Roadtrip Tips - The Best And Worst Of Chain Restaurants

When the yearning of just one more mile gives way to that biker hunger, where to eat can be a hard decision that needs to be made quickly. Two newly released studies from different sources outlining the best and worst of casual dining.

That’s correct, we are going scientific on road trip rations!

Whether a day long ride or part of a longer journey, food is definitely part of any motorcycle trip. As mentioned in our previous article ‘Feed The Biker Soul! Best Chain Restaurants On The Open Road’ the perfect dining choice should be a locally-owned establishments. However, as mentioned in the above article, sometimes hunger strikes when the only choices are restaurant chains. Clutch and Chrome has the best and the worst of casual dining choices, first looking at the top Restaurant Brands of the Year according to a study from the Harris Poll.

Measuring brands’ health over time, the EquiTrend Brand Equity Index is comprised of three factors; Familiarity, Quality and Purchase Consideration judged by over 97,000 U.S. consumers who assessed more than 60 restaurant brands.

It should be noted, the ‘Consumer Picks Survey’ discussed in ‘Feed The Biker Soul! Best Chain Restaurants On The Open Road’ reviewed included 173 brands, explaining the slightly different results between the two ‘best of’ surveys.

Subway is the 2016 Sandwich Shop Brand of the Year, securing the title for the sixth consecutive year, according to the Harris Polls 2016 EquiTrends Study. Other restaurant leaders include Moe’s Southwest Grill, Olive Garden Italian Restaurants, In-N-Out Burger and Dunkin’ Donuts.

Most of these chains were in the top 25 restaurants in the ‘2016 Consumer Picks Survey’.

Moe’s Southwest Grill enjoyed the biggest increase not only among all restaurants measured in the Harris Polls 2016 EquiTrends Study, but even taking into account the other industries included in the poll.

But if its greasy road food riders are looking for, this study may not help. Harris Poll’s assessment of the restaurant Brands of the Year show these restaurants earn their top spots by responding to consumers’ needs for fresher and healthier offerings.

“When we look at the quick service restaurant category as a whole, healthy and fresh food is a clear trend, “said Lisa Recoussine, vice president, Client Solutions at Nielsen, which owns The Harris Poll. “Moe’s Southwest Grill and Subway are examples of restaurants that have listened to their customers and responded to their needs. While not fast food, Olive Garden is another good example of making healthy and fresh options a priority.”

However, Recoussine is quick to point out that ongoing loyalty also plays heavily into these results.

“Building a base of ‘brand fans’ is another huge contributor to brand equity; when we consider Chick-fil-A, Dunkin’ Donuts and In-N-Out Burger, these restaurants have die-hard, extremely loyal customers or fans who are in some cases, nearly obsessed with these brands.”

This leads us the next study, what are the worse casual dining restaurants to eat at?

Restaurants to ride on by?

The industry publication Nation’s Restaurant News surveyed 37,339 diners, rating the chains over ten categories: atmosphere, cleanliness, craveability, food quality, likely to recommend, likely to return, menu variety, reputation, service and value.

There are many well-known names in this list, most of which are frequented by bikers, whether on a weekend ride or those that catch the riding eye during a road trip.

While the study we reviewed in our previous article ‘Feed The Biker Soul! Best Chain Restaurants On The Open Road’ outlined the best, this list is the 20 worst casual dining establishments. Clutch and Chrome isn’t saying bikers should necessarily avoid the following restaurants, but understand these chains made the list for a reason.


According to the study, go for the view but maybe not the wings

The restaurant chain Lone Star Steakhouse ranked at number 20 in this study, offering an insight to what may land a well-known name or even favorite eating place on the list. Considered the second-best steak house of the five in the Nation’s Restaurant News survey, Lone Star’s worst mark is for value. But it scores highest among steak places for cleanliness and diners saying they’re likely to come back.

The same can be said for Longhorn Steakhouse which left diners wanting more for their money, earned mediocre marks for craveability and customers being likely to return. Receiving the lowest ranking of any steakhouse in nine of the 10 categories surveyed, Logan’s Roadhouse ranked number 2, making it the worst of the six overall.

Speaking of meat, bikers looking for a good burger might want to give Red Robin a pass. This study found diners in the survey were less excited about the value it offers taking it to number 14.

Heavily advertised restaurants such as TGI Fridays (12), Chili’s Grill & Bar (6), Ruby Tuesday (3) and Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill & Bar (10) all had a poor showing in the cravability category with the last chain mentioned scoring abysmally for value and landed so-so marks for atmosphere and customers being likely to come back.

If these results are anything to go by, there’s no place for riders to enjoy a plateful of chicken wings. Bikers are free to stop at Hooters for the view which certainly helped with its high marks in service and atmosphere, but the chain earned low rankings for value, menu variety and craveability.

Staying with this particular all-American cuisine, the number one worst dining experience is Buffalo Wild Wings Grill & Bar taking the number one position with the lowest ratings for cleanliness, menu variety and customers being likely to recommend it. It also notched a poor mark for value.

This dish from Buffalo Wild Wings Grill & Bar may look great, but those surveyed didn't seem to think it was worth what they paid.

Between the restaurants covered in this article and those in ‘Feed The Biker Soul! Best Chain Restaurants On The Open Road’, the list is long and difficult to commit to memory. For those heading out on the open road, both articles should be bookmarked for quick access. But knowing is only half the battle as it raises the question of whether the group rides on for a few more miles and maybe to a better dining choice or put the kickstand down and risk it. We’ve all done both!

Here are the results of the Nation’s Restaurant News 20 Worse Casual Dining Restaurants

20) Lone Star

19) Longhorn Steakhouse

18) Outback Steakhouse

17) Joe’s Crab Shack

16) California Pizza Kitchen

15) O’Charley’s

14) Red Robin Gourmet Burgers & Brews

13) Famous Dave’s

12) TGI Fridays

11) Beef ‘O’ Brady’s

10) Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill & Bar

9) Sonny’s Real Pit Bar-B-Q

8) Hooter’s

7) Dave & Buster’s

6) Chili’s Grill & Bar

5) Uno Chicago Grill/Uno Pizzeria & Grill

4) On the Border Mexican Grill & Cantina

3) Ruby Tuesday

2) Logan’s Roadhouse

1) Buffalo Wild Wings Grill & Bar

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