Consumer Reports releases restaurant ratings

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Nine chains earned high marks

Nine chains have earned especially high marks in Consumer Reports’ survey of sit-down restaurants, which will be published in the magazine’s August issue.

Consumer Reports said it surveyed 47,565 readers who ate a total of 110,517 meals at 102 table-service restaurant chains. Biaggi's Ristorante Italiano, Black Angus Steakhouse, Bob Evans, Bravo Cucina Italiana, First Watch, J. Alexander's, Le Peep, Elmer's and Fatz Eatz & Drinkz were the top-ranked chains, said Yonkers, N.Y.-based Consumer Reports in releasing the 2012 survey results on Thursday.

See Nation’s Restaurant News’ 2011 Consumer Picks survey

Those brands received high marks for the survey’s four main attributes: taste, value, service and mood. And they were praised in the three other key areas of menu variety, cleanliness and a lack of noise.

Lower-rated chains were Friendly’s and Waffle House, which Consumer Reports said “drew low marks for cleanliness and mood." The report also noted that that Friendly's was criticized for "lackluster service" and Buffalo Wild Wings Grill & Bar was criticized for "value and noise."

The survey also noted more nutritional information on full-service menus than in the past. “Since our previous restaurant report, we see that many more chains are providing detailed nutritional information about the food they serve, more healthful menu choices and details about where their ingredients come from,” said Tod Marks, Consumer Reports senior projects editor, in a statement.

Survey respondents singled out First Watch and Legal Seafoods as most likely to offer healthful dishes. Least likely to sell healthful fare were Buffalo Wild Wings, Quaker Steak & Lube, Waffle House, Hooters and Johnny Rockets, the survey noted.

For value, Consumer Reports said only Cheddar's Casual Cafe, which touts "always affordable food," received top mark, and only 19 chains received especially high marks for flavorful food.

Consumer Reports readers found a quarter of their restaurant visits were “too noisy.” Among chains more prone to noise complaints were Texas Roadhouse, Hard Rock Cafe, Buffalo Wild Wings and Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen.

Survey respondents complained about service at Hard Rock Cafe, Buffalo Wild Wings Grill & Bar, Chevys Fresh Mex and Benihana.

Consumer Reports respondents were also light tippers. “During about 20 percent of visits, guests left a tip of less than 15 percent; during two percent of visits, they left less than 10 percent,” Consumer Reports said on its website.

“Chains with the highest percentage of tips below 15 percent were Applebee’s, Buffalo Wild Wings, Cheddar’s, Country Kitchen, Don Pablo’s, El Torito, Joe’s Crab Shack, Logan’s Roadhouse, Lone Star Steakhouse, McGrath’s, Shari’s and Shoney’s.”

Complete restaurant ratings on all 102 chains are in Consumer Reports August issue or online at subscriber-based www.ConsumerReports.org.

Contact Ron Ruggless at ronald.ruggless@penton.com.
Follow him on Twitter: @RonRuggless