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Consumer Reports Survey Shows Which Chains Consumers Love, and Why

The Capital Grille, First Watch, Biaggi's Ristorante Italiano, Maggiano's Little Italy and McCormick & Schmick's earned top marks among Consumer Reports ratings of 101 of America's most popular chains.
 
The Consumer Reports National Research Center gathered responses from 70,403 subscribers who made 158,744 visits to 101 restaurant chains between April 2007 and 2008. Diners were asked about their overall satisfaction, and to rate the quality of food, value, service, mood and choice.

Diners gave 21 chains top marks for food, including The Original Pancake House, Bravo Cucina Italiano, Texas Roadhouse, Bonefish Grill, Morton's The Steakhouse and Abuelo's. Five chains earned exceptional scores for value: Black-eyed Pea, Sonny's Real Pit BBQ, Azteca Mexican Restaurant, Cheddar's Casual Cafe and First Watch.

At the other end of the spectrum, with lower marks across the board, were Buffalo Wild Wings Grill & Bar, Joe's Crab Shack, and Friendly's.

For great meals for less than $20, Consumer Reports readers recommend: Mimi's Cafe, Abuelo's, Cheddar's Casual Cafe, Elephant Bar Restaurant and Texas Roadhouse. Those restaurants earned better-than-average marks for food and value. First Watch and The Original Pancake House were also standouts for food and value, but are limited to breakfast and lunch fare.

When dining at a chain for a special occasion, Houston's, J. Alexander's, Biaggi's Ristorante Italiano, Bravo Cucina Italiano, Maggiano's Little Italy, Il Fornaio, Bonefish Grill, McCormick & Schmick's, The Capital Grille, Morton's The Steakhouse, Ruth's Chris Steak House and The Melting Pot all earned the highest marks for food, mood and service.

Among the problem areas respondents pointed out in the survey regarding restaurant visits were excessive noise, crowded tables, sloppy service, lack of cleanliness (bathrooms, floors, tableware) and long waits for tables.
 

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