Back in the day, the guillotine was known as the chopping block. Irredeemable criminals (or, at least, those the constable deemed as such) would utter their final words, say a Hail Mary, and wait for the inevitable. So who’s up next? You, Burger King? Jack Box? Please don’t say the Taco Bell chihuahua! Let’s find out which fast-food chain diners are ready to axe.
McDonald’s dominance in a hyper-competitive fast-food burger space has always been harder to figure out than the McFlurry machine’s latest mechanical failure. It’s no slight on McDonald’s, but there are too many high-quality drive-thru burger joints for McDonald’s to have such an outsized market share. One thrifty diner leaving Ronald McDonald for good explains that the prices kept him coming back to Mickey D’s. Now that those have risen, he’s sliding off the golden arches.
2. Long John Silver’s
In some peoples’ eyes, “fast food” and “seafood” should never be synonyms. Yet, Long John Silver’s has been a staple of the American fast-food gauntlet since 1969. It makes sense that a drive-thru, order-on-site seafood chain was hatched in Lexington, Kentucky. Landlocked Lexington knows horses, but how much does it know about shrimp and fish? Based on the “gentle sales nose dive” Long John has taken since its peak in the late 1980s, the quick-service seafood genre is not what it used to be.
3. Panda Express
In recent American history, Chinese cuisine has been synonymous with speed and convenience. However, taste and quality were always part of the deal, too. General Tso would not have stood for anything less than sugary, crispy, orange-tinged chicken with no oily aftertaste. Some feel that Panda Express would be returned to fast-food boot camp if the General was still around.
4. Panera Bread
If some price-conscious diners had their way, the Pan-era would be a bygone era. It’s not that soups, salads, and sandwiches at Panera warrant an episode of Kitchen Nightmares or anything. It’s just that fans of the Saint Louis Bread Company (the original version of Panera that still goes by that name in the St. Louis area) cry for the days when prices were lower, and the brand focused on serving the locals fresh, carb-loaded meals. One-time Subway fans can relate to watching a beloved brand expand into something wholly different than what they fell in love with.
While Starbucks serves food, it’s the endless stream of coffee that keeps customers coming back morning after morning, afternoon after afternoon. Capitalizing on our collective caffeine dependence, Starbucks has made itself the premier brewer in the world, with more than 15,000 stores in the U.S. and more than 33,000 stores worldwide. It’s not that Starbucks isn’t peddling high-quality coffee. It’s just so expensive when you’re swinging through the drive-thru every day. Many struggle to wean themselves off Frappuccinos in favor of Folgers, though, and might break the habit if their local ‘Bucks were ever on the chopping block.
6. Kentucky Fried Chicken
Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) likely has greater worldwide brand recognition than Popeye’s or Chick-fil-A. However, KFC is nowhere near the conversation of the best-fried chicken joints you can swing through for a family meal after you burn the casserole. To one diner, KFC stands for “Keep the Friggin’ Chicken (we don’t want it.)” If you’re not nearly on par with the competitors in your space, what are you even doing? Not being mean to the Colonel, but it’s a fair question.
When your brand rapidly expands to have nearly as many locations as McDonald’s worldwide, your product will change. Many customers have noticed, lamenting that the “Eat Fresh” moniker does not ring as true as it once did. When you rationalize purchasing fast food, you can justify it when you buy a meal you couldn’t make nearly as well yourself (think: Baconator). For at-home sandwich artists, their own creations may surpass their usual Subway order, which helps explain why Subway closed more than 1,000 stores in 2019.
I know there are many Americans who would defend their local Chipotle like it was The Alamo if it came down to it, though I’m not sure why it would. Others, though, are not fans of Chipotle’s multiple foodborne outbreaks nor its reliance on ingredients (namely meat) prepared at off-site commissaries.
9. Jimmy Johns
Jimmy John’s will take up space in your stomach, and loyal Johnnies swear by it. Even if you don’t love the food, you must admit the delivery is, indeed, freaky fast. As far as fast food goes, Jimmy John’s is safer than a Volvo parked in a padded room. However, those who prefer Jersey Mike’s and other sub alternatives feel that Jimmy often gives you more bread than meat, and “eight dollars for a bread sandwich” does not seem reasonable.
10. Hardee’s/Carl’s Jr.
One vigilant customer found it concerning that, year after year, this chain seemed to conceive new offerings with more and more calories. Not that you’re expecting premium dietary fuel when you go to Hardee’s, but one skeptic determined that the Carl’s Jr./Hardee’s menu is “a plot to kill us all.” In fact, fast food chains have added an average of 30 calories per decade to the entrees on their menus. So, the former Hardee’s fan isn’t wrong about calorie creep, but Hardee’s is hardly the only offender.
Written by: Sam Mire.