America's least favorite fast food restaurants

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Americans spend billions of dollars on fast food every year, which is funny, because they’re not all that satisfied with it. People enjoy full-service restaurants much more than fast-food ones, even when it comes to speed of service, according to the 2014 American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), but people keep going back.

Love-hate relationships with fast food are common: It’s often unhealthy and addictive, but it’s convenient and cheap (until it adds up — Americans spent $117 billion on fast food in 2011, according to Fast Food Marketing). As a result, it’s unsurprising that some of the most popular fast-food chains are also among the least liked from a customer-satisfaction standpoint.

Here are the bottom five, from bad to worst:

5. Burger King
ACSI score: 76 (out of 100), same score as 2013

4. Dunkin’ Donuts
Score: 75, down 5 points

3. KFC
Score: 74, down 7 points

2. Taco Bell
Score: 72, down 2 points

1. McDonald’s
Score: 71, down 2 points

Starbucks scored the same as Burger King (76), which was a four-point slide from last year for the coffee chain. The scores are based on 4,572 random customer interviews between Jan 13 and March 11.

People may be less satisfied with these traditional drive-thru kings, but enthusiasm for fast food isn’t exactly waning. The best experiences seem to come from smaller chains like Panera and Chipotle, which were grouped together in the “other” category that held the top spot with a score of 84. The remaining spots in the top five were taken by pizza joints: Papa John’s (82), Pizza Hut (82), Little Caesar (80) and Domino’s (80).

[Related Article: A Simple Checklist to Get Out of Debt]

It’s unsurprising that eating out is a common budget-killer (the most common, according to some financial advisers), and using a credit card when doing so means you’re likely to spend more than if you were paying with cash. And if you tend to carry credit card debt from month to month, especially if it’s higher than 30% of your credit limit, you’re not really doing your credit standing any favors. (You can get an idea of your credit standing by checking your credit scores for free on Credit.com, where you can also get a breakdown of what’s influencing your credit, and a plan to improve it.)

A fast food addiction can easily deplete your bank account or trash your credit if you thoughtlessly charge all those runs to the drive-thru, so make sure you’re considering the whole picture before eating out: Convenience and speed may not be worth it when it comes to quality and cost.


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