The American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) recently shared a study that details the top fast-food chains in the country based on customer satisfaction. While I agree with the top choice, the others are questionable. And hey, taste is subjective. I’m something of a fast-food restaurant connoisseur.  So, here I will re-rank the country’s top five fast-food restaurant chains based on personal experience. (Hence, “Definitive” in quotes in the headline.)

First, let’s examine the numbers in this report, as there are certainly some valuable points to consider. It appears as if their customer satisfaction entails 11 important factors. These include areas such as the accuracy of food orders, staff courtesy, and cleanliness. Another important measurement these days is the efficiency of the chain’s app.

The ACSI report is based on 16,250 customers who were surveyed. Their top five looked like this:

  • #1 Chick-fil-A
  • #2 Jimmy Johns
  • #3 KFC
  • #4 Papa John
  • #5 Domino’s

Technically “other” landed at number three, but for the sake of top brands, that is the top of the list.

Re-Ranking Methodology

While I do like the variety in cuisine displayed in ACSI’s list, I am surprised at many of the names I see there. To create this ranking, I did follow and considered the customer satisfaction criteria previously laid out in the survey. Though I am a drive-thru-first type of person, I will quickly peel out of the parking lot if I detect the joint doesn’t look like it takes cleanliness seriously. Regardless of how much I am craving that chicken sandwich. In other words, those scored questions are legit measurements.

It’s worth mentioning that I travel quite a bit as well. Whether taking my kids to a weekend lacrosse tournament or heading south to visit family, a fast-food meal is often all I have time for. Nonetheless, I don’t just stop for anything, and I do aim for the healthiest option possible (most of the time).

So, imagine I just pulled off a magical interstate exit where all of these fast food restaurants had an open establishment. I’m considering the criteria points ACSI has laid out, and looking for a quality meal. Here is my official re-ranking of the top five fast-food restaurant chains in the country.

*Side-note, the ACSI also includes statistic results on full-service chain restaurants. That is not applicable to my ranking, but Chili’s is the clear number one, with all the rest being second.

  • #5 Pizza Hut

    I’m a pizza enthusiast, let’s just get that out of the way. Remember, this ranking is for fast-food chains so that local brick oven establishment that you love doesn’t count here. Pizza Hut represents nostalgia for me. That deep dish out of the cast-iron pan has consistency. Plus, there’s the individual size that easy to eat in the car. If this location happens to be one of the old school hut style designs with the lunch buffet, then it would rank even higher than five.

  • #4 McDonald’s

    ONLY for the fries and coke with crushed ice. If McDonald’s did not have these two items, it would not be on the list and I would never go here. These are the only two menu items I ever order, and each time I have the same reaction where I appreciate how good and consistent the fries are.


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  • #3 Chipotle

    I think this is the only fast-food establishment where I order vegetables. That has to be worth something. Fresh peppers in a burrito any day of the week. If my wallet is feeling crazy, I’ll throw a mound of their guacamole on any order. Plus, there’s nothing like getting one of those fresh chips that is folded over three others and accidentally smothered in extra salt.


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  • #2 Wendy's

    I really want to put Jersey Mike’s here but it is not on the ACSI survey (perhaps since there aren’t as many of them). Wendy’s takes this spot due to the little things they offer. The nuggets are best “traditional” nuggets in the game. Plus, the baked potato with appropriate toppings is a subtle curveball to fast-food world that has the ability to serve as the secret weapon. The frosty is always reminds me of “Mr. Deeds” which means I have to get it (and it’s delicious).


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  • #1 Chick-fil-A

    No surprises here. It holds strong as the king of the fast food mountain in my definitive list. That #1 chicken sandwich meal is clutch every time. Add in their own style of nuggets and it’s no wonder why Chick-fil-A always has a line. Furthermore, I find each location has very professional and well-trained staff. The real bonus point here is that I recently discovered the chicken biscuit breakfast sandwich. Needless to say, Chick-fil-A is the only of these fast-food establishments I can hit for any meal of the day.


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