The quality of ingredients can make or break a fast-food chain. It’s what sets one restaurant apart from another, and in the case of many brands, what sets them apart from winning popular surveys or just barely winning lawsuits. While some companies tend to rack up accolades, others tend to perform less well in the court of public opinion.
Plenty of restaurant chains have bad reputations for a variety of reasons, while others tend to get criticized specifically for the food quality—or lack thereof. They’re the types of places that might use toxic ingredients, or still serve meat with antibiotics, or their menu items are just downright sketchy.
Whatever the iffy reasons, customers aren’t too happy about it, and whether they’re taking their complaints to Reddit or to the courtroom, these are the fast-food restaurants we most often hear gripes about.
And don’t miss 8 Sandwich Chains That Use the Highest Quality Ingredients.
When it comes to receiving complaints, Subway is the unfortunate king of the fast-food kingdom. At this point, the massive chain is as synonymous with infamy as it is with sandwiches, especially considering most of its latest headlines have had to do with a lawsuit alleging its tuna isn’t actually tuna—not a great look.
And while Subway has technically won the first battle on the path to vindicating its fishy spread, a lot of the damage has already been done in terms of public perception. That, and it’s just weird and gross.
But tuna is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Subway drama. It seems the chain is constantly putting its foot in its metaphorical mouth, whether by removing beloved sandwiches from its menu (and inciting a slew of customer complaints), using chicken that may or may not be 50% meat, or refusing to honor coupons.
At the end of the day, though, a chain with an “Eat Fresh” slogan has come to be perceived as a cesspool of poor quality, iffy ingredients, and chemical-laden foods.
For generations, McDonald’s has been an iconic fast-food fixture in the US and around the globe. Beloved for its irresistible French fries, its Happy Meals, and its sheer Americana, there’s a lot to find endearing about this mega-chain.
But there’s also plenty to criticize. After all, this is the company responsible for one of the most epic customer complaints in history, resulting in that infamous hot coffee lawsuit.
Beyond that, customers have rightfully griped over gross frappes and broken ice cream machines, the latter of which has also resulted in lawsuits of its own.
A few years ago, the chain was ranked dead last in a customer survey about food quality, and things haven’t really improved much as of late—the company has recently been accused of dropping the ball on major public health promises.
Time has not been kind to Steak ‘n Shake. Nor has public opinion. The once-popular burger and milkshake chain has teetered on the brink of bankruptcy only to continue losing revenue at an alarming rate.
The mass closures of restaurant locations may be due to the fact that customers complain about long wait times and slipping food quality. Internet buzz has not been helpful, with critics lambasting the chain over its shrinking portion sizes, unpleasant shakes, and lack of good service.
In terms of food quality complaints from nutritionists, Taco Bell doesn’t fare well at all. With a menu loaded up on sodium, fat, and sugars, the Mexican chain is notoriously bad for you. And in some alarming cases, so bad it triggers a lawsuit and accusations of causing body paralysis.
The chain is also particularly infamous for creating menu items that have become internet laughingstocks, earning copious complaints and criticisms online for things like Cinnamon Twists and Power Bowls.
The company has also recently had to contend with ingredient shortages, resulting in upset customers being turned away empty-handed.
Everyone’s favorite childhood pizza joint may not have aged so well after all. While rooted in American nostalgia, and experiencing a pandemic-induced sales boost, Pizza Hut has fallen out of favor with customers lately, causing plummeting sales.
Thanks in part to its low-quality beef, and the mere fact that it serves some of the unhealthiest pizzas around, things aren’t looking too great for the Hut right now.
More recently, the addition of a new pizza style garnered a lot of criticism from Detroit natives, earning the company a mostly negative response on social media. That there’s an online comment thread titled “Why does Pizza Hut pizza now taste bad?” isn’t really helping matters for the brand, either.
KFC has both its naysayers and its diehards, but the fact that the company holds the unfortunate distinction of being the most hated fast-food chain in the world is hard to overlook. This is according to social media data from RAVE Reviews, a company that tracks Twitter comments and complaints about fast-food restaurants across the globe, with KFC coming in last by far.
The main criticism is about the quality of the food being inconsistent or downright poor, which makes sense considering it’s one of the fast-food chains using questionable quality ingredients, and one that has a laundry list of scandals and critiques.
To many, Chipotle might seem like the pinnacle of quality fast food, but the tides might be shifting in the wrong direction for the burrito-slinging brand. The chain is losing points off its overall American Customer Satisfaction Index, and it’s become a frequent target fors over everything from shrinking portion sizes criticizing to foodborne illness outbreaks.
This coupled with the fact that prices continue to rise and burrito deals are a recurring nightmare for customers and employees alike is only adding fuel to the complaint department fire.
Most recently, Chipotle rolled out smoked brisket on its menu, and let’s just say customers had some thoughts about the texture.
There’s a lot to love about Chick-fil-A, routinely rated among the most adored chains in the country. But for every top-notch nugget, there seems to be a misstep resulting in complaints over everything from inconsistent food quality and drive-thru nuisances to shrinking sandwich sizes.
In fact, the inconsistency is such an issue that it’s triggered a vast Reddit thread discussing issues with the food, spurring dozens of commenters to chime in about their woes. Chick-fil-A has also come under fire for its politics, getting it banned in certain areas, and lawsuits have hit the chain over “deceptive” upcharges.