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4 Major Burger Chains Falling Out of Favor With Customers

Sentiments range from "most hated" to forgettable.

The great thing about the fast-food industry is that as soon as your go-to chain starts to drop the ball, there's another one right there to take its place. Big fan of Burger King but disappointed by its recent changes to the value menu? It might be time to take your business to Wendy's. Or Culver's. Or Hardee's. Or Carl's Jr. Really, take your pick.

Whether it's declining food quality, increasing prices, or poor customer service (or some combination of all three), there are a number of ways a restaurant chain can lose the trust of even its most die-hard fans.

Nowhere is this more true than among burger chains, which, according to a 2020 estimate, make up 30% of the overall fast-food market. Here's a look at four major burger joints struggling to hold onto their customer bases.

For more fast-food news, check out 8 Worst Fast-Food Burgers to Stay Away From Right Now.


Burger King

burger king

Burger King has long had a reputation as a close second to McDonald's, but in 2021, the chain officially lost that title to Wendy's. The pigtailed chain outperformed Burger King in system-wide sales, despite being a fraction of its size in terms of overall restaurant count. And just a year prior, Burger King was ranked the "most hated" fast-food chain in America. Heavy is the head that wears the crown.


Steak 'n Shake

Steak n shake restaurant

A legacy brand struggling to find its footing in the current fast-food market, Steak 'n Shake had a roller coaster of a year in 2020. Mired in debt, the chain went on a store-closing spree during the pandemic, losing 13% of its total restaurant count. Things (somehow) got worse in 2021, when creditors came calling for $153 million. The chain made headlines when it had to be bailed out at the last minute by its parent company, Biglari Holdings.

Generally, customers seem to be dismayed with Steak 'n Shake's frustrating wait times and slipping food quality.



Eric Glenn / Shutterstock

Fraudulence and an impossibly complicated menu are at the heart of this California-based "better burger" chain, which was exposed in 2020 as (more or less) a "pyramid scheme." BurgerIM is currently on the hook for about $57 million in refunds to its hundreds of (defrauded) franchisees and is being sued by the US Attorney General for breaches of the Fair Trade Commission Act. And their burgers are nothing to write home about, except for the fact that they take forever to make—causing frustrating wait times.



Fuddruckers restaurant
Lori Martin/Shutterstock

Similar to Steak 'n Shake, Fuddruckers is another legacy burger chain struggling to find an audience in the current fast-food market. Since its founding in 1979, the chain has been handed off from one parent company to another—about once every ten years, in fact. It narrowly avoided liquidation in 2021, when its debt-ridden parent company, Luby's, sold it to a holdings company called Black Titan Franchises.

Fuddruckers' current restaurant count is an anemic 92, and while the food gets a pass, the general sentiment from customers seems to be that the chain is forgettable and outdated.

Owen Duff
Owen Duff is a freelance journalist based in Vermont, home of Ben & Jerry’s. Read more about Owen