consumer Reports Magazine.Videos PhotosVIDEO:

In search of the best burger

Next time you have a craving for fast food, think twice about slowing down for Burger King, KFC, McDonald's, or Taco Bell.

In our first major survey of quick-service restaurants (industry-speak for fast-food chains), subscribers who made a total of more than 98,000 visits to 53 chains said those four biggies were worse than many others. The main reason: the uninspiring food, though they also had so-so service. Readers said those chains, which boast of supersized value, don't even offer much bang for the buck. Other major chains with relatively low scores: sandwich shops Arby's and Quiznos and pizza joints Domino's and Pizza Hut. By contrast, our survey revealed good deals and even better meals at dozens of less-ubiquitous fast-food restaurants. Readers gave 21 of them especially high marks for food; 11 stood out for value. In-N-Out Burger (264 restaurants in Arizona, California, Nevada, Texas, and Utah), Chipotle Mexican Grill (1,100 nationwide), Chick-fil-A (1,536 nationwide), and Papa Murphy's Take 'N' Bake Pizza (1,250 in 37 states and Canada) ranked at the top of their type, and offered speedy and solicitous service that the industry giants couldn't match. (Most restaurant counts are approximate.) Our survey's other key findings: Diners want better food Many restaurants scored higher for servicespecifically, speed and politenessthan for food. At chains with the highest scores for food, 42 to 54 percent of patrons called the fare excellent, but at Burger King, KFC, McDonald's, and Taco Bell, no more than 11 percent of patrons did. In fact, 15 to 19 percent of respondents who ate at one of those chains thought the food was fair, poor, or very poor. At Sbarro, an international Italian chain trying to emerge from bankruptcy, 27 percent of patrons judged the food fair, poor, or very poor. Cheap food may not be a bargain Fifty-four percent of those surveyed cited low prices as a reason for picking a particular fast-food restaurant, and savvy shoppers can often score discounts by downloading coupons and other perks from a chain's website and social-media pages. But despite the low prices, just 19 percent of all respondents said they got excellent value for their money. In-N-Out Burger, Papa Murphy's, and CiCi's Pizza offered the best value; Sbarro, Round Table Pizza, and KFC, the worst. Diners want a better experience Whether they ordered cafeteria-style, at a counter, or at a drive-thru, or had food delivered, readers were much less pleased overall with fast-food restaurants than with casual full-service eateries like Cracker Barrel, Outback Steakhouse, and Red Lobster. Sixty percent of respondents said they were completely or very satisfied with their fast-food dining experiences vs. 68 percent of casual-restaurant patrons. Sometimes fast food isn't The slowest places to get fast food were KFC, Popeyes, and Pizza Hut. Consumers talk thin but eat fat Despite their reputation for blowing a diet to smithereens, fast-food restaurants offer plenty of healthful options. Hardee's (1,900 in 30 states and nine countries) and Carl's Jr. (1,100 worldwide) recently started selling charbroiled turkey burgers; Subway (34,679 in 98 countries), egg-white omelets; and Little Caesars (thousands from coast to coast), pizza crust and sauce with no animal products. Trouble is, there aren't many takers. "Indulgence wins over healthfulness every time," says Darren Tristano, executive vice president of Technomic, a food-service research and consulting firm in Chicago. When asked if they had eaten a healthful meal during their most recent visit to a fast-food restaurant, only 13 percent of those surveyed said yes. At pizza chains, just 4 percent said they'd ordered something healthful. Subway, with a "Fresh Fit" menu and spokesman Jared Fogle (an everyday guy who lost 245 pounds partly by living on the chain's low-fat subs), had the most diet-conscious eaters: Almost half of respondents who ate there said they

chose a nutritious meal. But not all sandwiches are created equal, even at Subway, where the footlong Italian B.M.T. sub packs 900 calories and 40 grams of fat.

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Fast food battle heats up in ChinaBy Patti Waldmeir in Shanghai Published: February 1 2011 19:29 | Last updated: February 1 2011 19:29

Chinese consumers may have more spending power, but they also have less time to cook: a perfect recipe for the growth of fast food in China, where western and Asian chains are battling over the increasing appetite for restaurant meals. In urban China, high property prices, long commutes, gruelling working hours, a later marriage age and smaller families all add up to more fast food.

EDITORS CHOICESlideshow: Fast food in China - Feb-01 China embraces eat-and-go culture - Jan-31 High spirits lift Chinese liquor price 20% - Jan-31 Rising costs and lower demand hit food stocks - Jan-27 McDonalds profits rise despite soft winter sales - Jan-24 beyondbrics: China - May-12The countrys food service industry has recorded double-digit annual growth since 2003 but is still only half the size of the US market, says AlixPartners, a consulting firm in China. The industry, estimated at about Rmb2,000bn ($303bn) in 2009, is forecast to grow to about Rmb3,000bn by 2014, according to industry estimates. Multinational fast food chains, such as KFC and McDonalds, arrived early and have come to dominate the market for western quick service meals. Yum Brands, the US group that owns the KFC chain, opens more than one new restaurant in China every day. And it predicts it earned more operating profit in 2010 in China than in the US, for the first time. Yum expects soon to have a 3:1 market share lead over its nearest fast food rival, but McDonalds is investing heavily to catch up. The US burger group took two decades to get to 1,000 restaurants in China, but expects to take only four years to get to 2,000.

McDonalds even offers home delivery in China. And now that China boasts the worlds largest auto market, it plans to equip half of its new mainland restaurants with drive-through windows. But the battle for stomach share in China is about more than fried chicken and Big Macs. Thanks in part to an influx of venture capital and private equity funds in recent years, Asian fast food chains are increasingly competitive. Global brands are running into fierce local chains that are good at branding, and have raised the money to go national, says Shaun Rein, of China Market Research in Shanghai. Lim Meng Ann, China head of Actis, a private equity fund that invested $50m in Xiabu Xiabu, a Chinese hotpot chain, at the height of the global financial crisis in 2008, says that given a choice, Chinese people would always prefer Chinese food. He adds that Xiabus revenues have grown by well over 50 per cent per year. No one is predicting that the Chinese will forswear burgers and fries anytime soon, not to mention KFCs more indigenous offerings, including a dish sometimes referred to as rice porridge with pork and 1,000-year old eggs for breakfast a dish so popular it often sells out before 8am. But diners recently riding on Shanghais Lunch Bus a free shuttle that takes white-collar workers from the citys financial district to a local fast food emporium made clear that, given the time and the choice, they prefer Asian. Yan Bo, 25, a vegetable oil trader at a local bank, says he is too Chinese to lunch at McDonalds. Last year I was very busy and I ate McDonalds five times in one week, he says ruefully. But I only do that if I have no time at all. Its too unhealthy. Lunch bus riders named Ajisen, a Japanese noodle chain that offers 98 menu choices, and

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