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Video: Zagat rates Five Guys, McDonald’s

  1. Transcript of: Zagat rates Five Guys, McDonald’s

    ANN CURRY, co-host: Back now at 8:45. And the average Americans eats at a fast food restaurant about 10 times a month, so which chains are the best of the best ? Well, the famous restaurant guide Zagat is out with the results of a new survey. Tim Zagat is the CEO. Good morning to you and thanks for correcting me because I've been saying Zagat the whole time that I've been reading the books.

    Mr. TIM ZAGAT: As long as you buy it, it's fine.

    CURRY: You do this survey every year.

    Mr. ZAGAT: Yes.

    CURRY: And so what is the headline from this year's findings?

    Mr. ZAGAT: I think the headline is Five Guys .

    CURRY: Hm.

    Mr. ZAGAT: It's a chain which has over 500 outlets, but that's small by the standards of most of the chains we're talking about. And it's growing like topsy and it has wonderful burgers. And they have the most amazing combinations, they say they have 250,000 combinations, I think they're kidding, but it may be true.

    CURRY: Well, let's see how they did on the survey. Let's going to -- you're going to take them by topic by topic. For example, the most popular -- and by the way, you conducted this survey online, I think there was something like 6,000 people who weighed in.

    Mr. ZAGAT: Sixty-five hundred people.

    CURRY: There you go. A lot of people. And so the most popular of these fast food restaurants , mega fast food chains is?

    Mr. ZAGAT: Subway.

    CURRY: Hm.

    Mr. ZAGAT: And given the fact that it has over 30,000 outlets around the world, that's not a surprise. But they really have a combination of things, they're quick, they're convenient, they're reasonably priced, and most importantly, they have healthy product.

    CURRY: They have wheat bread and things like that that you can choose, and so they give people options.

    Mr. ZAGAT: They really specialize in fresh ingredients and healthy end product.

    CURRY: OK. In terms of the list for the top overall chain, which, by the way means what exactly?

    Mr. ZAGAT: It's a combination of the averages for food facilities and service.

    CURRY: OK.

    Mr. ZAGAT: And that means that they are -- average have the highest overall experience.

    CURRY: All right. And the winner of that one?

    Mr. ZAGAT: And that's Wendy's .

    CURRY: Wendy 's.

    Mr. ZAGAT: Wendy 's. People think of Wendy's as the burger, the square burger, but actually it also does just about everything else right according to winning this award.

    CURRY: Now we talked just a few moments ago about healthy options, these are healthier, I'm not sure that people might say they're 100 percent healthy, I would think, but healthier than you expect at fast food restaurants . Who wins in that category?

    Mr. ZAGAT: Subway again. Combination of fresh ingredients and healthy end product.

    CURRY: So that's not the headline, but the headline is also that Wendy's takes the number two position in that one as well.

    Mr. ZAGAT: That's right .

    CURRY: All right. OK. Now moving on to the best burger. Now we get to go back to the top.

    Mr. ZAGAT: Five Guys.

    CURRY: And they beat out all the others, In- N-Out , Wendy's , Burger King , McDonald's . Why?

    Mr. ZAGAT: That's right . That was a big surprise to me because I've never yet eaten a Five Guys burger. But boy, people love their burgers. And they are growing so fast that it must be because people appreciate them.

    CURRY: OK. Moving on to the best French fries . Now this one was an overwhelming landslide winner.

    Mr. ZAGAT: Yeah. And it's almost expected every year, McDonald's , McDonald's , McDonald's . Their French fries -- our surveyors voted for them overwhelmingly.

    CURRY: Why do you think?

    Mr. ZAGAT: You know, all I know is that's because thousands of people like their French fries better than anybody else's. I know that I happen to personally like their French fries better than anybody else's. But, you know, it's 6500 people.

    CURRY: On the -- on -- in the category of best coffee, perhaps it's not a surprise because it's so ubiquitous, but who won for best fast food coffee?

    Mr. ZAGAT: Starbucks. And Starbucks kind of says -- the name says great coffee.

    CURRY: Mm-hmm.

    CURRY: Dunkin' Donuts was number two on that list, which is interesting, but also interesting is Peet 's Coffee Tea , because I think a lot of people don't know about Peet 's. Comes from the Northwest .

    Mr. ZAGAT: Well, Peet 's is an excellent coffee chain. So far, though, it's not everywhere and Starbucks is.

    CURRY: And in fact, sometimes I think when you go to Dunkin' Donuts , you get a cup of Peet 's, I mean I think sometimes they use actually the Peet's coffee . Isn't that true?

    Mr. ZAGAT: I don't know.

    CURRY: You don't know that.

    Mr. ZAGAT: I don't know.

    CURRY: OK. Well, hopefully I didn't say anything wrong there. And in the last category, the best value meal. So we're basically saying that you get the most for your money. Who wins there?

    Mr. ZAGAT: McDonald 's. And again, if you look at all the other categories in which McDonald's wins, they win for a variety of things that they do very well.

    Mr. ZAGAT: But at the end of the day , they do it for a very low price.

    CURRY: Mm-hmm.

    Mr. ZAGAT: And people appreciate it, it's a great value. The dollar menu that they sell speaks for itself.

    CURRY: All right. OK. So what's your -- what are you studying next?

    Mr. ZAGAT: Well, we're doing things about movies, we're doing nightlife, we're doing all kinds of things. We're always doing it, there's never a time when we're not surveying something.

    CURRY: And that's from Tim Zagat .

TODAY staff
updated 8/16/2010 9:18:59 AM ET 2010-08-16T13:18:59

According to the latest Fast Food Survey by Zagat, the best burger in America comes from Virginia-based chain Five Guys. But while the regional chain edged out national players in the hamburger category, Dairy Queen rules the Best Milkshakes category, while the best fries still come from McDonald’s.

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The results of the survey were revealed live on TODAY Monday. The survey covered 136 fast-food and full-service chains nationwide. Voting on zagat.com, 6,518 voters weighed in on everything from chicken and cheeseburgers to smoothies and seafood. Full survey results are available at zagat.com/fastfood.

“I think the headline is Five Guys,” Zagat Survey CEO Tim Zagat told TODAY’s Ann Curry. “It’s a chain that has 500 outlets, but that’s small. But it’s growing.”

Zagat admitted that Five Guys’ victory “was a big surprise to me, because I’ve never yet eaten a Five Guys burger.” But McDonald’s taking the french fries honors came as no surprise, he said: “It’s almost expected every year — McDonald’s, McDonald’s, McDonald’s. Our surveyers voted for them overwhelmingly. I personally like them better.”

The survey divided fast-food venues into four categories: Large Chains (up to 5,000 U.S. outlets), Mega-Chains (more than 5,000), Full-Service Chains (with table service) and Quick-Refreshment Chains (focusing on beverages, frozen treats and the like). Wendy’s is this year’s Top Food champion, dominating the Mega-Chain category.

Image: Five guys burger and fries
Yuri Gripas  /  Reuters
A cheeseburger and large fries, priced at $6, are seen at a Five Guys restaurant.

“People think of Wendy’s as the square burger, but actually they do just about everything else right [too],” Zagat said.

Also holding onto its title is West Coast burger chain In-N-Out Burger, which again took Top Food among Large Chains. New to the survey is regional seafood chain Bonefish Grill, which took top honors in the Full-Service category, while Ben & Jerry’s prevailed in the Quick-Refreshment category.

The year’s winners for Top Healthy Options are Subway (Mega-Chain), Jason’s Deli (Large Chains), Jamba Juice (Quick-Refreshment) and Bonefish Grill (Full-Service). “They’re quick, they’re convenient, they’re reasonably priced,” Zagat said of Subway. But their most important quality, he added, was their “combination of fresh ingredients and a healthy end product.”

Taking home the prize for Best Value among fast-food establishments is McDonald’s, which also got top honors for Best Value Menu, Most Child Friendly and Best Drive-Thru. “At the end of the day, they do it for a very low price,” Zagat said of McDonald’s. “Their Dollar Menu speaks for itself.”

The remaining top-ranked values among fast-food chains are (in order) Panera Bread, Chipotle, Taco Bell and Chick-fil-A. The top three full-service winners for Best Value are Olive Garden, Cracker Barrel and The Cheesecake Factory.

For coffee lovers, it’s still all about Starbucks, which won the Best Coffee category for the second year in a row, beating out (in order) Dunkin’ Donuts, McDonald’s, Peet’s Coffee & Tea and Caribou Coffee. “Starbucks: The name says great coffee,” Zagat told Curry. “Peet’s is an excellent coffee chain, but so far they’re not everywhere, and Starbucks is.”

Here are other highlights of the survey:

Best Burger

  1. Five Guys
  2. In-N-Out Burger
  3. Wendy’s
  4. Burger King
  5. McDonald's

Best French Fries

  1. McDonald's
  2. Five Guys
  3. In-N-Out Burger
  4. Wendy's
  5. Burger King

Best Milkshakes

  1. Dairy Queen
  2. Cold Stone
  3. Sonic Drive-In
  4. Chick-fil-A
  5. Ben & Jerry's

Fast-Food Chains

Best Fried Chicken: Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC)
Best Grilled Chicken: Chick-fil-A
Best Fish: Long John Silver’s
Best Salads: Panera Bread Co.
Most Child-Friendly: McDonald’s

Full-Service Chains

Best Steak: Outback Steakhouse
Best Pasta: Maggiano’s
Best Breakfast: Cracker Barrel
Best Seafood: Bonefish Grill
Best Desserts: The Cheesecake Factory
Most Child-Friendly: Chuck E. Cheese’s

Full results can be found at zagat.com/fastfood.

Zagat Survey rates and reviews restaurants, airlines, hotels, resorts, movies and other fields.

© 2012 MSNBC Interactive.  Reprints

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