The 20 best chain restaurants in America

Top 10 Pizza Chain Restaurants

Whether it's indulging in a Bloomin' Onion from Outback Steakhouse or digging into a basket of Olive Garden's unlimited breadsticks, Americans love chain restaurants. But personal preferences aside, which chains get the most love?

Business Insider teamed up with Restaurant Business, a food-service industry expert and media outlet, to compile a definitive ranking of the best chain restaurants in America. Using proprietary data collected by Restaurant Business and its sister research firm Technomic, we looked at 45 of the largest US chains and rated them on three criteria that we considered the most telling for all-around excellence: financial performance, customer satisfaction, and overall value.

Our calculations accounted for sales growth, average sales at each location, consumer-sentiment ratings, and the average cost of a meal, among other metrics. (For more on how we came up with this ranking, check out our list of the best fast-food chains in America, which uses a similar methodology.)

The 20 highest-rated spots raked in a combined $28 billion in revenue last year and include popular joints like The Cheesecake Factory and Cracker Barrel, as well as lesser-known chains such as Bahama Breeze Island Grille and Maggiano's Little Italy.

Read on to learn more about the 20 best chain restaurants in the US.

20. O'Charley's


Headquarters: Nashville, Tennessee

US sales: $526 million

Number of US locations: 212

Financial performance rank: 28

Customer satisfaction rank: 23

Value rank: 8

Nearly 45 years ago, Charley Watkins opened the first O'Charley's in Nashville, Tennessee. With its 212 locations, the midsize chain gives customers an experience full of Southern hospitality, fresh baked pies, and generous portions that appeal to the value-conscious customer.

Despite suffering a data breach this year that led to customer card information being accessed and a 2.5% decline in same-store sales, O'Charley's continues to attract customers with its revamped menu and low prices.

19. Red Lobster

Red Lobster

Headquarters: Orlando, Florida

US sales: $2.41 billion

Number of US locations: 662

Financial performance rank: 18

Customer satisfaction rank: 20

Value rank: 43

Founded in 1968, Red Lobster began as a casual dining concept for high-quality seafood at an affordable price. Known for its cheddar biscuits, the chain serves popular seafood dishes such as snow crab legs, coconut shrimp, and rock lobster.

Red Lobster reported over $2.4 billion in sales last year, and the chain gained some cultural cachet and experienced a 33% boost in sales the day after being referred to in Beyoncé's song "Formation" in February, finally breaking into the millennial market.

18. P.F. Chang's China Bistro

P.F. Chang's/Facebook

Headquarters: Scottsdale, Arizona

US sales: $892 million

Number of US locations: 214

Financial performance rank: 18

Customer satisfaction rank: 25

Value rank: 15

Known for its handmade dim sum and iconic lettuce wraps, P.F. Chang's was born in the early 1990's out of a partnership between Philip Chiang, owner of staple Los Angeles Chinese restaurant Mandarette, and Paul Fleming, an Arizona restaurateur and avid Mandarette fan. Still running strong with 214 locations nationwide, P.F. Chang's prides itself on always using fresh ingredients and serving every dish made-to-order. And while the spot treats customers to an upscale experience, the average bill comes out to only $14.33.

In 2012, the private-equity firm Centerbridge Partners purchased the chain for a $1.1 billion, putting the franchise back into the private sector and helping to boost profits.

17. Outback Steakhouse

Facebook/Outback Steakhouse

Headquarters: Tampa, Florida

US sales: $2.6 billion

Number of US locations: 755

Financial performance rank: 8

Customer satisfaction rank: 26

Value rank: 43

The Australian-themed steakhouse is a cult favorite whose newest menu item — the french-fry-topped, loaded Bloomin' Onion — made national headlines last month in part because of its 2,360 calories. But the colossal dish is really nothing new for the chain. Since 1988, Outback has been offering generous portions of hand-trimmed steaks, grilled chicken, tender ribs, fresh seafood, and potatoes and vegetables.

There's no doubt that American diners love Outback. The Tampa-based chain raked in nearly $2.6 billion in sales last year from its 755 US locations.

16. Buffalo Wild Wings

Buffalo Wild Wings

Headquarters: Minneapolis

US sales: $3.6 billion

Number of US locations: 1,145

Financial performance rank: 2

Customer satisfaction rank: 31

Value rank: 41

Known for its signature wings and 16 specialty sauces, Buffalo Wild Wings is the destination for sports fans, beer lovers, and wing aficionados. Customers participate in sports brackets and viewing parties throughout the year.

Earning over $3.5 billion in revenue last year, the franchise offers affordable fare with the average bill coming to $13.89. Buffalo Wild Wings is continuing to grow, projecting to open nearly 40 new locations in 2016.

15. BJ's Restaurant & Brewhouse

BJ's Restaurant and Brewhouse/Facebook

Headquarters: Huntington Beach, California

US sales: $920 million

Number of US locations: 171

Financial performance rank: 9

Customer satisfaction rank: 21

Value rank: 35

Giving a Southern California twist on the traditional Chicago deep-dish pizza, BJ's Restaurant & Brewhouse offered great pizza and a family-friendly menu when it opened in 1978.

By 1996, the franchise had seven locations and experienced a pivot: craft beer. In the 20 years since, BJ's Restaurant and Brewhouse has been given more than 150 awards for its craft brews, winning the gold medal for robust porter at the World Beer Cup 2016 with its PM Porter. The chain now operates six of its own breweries, along with its 171 restaurants.

14. Red Robin Gourmet Burgers & Brews

Red Robin Gourmet Burgers/Facebook

Headquarters: Greenwood Village, Colorado

US sales: $1.5 billion

Number of US locations: 510

Financial performance rank: 15

Customer satisfaction rank: 17

Value rank: 32

It's all about burgers, burgers, and more burgers at Red Robin Gourmet Burgers & Brews. The souped-up burger joint boasts 510 US locations, featuring signature creations such as the Prime Chophouse, topped with sautéed mushrooms, steak sauce, and crispy onion straws, and the Chili Chili Cheeseburger, smothered in cheese, chipotle aioli, and — you guessed it — a hefty portion of chili.

The chain began a huge rebranding project in 2012, which included modernizing decor, rethinking restaurant layouts, and boosting its bar business. And it worked — revenue has increased annually since 2013, and updated locations show strong same-store-sales growth.

13. Bonefish Grill

Facebook/Bonefish Grill

Headquarters: Tampa, Florida

US sales: $635 million

Number of US locations: 215

Financial performance rank: 30

Customer satisfaction rank: 4

Value rank: 28

Friends Tim Curci and Chris Parker's love for catching and cooking fish was manifested in the opening of the first Bonefish Grill in St. Petersburg, Florida, in 2000. The chain focuses on "elegant simplicity" in its fresh, seasonal seafood dishes. And the dedication pays off: Consumers voted Bonefish Grill the best restaurant for quality of food in a 2016 Technomic survey.

Employees at Bonefish Grill elevate the dining experience by greeting every guest individually, guiding them through their menus, and providing what the restaurant calls "chef's coat service." All things considered, the chain earned a fourth-place ranking in customer satisfaction.

12. Yard House

Yard House/Facebook

Headquarters: Irvine, California

US sales: $473 million

Number of US locations: 61

Financial performance rank: 15

Customer satisfaction rank: 14

Value rank: 28

Brews, food, and tunes are what keep customers coming back to Yard House, the modest Irvine-based restaurant chain founded in 1966. It was dubbed the sixth-fastest-growing chain in the country in 2015.

With more than 100 brews on draft and a 4,000-gallon keg room, Yard House prides itself on having some of the most extensively cultivated beer selections in the nation. Dedicated to customer experience, Yard House pairs its brews with a traditional menu with modern twists, such as its kurobuta pork burger, and rock music playlists crafted for every mood.

11. Carrabba's Italian Grill

Carrabba's Italian Grill/Facebook

Headquarters: Tampa, Florida

US sales: $729 million

Number of US locations: 247

Financial performance rank: 21

Customer satisfaction rank: 10

Value rank: 28

Started by two Sicilian guys from Texas, Carrabba's Italian Grill serves traditional Italian cuisine based off recipes passed down generations in the founding family. The uncle-nephew team of John Carrabba and Damian Mandola opened the first Carrabba's in Houston in 1986.

Now boasting more than 240 locations, Carrabba's offers customers Italian dishes that showcase the diverse cuisine, from traditional pastas to Tuscan-grilled steak. The chain gave away 1 million free meals after announcing its new menu this year.

10. Bahama Breeze Island Grille

Bahama Breeze Island Grille/Facebook

Headquarters: Orlando, Florida

US sales: $204 million

Number of US locations: 37

Financial performance rank: 30

Customer satisfaction rank: 5

Value rank: 8

The smallest chain on our list, with just 37 US locations, Bahama Breeze Island Grille serves up Caribbean-inspired fare with tropical cocktails to match. The menu features everything from Jamaican jerk chicken to conch fritters, as well as drinks laced with pineapple juice, coconut, and plenty of rum. Live reggae completes the atmosphere, with a show almost every night.

Owned by the same parent company that controls Olive Garden and Red Lobster, Bahama Breeze gains loyal customers through its fresh food, fun atmosphere, and great happy-hour deals.

9. Maggiano's Little Italy

Maggiano's Little Italy/Facebook

Headquarters: Dallas

US sales: $401 million

Number of US locations: 51

Financial performance rank: 24

Customer satisfaction rank: 7

Value rank: 20

The Italian-American restaurant Maggiano's began in Chicago 25 years ago. The family-style chain features classic homemade Italian dishes like spaghetti and meatballs, lasagna, and chicken parmesan. With just 51 US locations, Maggiano's may still be a well-kept secret.

Employees at Maggiano's also put in time outside the kitchen. This year, the restaurant celebrated a 13-year partnership with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, to which it has donated more than $6 million.

8. Olive Garden

Olive Garden/Facebook

Headquarters: Orlando, Florida

US sales: $3.74 billion

Number of US locations: 841

Financial performance rank: 11

Customer satisfaction rank: 16

Value rank: 15

Serving unlimited hot, buttery breadsticks is one way the Italian-American chain Olive Garden keeps customers coming through the doors. The casual dining chain opened its first restaurant in Orlando in 1982. It now operates 841 locations globally, earning almost $3.75 billion in sales last year.

After years of decline, the chain just reported its best quarterly sales performance in years, with same-store sales rising 6.8%. Known for its affordably priced menu, Olive Garden has been offering its popular never-ending pasta promotions for more than two decades.

7. The Cheesecake Factory

The Cheesecake Factory/Facebook

Headquarters: Calabasas, California

US sales: $1.91 billion

Number of US locations: 187

Financial performance rank: 3

Customer satisfaction rank: 9

Value rank: 37

The Cheesecake Factory began as a family business that started with one homemade cheesecake in 1949, officially opening its first full-service restaurant in 1978 thanks to David Overton, whose mother's recipe is the "Original" cheesecake in the restaurant.

Boasting over $1.9 billion in revenue last year, the California-based chain is widely popular for its generous portions, extensive menu, and more than 50 signature cheesecakes, living up to its tagline that there's "something for everyone."

6. The Capital Grille

The Capital Grille/Facebook

Headquarters: Orlando, Florida

US sales: $397 million

Number of US locations: 54

Financial performance rank: 13

Customer satisfaction rank: 2

Value rank: 28

Upscale and modern, The Capital Grille aims to put customers at ease and engage them in a meal that stimulates all five senses. Dry-aged steaks are hand-carved in-house, the wine list runs more than 350 options deep, and many restaurant locations boast historical and cultural significance.

A small chain with only 54 locations, The Capital Grille still pulled in an impressive $397 million in revenue last year. It's no surprise, though: Customers flock to the chain for its impeccable service, earning the spot top marks in customer satisfaction from Technomic.

5. Seasons 52

Facebook/Seasons 52

Headquarters: Orlando, Florida

US sales: $244 million

Number of US locations: 42

Financial performance rank: 11

Customer satisfaction rank: 1

Value rank: 26

Though it's the second-smallest chain on our list, with just 42 US restaurant locations, Seasons 52 has made a big impact on diners. The grill and wine bar earned the top ranking for customer satisfaction and is favored for its elevated farm-to-table fare and "rustic cooking techniques." But the fresh seasonal and local ingredients come at a price: the average check comes in at $31.80.

The restaurant doesn't just source its food from the surrounding communities; it also gives food back to them. Since 2007, Seasons 52, which belongs to Darden Restaurantsalongside other favorites like Yard House, The Capital Grille, and LongHorn Steakhouse, has donated 420,000 pounds of unserved food to local food banks, shelters, and charities.

4. Cracker Barrel Old Country Store

Cracker Barrel/Facebook

Headquarters: Lebanon, Tennessee

US sales: $2.29 billion

Number of US locations: 635

Financial performance rank: 5

Customer satisfaction rank: 11

Value rank: 1

With its Southern charm and fluffy biscuits, Cracker Barrel provides an authentic atmosphere for its chain of combined country-cooking restaurants and old-fashioned general stores. The first Cracker Barrel was opened in 1969 by Dan Evins in Lebanon, Tennessee, to attract highway travelers.

Cracker Barrel now operates 635 locations and ranks first in value as one the most affordable chains on our list, with an average guest check of only $9.96. Customers flock to the popular chicken n' dumplings and country fried steak, accompanied by sides like turnip greens, fried okra, and mashed potatoes with gravy.

3. Cheddar's Scratch Kitchen

Cheddar's Scratch Kitchen/Facebook

Headquarters: Irving, Texas

US sales: $707 million

Number of US locations: 168

Financial performance rank: 9

Customer satisfaction rank: 8

Value rank: 2

Founded in 1979, Cheddar's Scratch Kitchen gets its name from its commitment to "scratch-made recipes" made fresh for each order. The Texas-based chain claims to hire twice as many kitchen cooks as other restaurants to achieve its fresh yet timely service.

Cheddar's Scratch Kitchen offers traditional American cuisine and introduced a "575 calories and under" menu for customers wanting healthier options, such as grilled baja chicken and lemon pepper whitefish. The chain ranks second in value, with the average guest check coming to only $12.45.

2. LongHorn Steakhouse

LongHorn Steakhouse/Facebook

Headquarters: Orlando, Florida

US sales: $1.57 billion

Number of US locations: 487

Financial performance rank: 4

Customer satisfaction rank: 3

Value rank: 8

After an unexpected blizzard stranded motorists in Atlanta and forced them to wander into LongHorn Steaks Restaurant & Saloon in 1982, word began to spread about the then-unknown steak spot. Renamed LongHorn Steakhouse in 1996, the chain now has 487 locations across the US.

The casual steakhouse draws customers in with the promise of tender filets, expertly grilled salmon, and flavor-packed chicken. LongHorn also touts its sizable margarita selection, which includes flavors like pineapple coconut and watermelon.

1. Texas Roadhouse

Facebook/Texas Roadhouse

Headquarters: Louisville, Kentucky

US sales: $2.14 billion

Number of US locations: 473

Financial performance rank: 1

Customer satisfaction rank: 6

Value rank: 7

Since its opening in 1993, Texas Roadhouse has gained a huge cult following, as evidenced by its surging sales, which topped $2 billion in 2015. The Western-themed, family-run restaurant is known for its hand-cut steaks, tender ribs, generously portioned sides, and unlimited, fresh-baked bread and cinnamon butter. And when diners arrive at their table, they are given a bucket of peanuts and encouraged to toss the shells on the floor, a testament to Texas Roadhouse's casual atmosphere.

The chain's growing customer base is hard won. It places a premium on "legendary food and legendary service," drawing an average of 5,000 guests to each of its 473 locations every week.

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25. Qdoba Mexican Eats

Headquarters: Lakewood, Colorado

US sales: $745 million

Number of US locations: 670

Financial performance rank: 18

Customer satisfaction rank: 40

Value rank: 73

Qdoba grew sales by 9% in 2015, but it can’t seem to shake constant comparisons to Chipotle, which had nearly the same rate of growth last year. The origins of the burrito behemoths are actually quite similar: Qdoba was founded in 1995 in Colorado, two years after and four miles north of the first location of its now faltering competitor. 

But in an effort to distinguish itself, Qdoba announced last October that it would redesign locations and ramp up its menu — which offers tacos, salads, burritos, and quesadillas — based on a new version of its ideal customer, a woman named Quentessa, who’s “naturally magnetic” and leads “a story-filled life.”

(Photo by Wendy Maeda/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

24. Ben & Jerry's

Headquarters: South Burlington, Vermont

US sales: $78 million

Number of US locations: 235

Financial performance rank: 89

Customer satisfaction rank: 4

Value rank: 1

After taking a $5 ice-cream-making course at Penn State, best friends Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield purchased an old gas station and turned it into a scoop shop. Ben & Jerry’s is now known for inventive ice-cream flavors like Cherry Garcia, Phish Food, and Americone Dream.

Almost 40 years in the business, the ice-cream veterans keep finding new ways to bring its most loved products to customers. In May 2016, the company announced it would start “flipping” three of its classic flavors. For instance, the flavor Half Baked has been changed to Totally Baked — instead of brownies in chocolate ice cream and cookie dough in vanilla, the ice-cream-and-baked-good combos will be swapped.

Credit: Charles Benes via Getty Images

23. Fuddruckers

Headquarters: Houston, Texas

US sales: $253 million

Number of US locations: 173

Financial performance rank: 77

Customer satisfaction rank: 8

Value rank: 25

Since its inception, Fuddruckers has aimed to create the “World’s Greatest Hamburgers.” It prides itself on its never-frozen patties, baked-from-scratch buns, and DIY topping bar, ensuring customers get exactly what they want.

Despite slipping US sales — down 1.2% last year — Fuddruckers has accrued a host of loyal customers who flock to the chain for its juicy hamburgers and crisp sesame buns, earning the restaurant a top-notch customer satisfaction rating on Technomic.

Credit: Cassandra Hubbart, AOL

22. Five Guys Burger and Fries

Headquarters: Lorton, Virginia

US sales: $1.32 billion

Number of US locations: 1,215

Financial performance rank: 22

Customer satisfaction rank: 22

Value rank: 86

The cult favorite started in Washington, DC, in 1986 when former bond trader Jerry Murrelland his family opened a burger joint — named for Murrell and his four sons — with the goal of cooking hamburgers and fries using the best quality ingredients.

Despite its seemingly simple menu, there are more than 250,000 possible ways to order a burger at Five Guys. (The restaurants are off-limits to those with peanut allergies, as all fries are cooked in peanut oil and there are barrels of old-fashioned peanuts lining each shop’s dining area.)

(Photo by Gordon Chibroski/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)

21. Potbelly Sandwich Shop

Headquarters: Chicago, Illinois

US sales: $380 million

Number of US locations: 396

Financial performance rank: 62

Customer satisfaction rank: 18

Value rank: 17

When Potbelly opened in 1977, it was an antique shop. The young couple who ran it decided they wanted to serve lunch to their customers and the store evolved into a local lunch spot. In 1996, entrepreneur Bryant Keil bought Potbelly and turned it into a franchise; he stepped down as CEO in 2008 and is no longer involved.

Today, not only do all the Potbelly stores serve sandwiches and fresh cookies, but each location has its own potbelly stove and curated knickknacks as a testament to the chain’s origins.

Credit: Raymond Boyd via Getty Images

20. Pollo Campero

Headquarters: Dallas, Texas

US sales: $96 million

Number of US restaurants: 58

Financial performance rank: 63

Customer satisfaction rank: 16

Value rank: 17

With fewer than 100 stores, Pollo Campero is by far the smallest chain to make the list. But diners adore the casual chicken spot, rating it highly in customer satisfaction and touting it as a solid value. 

Pollo Campero, initially founded in Guatemala in 1971, stands out from other "better chicken" chains, such as Wingstop and Raising Cane’s, for its authentic Latin flavors and impeccable service — meals are served on real plates with real silverware.

Credit: Allen J. Schaben via Getty Images

19. Jamba Juice

Headquarters: Emeryville, California

US sales: $539 million

Number of US locations: 818

Financial performance rank: 72

Customer satisfaction rank: 14

Value rank: 5

Founded in 1990 in a California beach town, Jamba Juice was years ahead of today’s ubiquitous green smoothie and healthy living trends. Despite slow growth, the smoothie stop has remained a favorite for loyal customers over the years.

The chain’s menu has expanded to offer Greek yogurt energy bowls and plenty of new fruit and vegetable smoothies. But perhaps Jamba Juice’s most infamous item is the Wheatgrass shot — a liquefied chunk of grass cut right off the in-store grass garden that’s packed with vitamin K.

Credit: Bob Berg via Getty Images

18. Papa Murphy's Pizza

Headquarters: Vancouver, Washington

US sales: $880 million

Number of US locations: 1,496

Financial performance rank: 73

Customer satisfaction rank: 3

Value rank: 31

The pizza franchise started in 1995 after the merger of two pizzerias, Papa Aldo’s and Murphy’s Pizza. Its pies are “take and bake,” meaning they are made to order and cooked in the customer's oven at home.

Customers can pick from the signature pies like Chicken Bacon Artichoke and Spicy Fennel Sausage, or they can create their own and choose the type of dough, sauce, and toppings. It may not sell as many pies as Domino's or Pizza Hut, but the concept is a hit. Papa Murphy's scores top marks for customer satisfaction and is the only pizza chain to make the top 25.

Credit: Instagram

17. Jimmy John's Gourmet Sandwiches

Headquarters: Champaign, Illinois

US sales: $2.02 billion

Number of US locations: 2,450

Financial performance rank: 38

Customer satisfaction rank: 25

Value rank: 28

At Jimmy John’s, customers can’t get enough of the chain’s signature subs and “freaky fast” delivery service. Jimmy John Liautaud opened the first shop back in 1983 to avoid pressure from his father to perform a stint in the Army. Papa Liautaud lent him $25,000, and if the restaurant turned a profit the first year he wouldn’t have to enlist. Sure enough, the gourmet sub business took off and he slowly expanded across the country.

Jimmy John’s franchises commit to sustainability by partnering with suppliers who reach high standards of sustainable and ethical food practices. The chain also employs local businesses to build and maintain each JJ’s store.

Credit: Instagram

16. Schlotzsky's

Headquarters: Atlanta, Georgia

US sales: $320 million

Number of US locations: 350

Financial performance rank: 55

Customer satisfaction rank: 13

Value rank: 43

The average customer order totals just over $11 at Schlotzsky's, according to Technomic. That's pricey for a sandwich shop, but the higher-quality offerings keep customers satisfied. Schlotzky's serves up more than a dozen classic sandwiches, as well as oven-baked pastas, flatbreads, soups, salads, gourmet pizzas, and Cinnabon desserts.

After more than 40 years of operation, Schlotzsky's has begun remodeling its locations to install electronic charging stations for phones and laptops, called “Juice Bars,”and plans to include them in all new locations.

Credit: Instagram

15. Chipotle Mexican Grill

Headquarters: Denver, Colorado

US sales: $4.42 billion

Number of US locations: 1,987

Financial performance rank: 26

Customer satisfaction rank: 24

Value rank: 70

The fast-casual giant took a hit at the end of 2015 with an E. Coli outbreak at a number of its restaurants. Despite a drop in sales at the beginning of 2016, Chipotle still maintains its “food with integrity” policy — to serve fresh, high-quality ingredients sans preservatives.

Chipotle hasn’t changed its menu much since it opened in 1993 — tacos, burritos, bowls, and salads are all made-to-order via assembly line — but in April 2016, the company said it was considering adding chorizo as a meat option to help lure back customers.

Credit: Bloomberg via Getty Images

14. Moe's Southwest Grill

Headquarters: Atlanta, Georgia

US sales: $638 million

Number of US locations: 637

Financial performance rank: 32

Customer satisfaction rank: 27

Value rank: 19

A strong competitor to Chipotle, Moe’s Southwest Grill is gaining brand recognition and making its way into the limelight for its fresh burritos, tacos, and nachos. It was named Fast Casual Mexican Restaurant of the Year by the Harris Poll’s annual Brand of the Year Awards, stealing the crown away from longtime winner Chipotle.

Moe’s — which isn’t a person, but rather an acronym for musicians, outlaws, and entertainers — operates an “innovation center” in Georgia, where it’s testing new menu items, including a fajita steak quesadilla.

Credit: The Washington Post via Getty Images

13. Panera Bread/Saint Louis Bread Co.

Headquarters: St. Louis, Missouri

US sales: $4.8 billion

Number of US locations: 1,955

Financial performance rank: 12

Customer satisfaction rank: 23

Value rank: 43

Panera — the soup, salad, and sandwich bakery and café combo — has been a fixture in food news over the last couple of years for its radical redesign, called Panera 2.0. The recent changes include the installation of digital ordering kiosks in several restaurants to minimize long lines and decrease wait times for food. The chain is betting heavily on a digital-utilization revolutionin hopes of staying ahead of the curve and catering to a new generation of customers.

Incidentally, Panera Bread was established as a division of Au Bon Pain — now one of its competitors — but began to show growth promise, so executives decided to take a bet on it. The chain now includes Saint Louis Bread Co. and Paradise Bakery & Café under its banner.

Credit: Bloomberg via Getty Images

12. Whataburger

Headquarters: San Antonio, Texas

US sales: $2 billion

Number of US locations: 791

Financial performance rank: 1

Customer satisfaction rank: 33

Value rank: 37

Whataburger founder Harmon Dobson's goal was to create a burger so big that customers would have to use both hands to hold it. It would be so good that at first bite they would declare, “What a burger!” Thus, in 1950, Whataburger was born. 

Whataburger can be found in 10 states only, but the chain has hardcore fans. A man who tattooed the Whataburger logo on his arm was awarded free food for a decade by the company.

Credit: Instagram

11. Zaxby's

Headquarters: Athens, Georgia

US sales: $1.48 billion

Number of US locations: 748

Financial performance rank: 7

Customer satisfaction rank: 21

Value rank: 65

Started by two childhood friends aiming to alleviate the lack of great wing joints in their Georgia hometown, Zaxby’s is known for its craveable wing sauce and crinkle-cut fries. Customers also cheer the "better chicken" joint’s signature salads, a menu item few fast-food restaurants have been able to popularize.

The chain, which pulls in $1.5 billion in sales, has expanded rapidly in the Past year: Revenues are up 18% and the company opened nearly 90 new locations, bringing their total to 748.

Credit: Instagram

10. Jason's Deli

Headquarters: Beaumont, Texas

US sales: $654 million

Number of US restaurants: 262

Financial performance rank: 34

Customer satisfaction rank: 12

Value rank: 15

Nutrition is a priority at Jason’s Deli, which has eliminated artificial trans fat, most artificial MSG, and all artificial colors, dyes, and flavors from its food over the past 10 years. In addition, the chain serves fresh produce — delivered to its locations six days a week — as well as more than a dozen USDA-certified organic ingredients.

The family-owned chain has set up shop in 30 states in the South and Midwest over 40 years of operation.

Credit: Instagram

9. Culver's

Headquarters: Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin

US sales: $1.2 billion

Number of US restaurants: 559

Financial performance rank: 2

Customer satisfaction rank: 26

Value rank: 37

At Culver’s, diners can expect to spend a little more than they would at a run-of-the-mill burger joint, with average orders totaling nearly $9.50, according to Technomic. But it might just be worth it for the chain’s frozen custard and ButterBurgers, the signature burger that gets its name from the glaze of butter that coats the bun.

Though there are over 500 restaurants, you may have difficulty finding a Culver’s since they're primarily in the Midwest. That doesn’t mean that business is tough for the chain, though. Culver’s sales grew 15.5% in 2015, and their financial performance rank is second only to Whataburger. 

Credit: Instagram

8. The Habit Bar and Grill

Headquarters: Irvine, California

US sales: $251 million

Number of US restaurants: 142

Financial performance rank: 20

Customer satisfaction rank: 10

Value rank: 36

West Coast chain Habit Burger Grill saw a major surge in popularity last year, evidenced by a 43% growth in sales. The small regional chain was also named the best-tasting burger in America, according to a survey by Consumer Reports, beating out competitors like Shake Shack, In-N-Out, and Five Guys.

Habit Burger isn’t stopping there. The chain plans to continue expanding beyond the West Coast, with goals to open 2,000 restaurants, an ambitious leap from its 142.

Credit: Instagram

7. McAlister's Deli

Headquarters: Ridgeland, Mississippi

US sales: $548 million

Number of US restaurants: 361

Financial performance rank: 28

Customer satisfaction rank: 11

Value rank: 12

The Mississippi-based deli specializes in local and regional American favorites, from The New Yorker with its corned beef, pastrami, and Swiss on rye to the West Coast Bánh Mì, McAlister’s take on the Vietnamese classic, not to mention the chain’s famous sweet tea.

The bulk of McAlister’s restaurants are in the Southeastern US, but it’s looking for franchise partners in several cities in Wisconsin and Colorado to continue growing westward.

Credit: Instagram

6. Krispy Kreme

Headquarters: Winston-Salem, North Carolina

US sales: $708 million

Number of US restaurants: 294

Financial performance rank: 35

Customer satisfaction rank: 7

Value rank: 9

In 1937, Krispy Kreme founder Vernon Rudolph used a recipe given to him from a New Orleans chef so that he could make and sell doughnuts to local grocery stores. As the fresh-baked donut smell wafted into the streets, customers began requesting to purchase the delicacies directly, so Rudolph cut a hole in the wall to open his first retail location.

Krispy Kreme might be famous for its original glazed doughnut, but in May 2016 Krispy Kreme announced plans to start selling ‘edible coffee treats’ — bars that taste just like the chains coffee and doughnut flavors.

 (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)

5. Jersey Mike's Subs

Headquarters: Manasquan, New Jersey

US sales: $675 million

Number of US restaurants: 1,046

Financial performance rank: 24

Customer satisfaction rank: 9

Value rank: 16

Jersey Mike’s Subs celebrated the opening of its 1,000th location last October and has already added nearly 50 more stores to its fleet. The fast-growing sandwich chain plans to continue its rapid expansion, aiming for 2,000 total locations by 2019.

Known for its handcrafted subs loaded with high-quality ingredients, Jersey Mike’s is a customer favorite, earning a top 10 customer-satisfaction rating from Technomic.

Credit: Instagram

4. Firehouse Subs

Headquarters: Jacksonville, Florida

US sales: $649 million

Number of US restaurants: 943

Financial performance rank: 31

Customer satisfaction rank: 1

Value rank: 13

With plans to double its number of restaurants by 2020, Firehouse Subs is taking on Subway, its biggest competitor, with bold-flavor sandwiches piled high with quality meats and cheeses. In 2015, the chain grew sales by 17% to $110 million and added 93 locations. But quality didn't suffer; Firehouse earned the No. 1 ranking for customer satisfaction of all the fast-food chains. 

The Florida-based franchise was founded in 1994 by a pair of brothers and former firefighters who sought to bring the enthusiasm and appetite of the firehouse to their restaurants. The chain’s charitable arm has donated $18 million from sales and in-store donations to more than 1,300 organizations benefiting first responders.

Credit: Instagram

3. In-N-Out Burger

Headquarters: Irvine, California

US sales: $615 million

Number of US restaurants: 313

Financial performance rank: 40

Customer satisfaction rank: 5

Value rank: 1

California’s first drive-thru hamburger stand was opened in 1948. Nearly seven decades later, the menu remains simple, offering only five items. But loyal customers know that if they want to expand their options, they can order off the not-so-secret menu — it features items such as aprotein style burger and grilled cheese.

In-N-Out can only be found on the West Coast, but there’s a good reason for that. Since the chain prides itself on serving top-notch ingredients free of additives or preservatives, all stores must be within 300 miles of the distribution facilities. Sorry, East Coasters.

Credit: Bloomberg via Getty Images

2. Raising Cane's Chicken Fingers

Headquarters: Baton Rouge, Louisiana

US sales: $567 million

Number of US restaurants: 249

Financial performance rank: 6

Customer satisfaction rank: 6

Value rank: 34

Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers focuses on only one menu item: first-rate chicken strips. But what truly keeps fans addicted is Cane’s signature tangy sauce, a secret blend that customers can’t get enough of.

The limited menu doesn’t translate to limited business, though: Sales were up 26% last year. The chain has expanded from its roots in Louisiana across the South and Midwest.

Credit: Instagram

1. Chick-fil-A

Headquarters: Atlanta, Georgia

US sales: $6.29 billion

Number of US restaurants: 1,950

Financial performance rank: 2

Customer satisfaction rank: 2

Value rank: 4

Chick-fil-A claims the crown as America's best fast-food chain as the only one to rank in the top five each for financial performance, customer satisfaction, and value. 

This Southern favorite — which recently opened its first location in New York City — is the largest food chain on our list and eighth-largest in the US by sales. The fried-chicken chain has recently diversified its menu, adding a kale and broccolini salad, a premium coffee line, new sauces, and a barbecue-bacon sandwich in an effort to take on competitors.

In 2012, Chick-fil-A sparked public outcry over executives’ antigay-marriage stance, but last year some of its restaurants started supporting gay pride events. Nonetheless, many customers are drawn to Chick-fil-A for its Southern hospitality, where a “Thank you!” has been met with an enthusiastic “It’s my pleasure!” for nearly 70 years. 

Credit: Instagram


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