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This Is the Least Trusted Fast Food Chain in the U.S., According to Data

A recent study reveals how your favorite fast food restaurant stacks up against the rest.

We may not depend on fast food restaurants to provide the healthiest eating options, but we do bank on them for quick and easy meals on the go for those busy days when we don't have enough time for a full sit-down meal—or for those days when some fries, a spicy chicken sandwich, and fountain soda just sound too good to pass up. Even though fast food chains tend to get a bad rap, customers say some are more dependable than others, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic when restaurants of all kinds have undergone a whole slew of changes to keep feeding customers and help stop the spread of the virus. Curious to find out how your favorite fast food option stacks up against the rest? At Best Life, we looked at the 2020-2021 American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) Restaurant Study to discover which fast food chain is the least trusted of them all.

For this study, ACSI randomly contacted 19,423 customers via email between April 2020 to March 2o21 and asked them to discuss their restaurant experiences, including the most popular fast food chains in the country. The respondents evaluated more than 20 chains based on 10 different factors: accuracy of food order, food quality, beverage quality, variety of food, variety of beverages, layout and cleanliness, courtesy and helpfulness of waitstaff, the speed with which food was received, website satisfaction, and the reliability of the restaurant's mobile app. Those results were then used to calculate an overall customer satisfaction score out of 100 for each fast food chain. At Best Life, we looked at the restaurants that received a below-average score (under 78) to see which fast food chains in the U.S. are the least trusted. Read on to find out which popular fast food option customers have the most complaints about!

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the exterior of an Arby's restaurant
JHVEPhoto / Shutterstock

ACSI customer satisfaction score (out of 100): 77

This popular sandwich restaurant was only one point away from an average customer satisfaction score. But it was down two points from the 79 it scored on the 2020 survey.

On the consumer review site Trustpilot, Arby's has a mere 1.9-star overall rating out of 5, with many customers noting that the items the fast food chain is best known for are lacking.

"I have tried sandwiches that sound great. But I have never been able to enjoy one," one Arby's customer wrote about a location in Ohio. "The hot sandwiches are never even warm—at best, cool to room temperature. Got one of the fish ones. The portion was great but cold fish, gross. …  I will not go there anymore."

Chipotle Mexican Grill

the exterior of a Chipotle restaurant
JHVEPhoto / Shutterstock

ACSI customer satisfaction score (out of 100): 77

Compared to last year's results, Chipotle's customer satisfaction score went down by three points. But with a score of 77, the Mexican restaurant was still pretty close to an average rating. On Consumer Affairs, the fast food chain seems to have a handful of happy customers, netting a 3.6 out of a 5-star overall customer rating. However, it seems that Chipotle might still have some improvements to make, especially in regards to portion sides.

"This will be the third AND LAST time they mess up an order of mine," a customer wrote about a location in North Carolina. "[The staff] adds things you do not want and leaves things off that you ordered. They are so small in the portions compared to their other locations. It is ridiculous. They also charged us two up charges of $4.00 total for a rice substitution, which they never advised us of. The food, in addition, is constantly cold and old-tasting."

Another Chipotle customer in Houston said: "The prices of a meal are not exactly cheap. When they pour the meat, the guacamole, or other ingredients, the servers give you small amounts instead of the full spoon which they are using to serve … forgetting that consumers are paying premium prices for their product."


Dunkin' drive-thru

ACSI customer satisfaction score (out of 100): 77

Like Chipotle and Arby's, Dunkin' got a decent customer satisfaction score this year. However, its rating was down two points from the ACSI 2020 survey, when the coffee chain got a 79. On Consumer Affairs, Dunkin' has a solid overall customer rating of 3.7 out of 5 stars, but customers have expressed that the chain's signature doughnuts aren't what they used to be.

"I purchased a dozen this am at around 10:30…of the 6 varieties bought, all were drying out already," one reviewer in Georgia wrote. "But my biggest complaint was the lack of filling in the supposedly 'filled' donuts: it was less than a tablespoon! So disappointing for something that used to be awesome."

A customer in Georgia customer added: "With the exception of a few stores, the donut quality is terrible. The donuts are not baked at the store and are delivered, and most of the time are not fresh and are doughy, even in the morning."

Papa John's

the exterior of a Papa John's restaurant
Ken Wolter / Shutterstock

ACSI customer satisfaction score (out of 100): 77

Papa John's has an average overall rating of 3.5 out of 5 stars on Consumer Affairs, and the pizza chain's ASCI score did drop a little bit year over year, from 78 to 77. It seems Papa John's lost that point because of the quality of its delivery service and poor management.

"Rude and unprofessional employees. You can bet that you will wait at least 90 min and when it does arrive, it will [be] cold," a customer in Virginia wrote. "Corporate does not care either. I've put in 3 requests for a call back through the website… Still nothing."

A reviewer in Ohio was also disappointed in the pizza they received from Papa John's. "I was trying to give it a chance, but they disappointed us. Not only was it super expensive for a small pizza but it was also rushed. The crust tasted like cardboard and the pizza wasn't even cut right. Such a disgrace," they said.

Burger King

the exterior of a Burger King restaurant
Jonathan Weiss / Shutterstock

ACSI customer satisfaction score (out of 100): 76

Burger King's customer satisfaction score may be below average at 76, but it's holding steady with the same rating it got on the ACSI survey in 2020. On Consumer Affairs, it also has a fair overall score, with a 3.6 out of a 5-star average overall customer rating. Still, the burger joint's food quality—or lack thereof—is a major issue for its customers.

"The order I just received is disgusting. My daughter bit and swallowed raw chicken," a customer wrote about a Burger King in Florida. "This is unacceptable. I call[ed] twice to report this to the business… and they [hung] up on the phone. What kind of service and poor quality. Please be careful … and check your food … Third time something similar happen[ed] to me there."

Another customer who ordered the 2 for $5 Whoppers in Florida also said their food was undercooked. "Second bite in, I realized my burger was not cooked, maybe put on a grill for 10 seconds each side. … It was literally NOT cooked, since I had already spent 15 minutes in the drive thru and many cars [were] still in line, I chose to just wrap up my burger and cook it when I got home. This wasn't just one sandwich. It was both. Very disappointed. [Even] if you're busy and rushed, food should at least be cooked."

Little Caesars

the exterior of a Little Caesars restaurant
Kristi Blokhin / Shutterstock

ACSI customer satisfaction score (out of 100): 76

Just like Burger King, Little Ceasars was two points away from the average score on the ACSI survey and its rating didn't change since 2020. But that doesn't mean the pizza chain is leaving customers impressed—it has a 2.1-star overall rating on Trustpilot for a reason. It seems poor quality pizza and rude staff are the two biggest problems customers report.

"The pizza is by far the worst I've ever had. The dough is thick and under cooked and tasteless. There's almost no sauce at all on it. It's by far the most disgusting pizza I've ever had," one reviewer wrote of their Little Caesars experience. "I would gladly pay double for a quality pizza. I threw it in the trash."

Another Little Caesars customer in Michigan said they tried to voice complaints both locally and to corporate, to no avail. "I have tried calling your corporate headquarters [but am] getting hung up on. Waiting for an hour and a half, nine people ahead of you? You're ridiculous to get a hold of. You can't talk to the managers at the stores [because] they are very rude and obnoxious."

Panda Express

the exterior of a Panda Express
Jeramey Lende / Shutterstock

ACSI customer satisfaction score (out of 100): 76

The fast food Chinese restaurant wasn't a part of the ACSI survey in 2020, but its below-average score of 76 on the 2021 report doesn't necessarily come as a surprise since Panda Express has an overall customer rating of 1.6 out of 5 stars on Trustpilot. It appears that Panda Express's low score could be because customers don't feel the prices match the quality of the food they're receiving, to put it politely.

"$14.00 meal that I wouldn't feed to a pig," a customer wrote about a Panda Express in Washington. "I ordered to-go orange chicken plus honey walnut shrimp (extra $1.25) and chow mein. Asked for extra soy sauce, received none, zero napkins or utensils, plus two rubbery egg rolls. Old, old, old chow mein, probably cooked in a.m., gummy chicken and shrimp. Shrimp sat in a serving pan so long, they were fried on one side."


the exterior of a Subway restaurant
24K-Production / Shutterstock

ACSI customer satisfaction score (out of 100): 75

On the ACSI survey, Subway's customer satisfaction score went down four points, the biggest drop year over year, from 79 to 75. And in the midst of COVID-19, customers on Consumer Affairs have said that some locations of this sandwich chain seem to be struggling to keep hygiene in mind. "As I observe [the owner] toast my sub, he starts sneezes all over the place," a customer wrote about a restaurant in California. "He wasn't even wearing a mask. To make matters worse, he takes my sub out of the toaster, sets it down on the prep counter, and began to ask me what toppings I'd want. I just looked at him… This owner didn't even excuse himself to go wash his hands, change his gloves, or wipe down the equipment." The customer said they decided not to complete their order and walked out instead.

Though Subway has still managed to keep an average overall customer rating of 3.5 out of 5 stars on Consumer Affairs, another thing customers point out is they feel they aren't getting what they're paying for. "I will be trying other sub shops that serve more meat. I am truly unhappy and not satisfied, especially because of the higher price for less meat," a Subway diner in Colorado wrote.

Dairy Queen

an exterior of a Dairy Queen restaurant
Ken Wolter / Shutterstock

ACSI customer satisfaction score (out of 100): 74

Dairy Queen wasn't previously ranked on the ACSI survey, but this year, it received a 74, which is the third-lowest score among fast food restaurants. And while it has a better reputation on Consumer Affairs, with a 3.7 overall customer rating out of 5 stars, customers have called D.Q. out for its long wait times, high prices, and quality that doesn't match.

"I am extremely amazed at how horrific that place looks," one wrote about a Dairy Queen in Texas. "The tile was coming up and missing on the floor. The poor workers didn't have much help and it took over 10 minutes to get my food. The most disturbing encounter during my visit was I was charged 69 cents for 1 honey mustard for a chicken tender kids meal. I can't comprehend how the owner of this location would charge their customers for condiments."

In Florida, another customer had an unsavory experience with their burger. "Since I was in my car, I left the wrapper around the burger and ate the entire burger with the exception of a piece of the bun that had no meat left on it. When I looked closely, the bun had mold on it. I was extremely disgusted. I returned with the piece of molded bread and spoke with the manager who apologized, refunded me for my meal, however, did not act like it was a big deal. It was…I did not know how much of the bun was actually molded that I had ingested. Needless to say they have lost my business forever because there is absolutely no excuse for that."

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Taco Bell

the exterior of a Taco Bell
JJava Designs / Shutterstock

ACSI customer satisfaction score (out of 100): 74

Taco Bell's ranking stayed the same on the ACSI survey year over year, tying with Dairy Queen on the 2021 report with a score of 74. On Consumer Affairs, however, customers seem to trust D.Q. a little more than Taco Bell, as it has a 3.4-star overall customer rating. According to diners, the Mexican-inspired fast food chain is not without its problems.

"It is my favorite thing to eat. Unfortunately, I won't return. My order was wrong over half the time. With how often I went there, I contacted Taco Bell to ask them to make it right as I was a frequent customer. No response. They don't care about their customers," one former Taco Bell fan in Wisconsin wrote.

Another in Virginia saw an employee drop food and not use proper protocol to handle the situation. "The young man preparing the food dropped a wrap on the floor and was going to keep the same gloves on after picking it up until another customer said something. Also when I said something to the manager, he was laughing and smirking and going slow on purpose. It was unacceptable. I will never dine or get take out from this Taco Bell again," they said.

Jack in the Box

A sign for and exterior of Jack in the Box restaurant in Temple, Arizona
Thomas Trompeter/Shutterstock

ACSI customer satisfaction score (out of 100): 73

Jack in the Box got a score of 73 on the ACSI survey for the second year in a row. On Consumer Affairs, this fast food chain has a 3.3 out of a 5-star overall customer rating, which guests say is because of how unfriendly the staff can be, especially when it comes to feedback.

"They were rude at the window and on the phone," one customer wrote about a Jack in the Box in Texas. "They didn't give me my onion rings, or 1 of my jumbo [Jack burgers] … We didn't check the bag when we were in line because of so many cars behind us… Checked and noticed we were short, so we went back and there were 7 cars in line, so we called and told the lady we had kind of a big order and we didn't get our onion rings and burger. She snapped at me and she said, 'I put them in your bag myself.'"

A California customer said they had a similar Jack in the Box experience when there were items missing from their order. "When they give you the order and don't wait to see if everything is there like you ordered and they go inside, then you realize a few things are missing. You try to tell them very politely but the manager comes running and screaming at you to get out and she doesn't want to hear you," the customer said.


the exterior of a Popeyes restaurant in Houston, Texas
Brett Hondow/Shutterstock

ACSI customer satisfaction score (out of 100): 73

Popeyes' 74 on last year's ASCI survey wasn't a great one, but on this year's, things got a bit worse as the Louisiana-inspired chain went down another point. Similarly, on Trustpilot, Popeyes has a very low 1.6 out of a 5-star overall customer rating. And although this restaurant is known for its chicken and biscuits, customers have said that these specific dishes aren't very tasty.

"I use to love me some Popeyes, but today after trying the nuggets I am very disappointed in everything I got, except the shrimp," a customer wrote about location in Colorado. "The chicken had VERY little seasoning… NO SALT AT ALL… The potatoes, exactly the same… The biscuit was dry… Just not impressed."

Another customer in the Midwest called their Popeyes' meal their "worst dining experience in years" due to lack of options and unsanitary practices. According to the diner, "Staff was apathetic towards customer satisfaction. Sold out of many items and offered to provide substitutes, but they too were substituted with other things. Waited a ridiculously long time for nuggets, only to be handed the wrong ones anyway. Kitchen was horrendously dirty, garbage overflowing, food covering the floor, all in view from the dining room. At one point a worker reached into the garbage, took something out and looked at it, threw it back in the garbage, and returned to … the kitchen. Never returning again."

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a sign and carhop spaces for Sonic Drive-In restaurant in Houston, Texas

ACSI customer satisfaction score (out of 100): 73

Like Popeyes, Sonic's ASCI score dropped by one point this year. The drive-in chain also has a very poor score on Trustpilot, though not as bad as Popeyes' with a 2.9 out of a 5-star overall customer rating. On the review site, many customers shared their experiences with Sonic's poor quality food and unprofessional staff.

"I order a chicken sandwich meal after waiting in the drive-through line for a rather long time while watching an employee play on her phone," one diner wrote about a Sonic in Alabama. "When I got my drink, they gave me the smallest straw possible and the employee was laughing about how they won't have any until tomorrow. The chicken was gross, with ketchup and mayo all over the place and the fries [were] cold. I am a very unhappy customer and very dissatisfied."

A California Sonic customer said they also received their food cold not once, but twice. "It had been years since our last visit. … Two burgers were delivered to our car and came completely COLD. We complained and returned [the] burgers. Second set arrived fairly quickly and were COMPLETELY COLD again! My wife and I will not be coming back!"


the exterior of a Wendy's restaurant
BCFC / Shutterstock

ACSI customer satisfaction score (out of 100): 73

On the ACSI survey, Wendy's customer satisfaction score went down three points, from a 76 to a 73. Customers on Trustpilot seem dissatisfied as well, giving the popular fast food chain a 2.1 out of a 5-star rating over the inaccuracy of their orders and poor customer service.

"Ordered a salad with no cheese at 9:50 p.m. on our way home. We get home and there's cheese on it, so we call them to tell them there was cheese on it and that we would like to bring it back to get a new one," one customer wrote about a Wendy's in Indiana. "The manager was very rude to us, started cursing at us over the phone, keep in mind we were very nice to her… She told us she can't be in 10 places at once and this is coming from the night manager… She told us to get over our self and called us all kinds of names on the phone, never offered to replace the salad, and she hung [up] the phone upon us."

Another reviewer said their customer service experience was lacking for another reason. "The fries were really soggy. And they put no toppings on any of the burgers. I complained online, it said a manager would contact you within three business days. I never received a response," they said.


the exterior of a McDonald's restaurant

ACSI customer satisfaction score (out of 100): 70

With a score of 70, the world's largest fast food restaurant is also the one customers have the worst impression of. McDonald's reputation hasn't improved year over year either—the chain received the same score in the 2020 ASCI survey, when it was also voted the least trusted fast food restaurant. And even though it has a 3.8 out of a 5-star overall customer ranking on Consumer Affairs, diners don't necessarily feel like they're getting their bang for their buck.

"I ordered a fruit and yogurt parfait," one wrote about a McDonald's in Florida. "I was disappointed to see that the already small size cup has gotten even smaller, like half the size it used to be AND the price has gone up… To me, it's just not worth the $1.29 for maybe 5 spoons of yogurt, one mushy strawberry, and 2 blueberries."

Another customer also said they've found that the staff is hardly pleasant. "I was at the McDonald's in San Diego … [There were] errors in my order and there was a rude manager who was disrespectful," they said. "He argued with me and literally laughed at me when I voiced my concern. You need to educate your managers on how to be respectful of their customers!"

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