Fancy McDonald’s for its World Famous fries and Wendy’s for her never-frozen cheeseburgers? While many fast-food-frequenting folks swear by their favorite drive-thru joint, have you ever wondered which restaurant continues to steal the heart of the majority and bridges the gap between our polarized population?
Nation’s Restaurant News has—and to unearth this info, partnered up with Datassential, a consumer research brand, to release its annual Consumer Picks survey. “Survey respondents were asked if their last visit to each chain was driven by convenience or by a true desire to experience that brand. The resulting True Loyalty score is the percentage of visits that were motivated by the brand and not by circumstance,” NRN reports. To help make the data more digestible, we’ve ranked America’s 30 most popular fast food spots based solely on brand-driven customer loyalty. Wondering how McDonald’s, Burger King, and Wendy’s ranked? You’d be surprised to discover that they’re just some of The 30 Least Popular Fast Food Restaurants in America.
44% of respondents hit up the smoothie shop for a frequent produce fix. Although smoothies are one of our favorite weight loss drinks, many of Jamba’s options contain more than a day’s worth of added sugars and more calories than in your average meal. Yikes!
Arby’s has the meats, which keeps 44% of respondents coming back. That’s bad news for the most of us, as a recent study in the journal Nutrients discovered that a vegan diet can protect against obesity, hypertension, type-2 diabetes, and cardiovascular mortality.
Whether you want to treat yourself to Timbits or stay on track with mixed berry oatmeal, 45% of customers know that Tim Hortons is the place to pick.
DD’s devoted 45% must love the affordably priced cups of caffeine and the ever-changing array of seasonal doughnuts.
The Minnesota-based coffee shop is faring well across the nation, with 45% of survey respondents claiming they wake up and smell Caribou coffee. We personally love to pair a hot Americano with the Egg White and Turkey Bacon sandwich, which packs in 17 grams of muscle-maintaining protein.
With “bigger and better” subs, Blimpie scored a 45% on the loyalty scale. Good thing their menu is studded with plenty of healthy options such as the Turkey and Avocado sandwich and the Buffalo Chicken salad.
Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen
A high 46% visit Popeyes on the reg, but clearly not for the spinach. Contrary to popular belief, it is possible to stay slim at the Louisiana kitchen: Just stick to ordering lunch from the Live Well menu where every item clocks in at 350 calories or less.
46% of survey respondents return for Hungry Howie’s flavored crusts. After all, cheat meals would be incomplete without a zesty cajun crunch—with extra veggies for good measure, of course.
Dickey’s Barbecue Pit
46% re-order the house-smoked meats and holiday-esque feasts. Just make sure to pack away some of the food for tomorrow, as downing a giant plate of the sodium-filled stuff won’t do much toning for your tummy.
Fresh frozen custard, ButterBurgers, snack-worthy sides… No wonder 46% continue placing their order at Culver’s.
Cold Stone Creamery
When you’re craving a chilly sweet treat, nothing hits the spot better than ice cream paired with a presentation. 46% love personalizing their dessert and watching the staff throw a delicious mess of chocolate and rainbow sprinkles around on a frozen granite stone.
Who doesn’t love a good bagel and schmear on the weekends? 46% opt for switching up their usual sesame roll for one of Bruegger’s rosemary olive oil or cinnamon sugar bagels.
Tropical Smoothie Cafe
Smoothies are one of our favorite weight loss drinks because they’re jam-packed with fiber-filled fruits and versatile enough to drink on the reg. But this cafe’s 47% loyal fanbase seems to be loading up on way more sugar than is recommended for an entire day.
With a plethora of crusts, cheesy toppings, and grilled veggies to choose from, it’s no surprise that 47% of pizza lovers keep coming back. If you’re watching your waistline, you can still hit up the Hut—just ask for the skinny slice with extra broccoli and peppers.
Although Jersey Mike’s 1,200 locations may not trump Subway’s over 25,000 restaurants across the states, 47% still keep coming back for Mike over Jared.
Jason has a die-hard fan base of 47%. Next time you hit up this deli, ask them to recreate one of our 20 Healthy Sandwich Recipes That Will Make You Swoon.
47% return for the burgers and fries—but what about the guys’ hot dogs? Does anyone actually order those?
With better ingredients and better pizza, there’s no question as to why 48% continue carrying out pies. Just watch out for the Papa Rewards program; it incentivizes buying more pies by giving you free food: Aka, bad news for your belly.
Rita’s Italian Ice
Ices are usually a slimmer choice than full-fat ice cream. But Rita’s frozen treats (think PB&J ices and creamy custard) may still widen your waistline if not spooned in moderation. Nevertheless, a whopping 48% don’t seem to mind.
Chipotle Mexican Grill
E.coli outbreaks aside, we love this Mexican chain for its customizable options, lean proteins, and mouthwatering handmade guac. For the 49% that keep coming back, make sure you’re steering clear of the queso and chips.
Round Table Pizza
49% of the western pizza chain’s loyal customers agree that grabbing lunch on the go is “So fresh. So easy.” But one glance at their menu warns us that you’re better off skipping the specialty pies and building your own pizza (hold the extra cheese, please!).
With a 50% loyal fan base, it turns out that America doesn’t actually run on Dunkin’. If you can’t look away from that luring Krispy Kreme box in the breakroom, skip the Boston Cream and reach for the Eat This!-approved Sugar Doughnut.
A staggering 50% of survey respondents (hopefully) stay slim by biting into the grilled chicken nuggets over these 16 Things You Should Never Order From Chick-fil-A.
What the heck is Whataburger, you may ask? Well 50% know exactly what and where this regional joint is as well as return for its menu’s oversized meaty masterpieces and waiters’ southern hospitality.
General Tso’s chicken and teriyaki bowls may tempt the returning 50% to reorder the same takeout dish, but perhaps Pei Wei fans should lighten up their go-tos by opting for the hand-rolled mango california roll or the protein-packed poke bowl with sauce on the side.
Seafood is a solid, slimming choice when your healthy eating plan calls for a change from grilled chicken. 51% seem to dig Captain D’s but hopefully don’t order the wild-caught salmon fried.
You-Pick-Two, broccoli cheddar soup, hearty salads, and toasty bread justify the 52% of this bakery-cafe’s devotees. With so many options to choose from, don’t let your willpower make the choice when it’s your turn to place your order. Use our guide: 10 Best & Worst Menu Items At Panera.
We crowned The Fastest Growing Chicken Chain in the nation, and it’s no surprise that it scored an above-average 53%.
Think of Papa Murphy’s as the brick and mortar version of the freezer aisle: the company lets you take and bake the pizza pies at home. Turns out that 60% of the survey respondents prefer to play chef for the day.
All hail the prom queen and valedictorian of all fast food restaurant chains in America: 62% of respondents return to In-N-Out whether it be to dig into the outrageous animal-style fries or the celeb-favorite protein-style burgers. Most loyal fans—including Reese Witherspoon, Adele, Sam Smith, and Emma Roberts—just can’t get enough.