Best chain restaurants rated

Consumer Reports

Consumer Reports rates 102 of the biggest eateries to help you win at restaurant roulette.

View gallery

.

Every day, Americans spend about $1.7 billion at the nation’s 970,000 restaurants—close to the amount they spend each year on indigestion remedies. Clearly, diners deserve a sure thing: a clean place that provides tasty food and good value. To find the best bets, we surveyed 47,565 readers who ate a total of 110,517 meals at 102 table-service chain restaurants—a step (sometimes a leap) up from fast-food joints.On one end are family-oriented, pot-roast-and-hash-brown restaurants such as Denny’s, IHOP, and Perkins, with simple décor, sturdy tableware, and a bill of about $10 per person for breakfast or lunch.

On the other, white-tablecloth eateries such as The Capital Grille, Ruth’s, Chris Steak House, and Morton’s Steakhouse, where guests can sample carpaccio and ahi tuna on fine china, sip wine in clubby surroundings, and pay more than $40 per person for dinner and drinks.

The rated restaurants serve cuisine for most palates: steaks and burgers, barbecue, seafood, Italian, Mexican, and Asian. Some chains have a niche: fondue at The Melting Pot; hibachi cooking at Benihana; Cajun fare at Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen.



More from
Consumer Reports:

Best places to buy appliances

Best and worst kitchen cookware

Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers or sponsors on Yahoo!

What we found

Nine chains earned especially high marks across the board for the seven attributes in our ratings—taste, value, service, mood, noise, menu, and cleanliness—and were praised for menu variety, cleanliness, and a lack of noise. They were:

Biaggi’s Ristorante Italiano, focusing on big portions and personal attention.

Black Angus Steakhouse, for flame-grilled steaks with an “over-the-campfire flavor."

Bob Evans, for breakfast and homey fare.

Bravo Cucina Italiana, for “upscale affordable dining” in a “Roman ruin” décor.

First Watch, for eggs, pancakes, and sandwiches.

J. Alexander’s, for American classics, sandwiches, salads, and specialties such as grilled fish with mango papaya salsa.

Le Peep, for eggs, crepes, and salads.

Elmer’s, for pancakes and comfort food.

Fatz Eatz & Drinkz, for grilled or fried sandwiches, entrées, and finger foods.

View gallery

.

Among the lower-rated were two family restaurants (“family” because they’re typically informal, cater to kids, are open long hours, and serve no liquor): Friendly’s, where “we are committed to quality in everything we do,” and Waffle House, where “we are not in the food business … we are in the People business.”

Both drew relatively low marks for cleanliness and mood; Friendly’s was also criticized for lackluster service. The pub-style Buffalo Wild Wings Grill & Bar was another laggard, criticized for value and noise.

On average, readers were very satisfied with roughly half of the 102 chains. But there’s room for improvement. Only Cheddar’s Casual Café, which touts “always-affordable food,” received a top mark for value, and just 19 chains got especially high marks for taste. On one-fourth of all visits, readers found their restaurant too noisy.

During one in 10 visits, the wait staff was slow, inattentive, pushy, messy, or mistake-prone. No surprise, perhaps, that there were a fair number of small tippers among our respondents. During about 20 percent of visits, guests left a tip of less than 15 percent; during 2 percent of visits, they left less than 10 percent.

Chains with the highest percentage of tips below 15 percent were Applebee’s, Buffalo Wild Wings, Cheddar’s, Country Kitchen, Don Pablo’s, El Torito, Joe’s Crab Shack, Logan’s Roadhouse, Lone Star Steakhouse, McGrath’s, Shari’s, and Shoney’s.

Patrons singled out First Watch and Legal Seafoods as most likely to offer healthful dishes. Least likely to sell healthful fare were Buffalo Wild Wings, Quaker Steak & Lube, Waffle House, Hooters, and Johnny Rockets, according to respondents.

View gallery

.
Getty Images / Tasos Katopodis
Spirited competition among the chains means that consumers can use a toolbox of tactics to find bargains. Here are some examples:

  • Eat when others don’t. That’s a surefire way to save. On Mondays and Tuesdays, Red Lobster customers get a discount on some shrimp entrées. At Applebee’s, the reward for late-night dining is half-price appetizers.

  • Eat at the bar. At Bravo Cucina Italiana, guests can sit at the bar and order off the Bar Bites menu for as little as $3.95. Until 7 p.m., Fleming’s offers five cocktails, glasses of wine, and appetizers at the bar, each for $6.

  • Show your age. On Tuesdays at Fatz Eatz & Drinkz, guests 50 and older can order from a special menu ($6-to-$8 entrées) between 3 p.m. and 10 p.m. For people 55 and older, Perkins has inexpensive lunches and dinners with two sides every day. Saltgrass Steak House and Chart House will take 10 percent off the bills of AARP members; at Denny’s, AARP members save 20 percent off their bill from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Revealing your age can net benefits even if you’re not over 50: At The Cheesecake Factory, the birthday celebrant gets a free scoop of ice cream.

  • Eat with others. Applebee’s, Chili’s, and O’Charley’s have “two for” deals consisting of one shareable appetizer and two full-sized entrées for $20. P.F. Chang’s has a four-course Meal For Two for $40. Maggiano’s and Buca di Beppo serve heaping portions on large platters, family style, and Buca di Beppo also has smaller platters designed for two or four people. (Having seen those platters, we suspect they could easily feed more.)

  • Check in on Facebook. That’s where many restaurants reveal their latest promotions. By “liking” the restaurant or just visiting the page, we found offers and clickable coupons for a free appetizer with a paid entrée (Chili’s), free dessert when buying the Italian dinner for two (Romano’s Macaroni Grill), and $10 off the purchase of two dinner entrées (Carrabba’s).

Copyright © 2006-2012 Consumers Union of U.S., Inc. No reproduction, in whole or in part, without written permission.


Sorry you didn't like this comment. Please provide a reason below.

Are you sure?
Rating failed. Try again.
Request failed. Try again.
We will promote constructive and witty comments to the top, so everyone sees them!
Sorry, we can’t load comments right now. Try again.

    Recommended for You

    • Fox News Host Brenda Buttner Dead at 55

      Brenda Buttner, host of the Fox News show Bulls and Bears, has died after a battle with cancer. She was 55.

      People
    • Trump's Russia scandal takes an unexpected turn

      On Friday afternoon, FBI Director James Comey delivered a classified, hour-long briefing to the Senate Intelligence Committee on the Russia scandal, and soon after, the Senate Intelligence Committee sent “formal requests to more than a dozen organizations, agencies and individuals, asking them to preserve all materials related to the committee’s investigation” into the controversy. We don’t know much about how the briefing went – committee members were tight-lipped following Comey’s presentation – though Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) tweeted late Friday that he’s “now very confident” that the committee will conduct “thorough bipartisan investigation” into Russia’s “interference and influence.” Reading

      MSNBC q
    • First-Grade Teacher Suspended Over 'Illegal Aliens' Post: School District

      The elementary school teacher advocated reporting undocumented immigrants, according to school district officials, who suspended her.

      Inside Edition
    • Photos of the day - February 20, 2017 (21 photos)

      Orthodox priests take part in a procession commemorating the third anniversary of the Ukrainian pro-European Union mass protests in 2014, in central Kiev, Ukraine; a demonstrator dressed as Donald Trump poses for photos before the “Not My President’s Day” rally in Central Park in New York City; and, the Milwaukee Brewers’ Neftali Feliz throws during a spring training baseball workout in Phoenix, Ariz. These are just a few of the photos of the day for February 20, 2017. See more news-related photo galleries and follow us on Yahoo News Photo Tumblr.

      Yahoo News Photo Staff
    • Milo Yiannopoulos Could Be Fired by Breitbart Over Pedophilia Comments (Report)

      Milo Yiannopoulos could stand to lose his job as editor at Breitbart News over newly unearthed comments he once made about pedophilia, the FOX Business Network reported. According to the financial network “there is a fierce internal debate at Breitbart over whether he should remain with the website over his latest comments,” with some at the right-wing site telling Fox News that Yiannopoulos could be dismissed as early as end of the day Monday. Yiannopoulos was disinvited from Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on Monday after a video of him talking about pedophilia resurfaced over the weekend.

      The Wrap
    • Dear Abby: He keeps insulting wife about her past

      DEAR ABBY: Because I had a promiscuous past prior to getting married, it was understandable that my husband and I have gone through some rough patches. It’s been three years since our wedding, and he still can’t let it go sometimes. A recent argument just escalated into his calling me a whore and stupid. We have a beautiful little girl together, so it’s not like I can just up and go whenever I want. When is enough, enough? Where is the point that I can give in to the thought that I can’t do it anymore? Or is this just what marriage is? We have already done counseling, and it just made it worse. I feel really alone, so can you please give me some feedback? — ROUGH PATCH DEAR ROUGH PATCH: If your

      Chicago Sun-Times q
    • MYSTERY: Half-eaten shark on Florida beach raises speculation about what killed it

      A half-eaten shark that washed up on a Florida beach Saturday raised questions about a bigger fish possibly lurking in the water. A Volusia County Beach Safety Ocean Rescue lifeguard snapped a photo of the shark on New Smyrna Beach. Beach Safety spokeswoman Tammy Morris told News 4 Jax that the shark was “definitely” eaten by a bigger fish. She added that the shark was either a blacktip or spinner shark. A 14-foot great white shark named Katherine was spotted off the Florida coast in January. Another great white shark was spotted in the waters on Feb. 1, Florida wildlife officials said. Morris said half-eaten sharks do not wash up on the beach often, but she has seen it before. Officials said

      Fox News q
    • Entertainment Tonight
    • Dozens fired after skipping work to participate in 'A Day Without Immigrants' protests

      Across the U.S. employers fired hundreds of protestors who skipped work to participate in rallies.

      CNBC.com q
    • Brenda Buttner Dies: Fox News ‘Bulls And Bears’ Host Was 55

      Brenda Buttner, host of Fox News Channel's Bulls and Bears , has died after a battle with cancer. She was 55. The news was confirmed by Your World 's Neil Cavuto, who shared a special tribute to Buttner during the show. "She took stock of life much more than any stock in life,” Cavuto said. “It’s what separated her from everyone else in this business. Not just dollars, you see, Brenda had depth." He continued: “Let it be known that Brenda Buttner made us want to watch a…

      Deadline
    • Melania Trump's sister shows rare behind-the-scenes look

      (CNN)Melania Trump is beginning to forge her own path as America's first lady, assembling a team of aides and advisers. But the name of one longtime confidante, and perhaps her most trusted friend, won't be announced with a news release or statement or a new title: her sister, Ines Knauss. Knauss, Trump's older sister, lives just blocks from Trump Tower in the Trump Park Avenue property, public records confirm. She was Trump's maid of honor at her 2005 Palm Beach wedding, People magazine reported at the time. And the first lady called Knauss "an incredible woman and a friend" in her July speech at the Republican National Convention. And the sister of the famously private Slovenian-born first

      CNN q
    • This 41-year-old, ex-Cy Young winner is ready to make a comeback

      Eric Gagne hasn’t pitched in the majors the past eight seasons. New York Yankees legend Yogi Berra once summed up baseball by saying, “it ain’t over, ’til it’s over,” but we’re not sure this is what he meant. Despite not pitching in the majors since 2008, 41-year-old, former Cy Young winner Eric Gagne believes it’s time for a comeback.

      Big League Stew
    • All 23 TV Shows That Have Been Renewed or Canceled This Season (Updating Photos)

      RENEWED: Grey’s Anatomy (ABC)The seminal Shondaland drama will return in the fall for Season 14.

      The Wrap
    • Inside Edition
    • Samsung may swap out the Galaxy Note 7’s hot battery to sell you a safe, refurbished version

      Samsung just might be considering selling refurbished Note 7, swapping out the battery for one that isn't so problematic, so it can claw back some of the lost revenue. Nothing has been officially confirmed quite yet.

      Digital Trends
    • Workers Fired After Not Showing Up on `A Day Without Immigrants`

      Dozens of people in Denver say they were fired for taking part in "A Day Without Immigrants" protest last week.

      Tribune
    • Priscilla Presley Confirms She's Caring for Granddaughters as Lisa Marie Presley’s Husband Is Investigated for Child Abuse

      Priscilla Presley has broken her silence over her daughter Lisa Marie Presley’s bitter custody battle and confirmed she’s caring for her twin granddaughters. “Thank you from the bottom of my heart for “all” your positive support,” she wrote above a photo of the sisters smiling and cuddling one another.

      Us Weekly
    • NASA Has Made A Huge Discovery About Planets Outside Our Solar System

      Exoplanets are widely believed to be the best hope of finding life elsewhere in the universe. 

      International Business Times
    • David Cassidy: Looking Back at the Former Teen Heartthrob’s Ups and Downs

      The actor had won hearts worldwide as the hunky, young star of The Partridge Family in the 1970s. Despite unbelievable fame, the decades that followed were marked with turmoil for Cassidy, now 66. At the peak of his early career, Cassidy played some 350 concerts in 17 countries while releasing 10 Partridge albums, eight solo albums and 17 singles, PEOPLE reported in 1983.

      People
    • Rick Santorum defends President Trump's frequent presidential golfing

      In his first four weeks in office, President Trump has visited two of his golf courses near his Mar-a-Lago private club in Florida a combined six times, or an average of 1.5 golf outings per weekend. Trump has not been very open about his golfing, with aides appearing to downplay the president's time on the links and keeping mum on whom he golfed with — though social media often fills in the blanks. On Sunday, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters that after "a couple" of holes on Saturday, Trump "played a couple of holes this morning, but I am not going to disclose any of the others that were there." Then Clear Sports tweeted a photo of Trump standing on the golf course Sunday next to its CEO, former Yankee star Paul O'Neill, and top-ranked pro golfer Rory McIlroy.

      The Week q