Americans Are Avoiding These Restaurant Chains in 2020
Chain restaurants used to be cool and rule the market, but now some chains are barely surviving as more and more customers ditch them. Consumers want high-quality food with quick, friendly service. Longstanding chains like Cheesecake Factory, Applebee’s and IHOP frequently fail to meet these needs.
Consumer Picks calculated consumer scores for some of America’s most popular restaurants. Check out the 30 worst restaurant chains in America, ranked from terrible to worse.
35. Cafe Rio Mexican Grill
Operating 133 restaurants in 12 states, Cafe Rio serves up Mexican classics. The chain's most famous dish is the sweet pork barbacoa burrito made enchilada-style. While customers applaud Cafe Rio for cooking fresh food everyday in the kitchen, the company still receives a lot of complaints.
34. Carrabba’s Italian Grill
Failing to bring in traffic, Carrabba’s Italian Grill had to close multiple locations in 2017. The chain hopes its delivery service will attract more customers, especially young diners. After a rough 2016, the company discovered that stiff competition and more people cooking meals at home were contributing factors.
33. Coco’s Bakery and Restaurant
Craving a slice of pie from Coco's Bakery? Get your dessert soon because the restaurant has already closed many locations in California, Arizona and Nevada. The company has recently went through bankruptcy and mass layoffs, which are never good signs for a chain.
32. Mellow Mushroom
Each year, more consumers see stories about Mellow Mushroom closing its doors in their local cities. Specializing in Southern-style pizza, calzones, hoagies and salads, Mellow Mushroom has been enjoyed by many customers. However, the pizza-chain is losing its extraordinary touch.
31. Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse
Steakhouses have been in boiling hot water lately, including Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse. As beef prices went up, prices on the menu did too, leading to unhappy customers. Consequently, Fleming's felt the heat from patrons who gave low ratings to the restaurant.
30. Olive Garden
Famous for its unlimited breadsticks and salad, Olive Garden serves up Italian-American cuisine to hungry diners. Also known for its never-ending pasta deals, Olive Garden’s consumer score is higher than many casual dining restaurants, but it still has some flaws.
29. Cheesecake Factory
Who doesn’t enjoy digging in to huge portions at restaurants? Cheesecake Factory is popular for having more than 50 different types of cheesecake, at least 250 items on its regular menu and massive plate sizes. However, offering a large menu doesn’t mean the food is better.
28. Famous Dave’s
Only 45 percent of diners say they return to Famous Dave’s for its pork ribs, chicken, beef brisket and different flavors of barbecue sauce. The chain is currently in some hot water, and Famous Dave locations have been closing across the country.
27. Outback Steakhouse
Many customers don’t return to Outback Steakhouse because the food is too expensive and doesn’t even taste good. Modern-day consumers’ tastes are changing and the chain is struggling to keep up. More diners than ever before prefer convenience, inexpensive food and healthier options.
26. Joe’s Crab Shack
Have you ever had a difficult time hearing or talking to people in a restaurant because the atmosphere was too loud? Excess noise is a common complaint at Joe’s Crab Shack. Customers also aren’t happy with the service at the chain.
25. Macaroni Grill
Macaroni Grill offers Italian-American cuisine, but its dishes were once considered gluttonous. In 2007, the chain received a big, red "F" from Men’s Health and earned a spot as one of the unhealthiest chains in the country. An average plate from the restaurant was plagued with more than 1,000 calories.
24. Red Robin Gourmet Burgers and Brews
Gourmet burger chain Red Robin has taken a nosedive in sales. In 2018, the company lost $10.6 million. Yikes! Many factors contributed to the painful spiral in performance, including bad reviews related to dirty seating areas and long waits.
Founded in 2007, Smashburger gets smashed for their dry, expensive, small burgers, with many customers saying the food is too mediocre for the price. The chain boasts that its burgers are made from 100% certified angus beef and contain a secret spice blend, which adds to the disappointment when the burgers end up being flavorless.
Almost 60 percent of consumers say goodbye to Sizzler and never return. Guests are ditching restaurants with buffets, primarily due to poor food quality and the "gross" factor. Sizzler’s steaks aren’t appealing, either, so most diners in search of beef go elsewhere. Also, the food at the buffet sits there for a while, driving away customers who prefer freshly-made food.
O’Charley’s has been making headlines, but not for its food. All the extra attention is on the chain’s business struggles. Located across the Southern and Midwestern states, O’Charley’s has closed down many stores. In fact, in June 2019, eight restaurants perished in just one day.
20. Beef ‘O’ Brady’s
Although Beef ‘O’ Brady’s advertises "Good Food, Good Sports," the chain receives poor reviews for taste, atmosphere, reputation, menu variety and price. Customers mainly complain about rude customer service at the family sports pub. The lack of timeliness is also an issue: It takes a long time to receive service and to receive food.
19. Bob Evans
Midwestern and Mid-Atlantic restaurant Bob Evans serves baked goods, snacks and breakfast all day. Many diners mock the restaurant’s customer service and food, with some commenting that if you like being treated like "crap," this is the perfect place for you.
18. Logan’s Roadhouse
Logan’s Roadhouse specializes in mesquite-grilled steaks and classic American dishes like hamburgers, sandwiches, soups and salads. Plenty of today’s diners are skipping steakhouses like Logan’s, and it shows. In 2016, the chain fell into a pit of despair after filing for bankruptcy and closing at least 18 locations.
If you have ever lived in the South, you’re probably familiar with Shoney’s, which sells hamburgers, hot fudge, ice cream cakes, sandwiches and pies. Customers couldn’t get enough of Shoney’s in the 1980s and 1990s. With thousands of locations, the future of the chain looked promising.
16. Applebee’s Grill + Bar
Applebee’s often gets mocked as the worst place to have a romantic date. The chain’s happy hour experience seems tempting and fun, but many guests say the lower cost still isn’t worth it. Diners criticize the chain’s subpar food, calling it microwavable food that's somehow drowned in oil and filled with tenderizer.
15. BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse
BJ’s is also trying to survive the casual restaurant death trap. The chain fell in the rankings because it’s overcrowded, too dark and the food is "nothing special." The congested restaurant leads to timeliness problems, and customers have to wait a long time to be seated, to order and to receive their food.
Only 37 percent of customers go back for the all-day breakfast and pastries at Perkins. Many guests are abandoning the restaurant because of its lack of convenience, but others are disappointed by the cold, horrible food and extremely slow service.
13. Waffle House
The majority of Waffle House locations are in the South or along the East Coast. The chain has more than 2,000 locations and specializes in breakfast items, such as waffles, omelets, pancakes and hashbrowns. About 37 percent of guests love the chain’s basic menu, affordable prices and 24/7 hours of operation.
12. Chili’s Grill and Bar
Chili’s is famous for its ribs and accompanying jingle, "I Want My Baby Back Ribs." The chain has also been featured in the show The Office, but even those moments in the TV spotlight haven’t prevented the company from coming to a standstill. Quick service chains like Chipotle and Five Guys are kicking its butt.
11. California Pizza Kitchen
Only 36 percent of customers keep going back to California Pizza Kitchen (CPK) for its BBQ chicken pies. Leaving CPK for better pizza options, many customers say they won’t miss it when it closes. Some experts believe CPK reminds customers of mall food, which is barely surviving today.
East Coast chain Friendly’s serves up 22 ice cream flavors along with sandwiches, burgers, salads and hot dogs. Friendly’s was founded in 1935 and quickly expanded. For many years, the business was on fire, but that fire began to die down in 2011.
In June 2018, IHOP trolled the world by rebranding itself as IHOb (International House of Burgers). Some consumers thought it was funny, while others disapproved and told IHOP to "stick to pancakes" and "stay in your lane." In the end, it was all just a publicity stunt.
8. On the Border
On the Border scores low for its mediocre Mexican dishes. Some reviewers complain that the quesadillas are served cold, or the guacamole has a black color to it. Sometimes, the food comes with the extra ingredient of human hair. Gross!
7. Ruby Tuesday
Only 36 percent of customers crave Ruby Tuesday’s classic American menu of burgers, chicken, pasta and salad on a repeat basis. Guests call the "varied menu" dull, and the restaurant received terrible scores on its atmosphere. Why is it always dark inside? The dim lighting makes it difficult to read the menu and see the food. (Maybe that’s the point?)
6. Steak ‘n Shake
Steak ‘n Shake appears to be losing its way. It closed dozens of restaurants after losing $18.9 million in its first quarter in 2019 and $10.7 million in 2018. The company’s CEO hopes to save $1 million by removing cherries from its milkshakes, but will ditching cherries really save Steak ‘n Shake from extinction?
Denny’s is known for its menu deals, 24/7 hours of operation and serving all meals around the clock. And, of course, we haven’t forgotten about its famous "Grand Slam" plate. Many customers mention they only go to Denny’s after a long night of studying or drinking.
Famous for its chicken wings and breasts — unfortunately, not the ones found on chickens — Hooters is often associated with female servers wearing orange short shorts and white tank tops. However, this business strategy may not work anymore because Hooters receives a high number of complaints on the food and its value. As a result, the chain is losing its customers.
3. TGI Fridays
Only 34 percent of customers go back to TGI Friday's for its traditional American bar food. Just like other casual dining joints, TGI Fridays is struggling to get guests through its doors. Many guests complain about the chain’s prices and atmosphere. In a world where people want high-quality food at bargain prices, TGI Friday’s continues to serve up overpriced, subpar bar food.
2. Buffalo Wild Wings
Buffalo Wild Wings gets mocked for its lack of cleanliness, lame menu variety and high prices. As a result, the company has faced a slump in sales. The chain even admits its flaws, saying that it no longer stands out from the competition.
1. Johnny Rockets
Johnny Rockets is famous for its 1950s decorations, featuring red vinyl seats, jukebox stations and framed Air Force photos covering the walls. The chain is often located in malls, where there’s much less foot traffic these days, so its residence could be a big part of its demise. However, the food is also known to upset customers.