The Only Accurate Ranking of Chain Restaurants

Breaking down some of the ultimate classics


There are endless numbers of chain restaurants in the United States that are a central cause for major debate. I have lived in three different states, so I have tried a variety of different restaurants and have created a tier list of some of these staples. Without further ado, here is my ranking of 24 different chain restaurants.

D Tier

Zoës Kitchen: I despise Zoës Kitchen. I really want to like it too because it seems somewhat healthy and many of my friends love it, but every time I go I am just let down by whatever I order. The Mediterranean and Greek genres of food here are simply just not as good as alternatives like Kairos and Tazikis.

Golden Corral: I have a personal vendetta against buffets, especially with Covid. People just have no respect for the fact that others will be eating the same food that they are spreading their greasy hands all over. Their breakfast, lunch, and dinner options are just mid since they have so many options I just feel like nothing is very special.

TGI Fridays: I have never once heard anyone say, “Let’s go to TGI Fridays” or “I am craving TGI Fridays” because no one ever has. Their food is just so meh. There is nothing great or unique about their menu at all and their burgers are just not very good. At least it’s not a buffet, but their food is just so disappointing.

C Tier

Noodles & Company: I genuinely don’t hate Noodles & Company, but there is just way too much going on. They are trying to do everything when there is really just no need to. I never know what to get because they do every single noodle ever. Do they specialize in spaghetti or pad thai or mac and cheese? We will never know.

McAlister’s Deli: I always forget that McAlister’s Deli exists. It is very forgettable which I guess is why it is in the C Tier. It is never bad, but it never knocks my socks off either. They have pretty decent sandwiches, but I actually go there maybe once every two years and usually not by choice.

Fuddruckers: There is a Fuddruckers in Spartanburg and for some reason, it would always hit after I would have a swim meet there. I cannot imagine it ever hitting in any other situation though. It is so mediocre it hurts, but whenever you are insanely hungry it is amazing. It is just a basic burger. That’s literally it.

Blaze Pizza: I have tried Blaze so many times and I just am never that happy with my pizza. It is not bad, but it is just ok and for pizza, there are so many better options. Every time I go it is actually completely empty and I feel like the millions of people working just watch you eat, so it is a very uncomfortable experience.

Red Lobster: I actually am kind of freaked out by Red Lobster because there was one in Missouri where I used to live which is in central America nowhere near an ocean. There is just no way the seafood is fresh which is a bit repulsive to think about. The reason this is in the C Tier is because of their biscuits. These biscuits are actually amazing and I crave them, but that is the highlight of Red Lobster.

IHOP: I have had some of the most fun experiences at IHOP and they are essentially one of the only restaurants that stay open late, so it is a go-to for a late-night run for food. I am not a huge fan of the food, but it is not bad. The syrup containers appear as though they have never been cleaned before which always kind of throws me off, but it is still a good time all around.

B Tier

Outback Steakhouse: Outback Steakhouse is always a solid choice if you are craving a slab of meat. I am personally not a huge fan of steak and the food that is offered at this restaurant, but it is always good. I am putting it on the B Tier because it is always pretty fire when I go and is a good time.

Buffalo Wild Wings: If a man cave was a restaurant, it would be Buffalo Wild Wings. This only adds to the entertainment factor of the restaurant so I am honestly a fan of it. The food here isn’t spectacular, but the pure amount of TVs call for a good time especially during a large sports event. The wings are pretty good too, so that’s a bonus.

Waffle House: Waffle House is essentially IHOP but just better. Every single time I go to Waffle House something funny is bound to happen especially if it is late at night. I also think their breakfast is better than IHOP’s. The cleanliness is questionable, but at Waffle House, it doesn’t even matter.

Tropical Smoothie Cafe: I thoroughly enjoy Tropical Smoothie in the summer when it is a million degrees, but other than that I rarely crave it. I am never let down by their smoothies, but I feel that their food could be improved upon. The kid’s cheese quesadilla is pretty solid though, so at least we have that.

Carrabba’s: Carrabba’s is decent Italian food, but I do not really enjoy the scenery of the restaurants. My personal preference for non-authentic Italian food lies with a different restaurant that is discussed later, but Carrabba’s is really not bad. It was pretty sad when the Carrabba’s was closed in Mount Pleasant, but I cannot say that I have deeply missed it.

The Cheesecake Factory: I honestly love Cheesecake Factory even though their menu is a full-on novel. I never know exactly what to get here, but I do know that their desserts are fire. I also love the interiors of these restaurants. I have not been to one in so long, but I can say that I miss it given that it is a different experience every time because of the diverse menu.

Applebee’s: I do not think that Applebee’s gets the credit that it deserves. I am a huge fan of their quesadillas and once again I just feel like it is always a good time in one. It is infinitely better than TGI Friday’s and many other restaurants in that general category.

A Tier

Hard Rock Cafe: Hard Rock is mostly placed in the A Tier strictly for the environment of the restaurant. I absolutely love the interior of these restaurants and they are strategically placed in really fun places. Every time I have been to one it has been in places that I have associated with good times like Universal and Niagara Falls. Their food is not bad either, but you know it’s going to be a good time when the family goes to Hard Rock.

Smash Burger: I really enjoy Smash Burger. Their burgers are spectacular and their fries are top tier too. It is usually pretty quick service and it is good quality. I really have no complaints about Smash Burger.

Denny’s: Denny’s is the best chain breakfast restaurant. I love Denny’s. Their breakfast is amazing, the ones I have eaten in have always been clean, and they also stay open late. I deeply wish there was Denny’s closer to where I lived because I would be going there nonstop.

Chili’s: Chili’s is even better than Applebee’s. There are many amazing items on the menu and their skillet queso is spectacular. Once again their quesadillas are delicious and the environment is good.

Olive Garden: I know, I know many people hate Olive Garden, but I grew up in New York and there was the nicest Olive Garden ever where I lived and it was just a classic. I love their breadsticks and their chicken parmesan is so good. I know there is infinitely better truly Italian cuisine, but I just love Olive Garden.

S Tier

P.F. Chang’s: I love the food here and the ambiance of the restaurant is calming. It is criminally overpriced, but I do crave their honey chicken. I really do love this restaurant and I always have. It never fails to make me happy and satisfied with my meal.

Einstein Bros. Bagels: Whenever you are in an airport and see one of these you feel compelled to drop to your knees and burst with complete joy. These are so so good and there are so many options. There is just nothing better than a bagel, especially one from Einstein Bros.

On The Border: I dream of the day I will live with one of these near me. I absolutely love On The Border. Everything on the menu is absolutely amazing and the restaurants are always clean and the environment is just phenomenal. Round of applause for On The Border because I have nothing bad to say about it.

Final Tier List