Whether a day long ride or part of a longer journey, food is definitely part of any motorcycle trip. Understanding the ideal choices are locally-owned establishments that capture the region or offer a unique menu, sometimes restaurant chains are the only apparent choice.
However, when faced with a choice of two or three national names, which is best to melt away the miles already laid and prepare riders the journey ahead?
The answer could be found in a recently completed study conducted by Nation’s Restaurant Reviews, a website that focuses on the food industry. The ‘Consumer Picks Survey’, now in its sixth year, includes 173 brands grouped into four major categories: Limited Service, Casual Dining, Fine Dining and Family Dining.
As every road trip demands its own level of dining, Clutch and Chrome won’t look at the different categories in this article, instead discuss the top 25 dining choices spread over all the categories. We’ll let the rider choose whether they are in the mood for paper napkins or are looking to be spoiled with white linen service.
Look for a follow up article from Clutch and Chrome focusing on the rankings for casual dining.
Categories such as atmosphere, value, reputation, food quality, cleanliness and the likelihood of recommending the chain are all considered in the study. Our personal favorite among the ranking categories has to be ‘Craveability’ which we should note, Microsoft Word doesn’t consider a real word so don’t try to play it in ‘Scrabble’.
Although these are restaurant chains, not all the brands have a national presence, naturally leading to some unfamiliar names. This gives another benefit to having this Clutch and Chrome article bookmarked for those moments bikers find themselves far from home and faced with confusing choices.
What became quickly apparent, many names seen in headlines predicting doom and gloom for the chain are moving up in the ongoing study. The Olive Garden and Red Lobster are two that moved up from 2015 to the more recent study of 2016 with the restaurants enjoying a ranking of 15 and 10 accordingly.
While some names may be unfamiliar, being the best of their particular corner of the culinary world in this overall study gives road-worn bikers a great indication they might be a good bet.
Examples of this would be for riders yearning for a burger, In-N-Out Burger not only made their way to number 12 on this study, they are the only hamburger franchise in the top 25. Looking for pizza? The same can be said for Mellow Mushroom Pizza Bakers, the only restaurant chain to toss their dough into the study.
The top semi-casual restaurant chain is ‘The Cheesecake Factory’ which moved from number 8 to the lofty position of 6 in the 2016 study. The 187-unit chain was the top pick within Casual Dining in this year’s Consumer Picks survey, earning the highest marks for Food Quality, Cleanliness, Reputation, Likely to Recommend and, unsurprisingly, for Menu Variety.
When a group of riders needs a menu with variety, The Cheesecake Factory should be an obvious choice. The restaurant’s broad menu of more than 250 items are all made from scratch, from Avocado Eggrolls to Pasta Carbonara, a feature that sets the brand apart.
A corporate spokesperson noted internal surveys indicate about one quarter of customers say they come specifically for the legendary cheesecakes, which are available in about 70 varieties throughout the year, from White Chocolate Raspberry Truffle to Caramel Pecan Turtle.
However, repeat customers should look for the addition of a new ‘Super’ Foods menu, with dishes like almond-crusted salmon served over kale; shaved Brussels sprouts and quinoa; and the Super Antioxidant Salad with spinach, kale, broccoli, avocado, roasted pear and blueberries with a lemon-blueberry vinaigrette.
Come for the varied menu but don't leave without the cheesecake! - The Cheesecake Factory
Finally, the study’s top five is dominated by restaurants considered in the industry as ‘white tablecloth chains’, Morton’s, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, The Capital Grill, Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar and McCormick & Schmick’s.
We mentioned earlier, it’s up to the hungry bikers which type of dining they need to shed the miles. If fine dining is on the menu, the top five scored in a pretty tight range, with the difference in most of the scores being statistically insignificant. Ruth’s Chris, for one, had high scores for Food Quality, Cleanliness, Reputation and Likelihood to Recommend.
According to Nation’s Restaurant Reviews website Morton’s may be more affordable than initially thought with the restaurant chain recently introducing lower-priced items, including a 6-ounce filet, now its top selling steak.
Of course there is the challenge of valet parking a motorcycle.
Here are the restaurants as they were ranked in the 2016 Nation’s Restaurant Reviews Consumer Picks Survey;
25: Smoothie King - Overall Score: 67.0 - 2015 Rank: No. 57
24: Rubio's - Overall Score: 67.0 - 2015 Rank: No. 21
23: Texas Roadhouse - Overall Score: 67.5 - 2015 Rank: No. 18
22: Cracker Barrel Old Country Store - Overall Score: 68.0 - 2015 Rank: No. 19
21: BJ's Restaurant & Brewhouse - Overall Score: 68.0 - 2015 Rank: No. 27
20: P.F. Chang's China Bistro - Overall Score: 68.3 - 2015 Rank: No. 13
19: Chevys Fresh Mex - Overall Score: 68.9 - 2015 Rank: No. 31
18: Mellow Mushroom Pizza Bakers - Overall Score: 69.0 - 2015 Rank: No. 71
17: Chick-fil-A - Overall Score: 69.6 - 2015 Rank: No. 20
16: Ninety Nine Restaurant & Pub - Overall Score: 69.9 - 2015 Rank: No. 59
15: Olive Garden - Overall Score: 70.0 - 2015 Rank: No. 22
14: Carrabba's Italian Grill - Overall Score: 70.4 - 2015 Rank: No. 12
13: Romano's Macaroni Grill - Overall Score: 70.5 - 2015 Rank: No. 17
12: In-N-Out Burger - Overall Score: 70.6 - 2015 Rank: No. 9
11: Häagen-Dazs - Overall Score: 70.9 – 2015 Rank: No. 16
10: Red Lobster - Overall Score: 71.1 - 2015 Rank: No. 28
9: Bonefish Grill - Overall Score: 71.7 - 2015 Rank: No. 11
8: The Melting Pot - Overall Score: 73.0 - 2015 Rank: No. 5
7: Ben & Jerry's - Overall Score: 73.4 - 2015 Rank: No. 15
6: The Cheesecake Factory - Overall Score: 74.2 - 2015 Rank: No. 8
5: McCormick & Schmick's - Overall Score: 75.0 - 2015 Rank: No. 4
4: Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar - Overall Score: 75.7 - 2015 Rank: No. 6
3: The Capital Grille - Overall Score: 75.9 - 2015 Rank: No. 3
2: Ruth's Chris Steak House - Overall Score: 79.7 - 2015 Rank: No. 1
1: Morton's the Steakhouse - Overall Score: 79.9 - 2015 Rank: No. 2