We all know that fast-food restaurants aren’t typically healthy. However, many fast-food and casual dining establishments have stepped up their games in recent years, offering higher quality and more nutritious meals with more affordable menu options.
Unfortunately, a few places haven’t changed at all and some have actively gotten worse. Fast-food restaurants that you should avoid tend to share similar characteristics, like dangerously unhealthy menu items, flavorless ingredients, and outright lies about nutritional content.
Though it was once the gold standard of fast-food chicken, KFC has dramatically worsened in recent years — at least in the United States. According to Consumer Reports, KFC scores below chains like Raising Cane’s and Church’s Chicken in food quality and customer satisfaction.
Some of this stems from the absurd amount of sodium in the food, but it is also due to the chain’s high costs and misleading advertisements. Many of the menu items show buckets overflowing with food with prices that align with such a massive meal. Unfortunately, you’re paying more for less than implied, in most cases.
With their range of sausages, sandwiches, and other unique options, Wienerschnitzel fills a niche in the fast-food world. Unfortunately, its food is often well over an acceptable price, especially since reports say it's also lacking flavor-wise. Consumers frequently complain about the taste and texture of the ingredients, as well as the disappointing meat-to-bun ratio.
Whereas competitors like Taco Bell have overcome the public’s formerly negative opinions with menu upgrades and healthier options, Del Taco never truly stepped into the modern era. Not only is the quality of its food lower than other restaurants, but even its “healthy” menu items pale in comparison.
For example, sodium counts across the menu are extremely high, with some even exceeding the recommended daily intake.
What was once a sandwich chain capable of competing with the best in the industry is now a shadow of its former self. Quiznos had over 5,000 restaurants across the United States, but due to high prices and poor quality, there are now fewer than 300.
Plus, Quiznos is no stranger to controversies, largely due to its infamous mistreatment of franchisees. If you’re looking for a sandwich, there are plenty of better options with lower costs and fewer moral issues.
Despite its slogan, Subway often offers anything but fresh food. For example, the packaging and shipping process for lettuce takes 10 to 15 days, resulting in lettuce that tastes and feels terrible. Subway has also found itself in the middle of some legal issues surrounding the addition of various chemicals and preservatives into its ingredients.
In recent years, Subway has had to close over 1,000 restaurants as customers seek out healthier and fresher options.
Whether it's due to the low quality and poor nutritional content of its food, a laundry list of controversies, or permanently broken ice cream machines, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that they are better off avoiding McDonald’s.
Perhaps the most egregious options appear on its breakfast menu. A single McGriddle can easily count for a fourth of your daily calories and some choices, like the Big Breakfast, boast calorie counts over 1300.
Few restaurants have a gimmick as interesting as Sonic’s retro carhop delivery system. However, that gimmick and its crushed ice are basically all that Sonic has to offer.
Customers often complain that the food is stale or flavorless. Some franchises try to cover the lack of flavor with an excess of condiments, which only serves to make their offerings even more unappetizing.
For some people, Arby’s slogan alone is reason enough to avoid the restaurant. This sandwich joint’s main selling point is its selection of meats, though it has also extended its menu to include some healthier options.
However, this has not improved the nutritional content of its main menu items, which are swimming in sodium and trans fats. For example, the Signature Reuben is only 680 calories but contains 2410 mg of sodium — over 100 mg beyond the recommended daily intake.
If the name seems a bit strange, it’s because this restaurant ditched its former name in 2015. CiCi’s Pizza became Cicis as part of a new marketing campaign, stating that they have more to offer than just pizza.
Needless to say, changing the name did nothing to improve the low quality of its food and the general lack of cleanliness of many of its franchises. However, Consumer Reports did list Cicis as having some of the politest employees of any restaurant.
In most regions of the United States, Italian cuisine doesn’t really exist in fast-food form. Restaurants that do offer Italian food in this style often can’t meet the expectations we hold for the culture’s incredible cuisine.
Customers frequently complain about the freshness of Sbarro’s menu items. According to the New York Times, few customers go to Sbarro specifically for its food. Instead, they visit because they’re hungry and it’s widely available.
While it has quickly risen to prominence as one of America's favorite Mexican restaurants, you may actually want to start avoiding Chipotle. Historically, the chan has had tons of issues with food safety and health concerns, including multiple food poisoning scandals.
Chipotle restaurants are often understaffed and their staff overworked, which leads to cutting corners with food safety. Additionally, Chipotle has gotten caught not providing enough sick leave for its employees and failing to pay employees for the sick leave they do take.
Pizza is one of those foods that is truly satisfying to eat. Unfortunately, fast-casual pizza options tend to suffer quality-wise, and it may be time to avoid Domino's and Pizza Hut entirely.
Pizza Hut's pizzas are often way saltier than they need to be, with rubbery and bland cheese. Plus, Pizza Hut can't seem to compete with other chains' prices. Meanwhile, Domino's consistently receives poor reviews in terms of value, service speed, food quality, and cleanliness.
Blizzards have been key parts of many children's lives, but you might think twice about returning to Dairy Queen for the classic treat. DQ's soft serve machines constantly have issues with health-code violations because of poor maintenance and incomplete cleaning. Plus, did you know that Dairy Queen's frozen treats aren't technically ice cream? They don't contain enough milk fat to qualify as true ice cream. If anything, they would qualify as "ice milk" if the FDA hadn't gotten rid of that category years ago.
Don't think that the lower fat content makes them any healthier, though, as they contain more than enough sugar to make up for it. As if these issues weren't enough, Dairy Queen regularly has issues with serving raw or undercooked chicken.
Jack in the Box is a legend in the fast-food industry, but that comes with its fair share of negatives. With thousands of restaurants, there are going to be some issues. Notably, only 33% of customers who eat at Jack in the Box say they would return.
Many cite tasteless food and poor service among their reasons for avoiding the chain. Its menu is also far from healthy, with many items over 900 calories.
Though you may know it better as Dunkin' Donuts, the brand dropped the "Donuts" part of its name in an attempt to become a "beverage-led" restaurant. This has led to a lot of menu changes, including dropping several fan-favorite confections. What foods are left are often stale or flavorless, unless you happen to visit early in the morning. Even their drinks aren't a good bet, as many customers and employees complain that the new machines run too hot, burning all espresso drinks.
When it comes to fast-casual dining, Burger King is one of the most dominant brands around. However, you should probably just drive past the King next time you're looking for a place to eat.
Many of its menu items have incredibly high calorie counts and even its vegetarian options are high in saturated fat and sodium. The restaurant has also failed to innovate its breakfast menu and instead relies on the same low-quality and unhealthy options.
Checkers and its sister company, Rally's, have continued to serve classic meals to the Southeast and Midwest for nearly 40 years. However, that may be changing soon, due in part to their poor service and bland food. Many customers complain that food comes out cold, soggy, and flavorless. The menu items are often extremely unhealthy, thanks to high calorie counts and excess sodium.
Another reason to avoid stopping at Checkers is that it may not be safe from a security standpoint. In 2019, the two restaurants revealed a long-running data breach that had affected customers at over 103 locations. This breach stems from malware that had infected point-of-sale systems as early as 2015.
As far as fast-casual Mexican-style restaurants go, El Pollo Loco has been relatively free of controversy and is one of the few that actually began in Mexico. However, customers have complained about the high prices of many of the menu items. Plus, the food has a tendency to come out dry and a bit bland.
Five Guys has reached near mythological status in the modern fast-food world, thanks to its large portions and high-quality meals. Unfortunately, those portions come with a cost. Five Guys' menu items are not for the health-conscious, with most measuring well over 1500 calories. Do your best to visit Five Guys only as a rare treat, rather than a frequent stop.
Many restaurants struggle with providing healthy options to their customers and White Castle is no exception. A medium order of Fish Nibblers contains 1,300 milligrams of sodium, over half of the recommended daily intake.
The sliders are an even bigger risk. The Double Cheese Slider Combo is one of White Castle's most popular options and boasts over 1,800 milligrams of sodium and around 1,000 calories. If you try to avoid the most unhealthy options, you often run into foods that are tasteless or outright foul, such as the crab cake slider.
Smashburger is relatively new to the fast-casual dining industry, having opened in 2007, but it already has more than 300 locations across America. Unfortunately, its menu is extremely limited.
While the foods it does offer are often tasty, they are far less healthy than the restaurant would have you believe. By adding in avocados, truffles, and a medley of veggies, the restaurant gives you the image of a healthy burger. Unfortunately, chipotle mayo or a deluge of ranch dressing significantly boosts the calorie counts.
Starbucks is a coffee juggernaut and has cemented itself as a cornerstone of American life. While some of their offerings are pretty healthy, there are just as many that are calorie and sugar bombs. That little bit of whipped cream on top of a tall drink? Almost 100 calories.
It’s not unusual for a single drink to account for over a fourth of your recommended daily calories. Plus, its price is often far higher than the quality deserves, as detractors of the brand will often tell you.
As far as fast-food burger joints go, Wendy’s has always prided itself as being one of the healthier choices. However, being the healthiest option in this industry doesn’t necessarily mean the food is actually healthy. Customers looking to cut down on calorie counts will often look to the chicken sandwich, but Wendy’s chicken sandwiches are rich in calories and contain multiple fat sources.
Employees say that if there’s one item that everyone should avoid, it’s the fish sandwich. This seasonal item is often far older than you would think, with some accounts claiming the fish was old enough to have a birthday.
If you’re a fan of chicken in the South, chances are that you’ve been to Zaxby’s. You also probably shouldn’t return. Customers complain that the sides are bland at best and terrible at worst. For example, the coleslaw is more of a wet mush than a refreshing side.
Even the chicken isn’t safe, as the Chicken Fingerz are apparently dry, the bone-in wings are more sauce than meat, and the sandwich is nothing special. Plus, many employees report being underpaid and overworked under abusive managers.
Panda Express stands out as one of the few Chinese fast-casual restaurants, but you should probably stick to the take-out from your local place, instead. A single serving of the Beijing Beef accounts for over half of the recommended daily intake of fat, while the orange chicken is swimming in sugar.
If you choose healthier options, like the mushroom chicken, you receive a dish that is mushy and flavorless while somehow containing nearly 1,000 milligrams of sodium.