Feast your eyes on this bit of data, fast food fans.
Millennial consumers are turning increasingly away from big brands like McDonald's (MCD) and Restaurant Brands International's (QSR) Burger King. These new consumers are more interested in smaller regional chains with "strong people cultures and appealing treats - milkshakes and frozen custard" and "above all...leading product value," RBC Capital Markets analyst David Palmer said in a recent research note. RBC, with the help of research firm Mission Measurement, conducted a survey of 1,000 people to see how they rank the top sandwich and burger chains on quality.
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"For all-family brands, the bar may be higher on ingredients, and the media and promotional tools these (big brand) companies employed a decade ago seems to be far less impactful today," RBC said. This suggests that millennials are more impressed with Chipotle's (CMG) antibiotic-free chicken than Micky D's $1 soft drinks and $2 McCafe specialty drinks, for example.
Here's how 12 of the biggest fast food sandwich and burger joints stack up on quality, per RBC's data. They are ranked from those perceived to sell the highest quality to the lowest.
Editor's Pick: Originally published March 2.
The company operates 300 burger joints on the West Coast. It has a fiercely loyal following.
This fast-food chain is known for its mouth-watering fried chicken at its 2,000 locations.
Known for its ButterBurgers, Culver's runs 500 quick-service restaurants in the U.S.
The company sells its signature onion-steamed sliders at 400 locations in the U.S. Often a go-to midnight snack after a trip to the bar.
The company operates a chain of 3,300 sandwich shops known for its roast beef. Arby's CEO Paul Brown has been crushing it, as TheStreet's Brian Sozzi points out here.
Owned by CKE Restaurants, the chain sells its Six Dollar Burger at 1,400 West Coast locations. CEO Andrew Puzder recently withdrew his nomination to be President Trump's Labor Secretary.
Also owned by CKE Restaurants, operates 1,950 restaurants primarily in the Southeast and Midwest. Known for its giant burgers.
Sonic (SONC) operates 3,557 throwback, drive-thru burger joints in 45 states. Known for its shakes and hot dogs.
Jack in the Box (JACK) sells its burgers (and tacos) at 2,954 locations in the U.S.
The not-so king of burger joints anymore, Burger King operates 15,738 restaurants in 100 countries. Like Wendy's, the company is overhauling the quality of its chicken.
The once-leader of the fast food industry currently has 36,525 locations worldwide. McDonald's executives recently outlined bold plans to investors such as launching mobile ordering and improving food quality. Judging by RBC's survey, McDonald's could only go up from here.
"We wonder if McDonald's can make a bold move to leap frog the competition with regard to quality--something that would be difficult at McDonald's scale," says Palmer.
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