Business

L.A. diners rank fast-food and casual chains with the best buzz

Lifestyle and LeisureDining and DrinkingRestaurant and Catering IndustryRestaurantsConsumersIHOP CorporationPanera Bread Company
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Angelenos were asked to rank the best fast-food and quick, casual dining chains as part of a national survey. The result? L.A. diners favor taste, quality and options, and ranked Subway as their top destination for a quick meal. 

For its midyear report, YouGovBrandIndex asked about 750,000 consumers to rank the quick-service, fast-food scene that get the best buzz. The chart shows the brands consumers felt the most positive about -- from advertising, word of mouth or the news -- from January through June.

While Subway took first place locally and nationally, L.A.'s list differs greatly from the rest of the country.

In-N-Out Burger took second place behind the sandwich chain, with Chipotle in third. Burger joints such as Burger King, Wendy's and Carl's Jr. were also popular choices. 

Nationally, brands such as Panera Bread, Wendy's, Pizza Hut and IHOP came out on top. 

"L.A. clearly loves its burgers, with half the top 10 falling into that category," said Drew Kerr, a company spokesman. "There is not one pizza chain on L.A.'s top 10, whereas Pizza Hut is No. 4 nationally." 

IHOP didn't make the cut in Los Angeles, either, even though its headquarters is in Glendale. Kerr explained that L.A. diners steer more toward more healthful, "fast casual" options with "a more easygoing atmosphere," and choosing drive-thru restaurants that tout more healthful ingredients.

"Subway, Chipotle, Rubio's and Baja Fresh all place the freshness and naturalness of their ingredients front and center in all their marketing, their social media and in-store," Kerr said. 

Chipotle has always marketed itself as a healthy, fresh alternative to fast food. The chain boasts that it uses as many locally grown and organic ingredients as possible.

Panera Bread is the latest chain to emphasize better ingredients, offering customers antibiotic-free chicken. The company said that by year-end 2016 it wants its menu to be free of all artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners and preservatives. 

Wendy's also touts its "real, quality ingredients," with fresh, healthy options and burgers from "100% fresh, never frozen, North American beef."

A recent study by Consumer Reports delivered similar results. 

Tod Marks, an editor at Consumer Reports, said customers care about food quality at fast-food restaurants more than convenience.

Condolences, golden arches.

Here are the quick-service restaurants with the best buzz in Los Angeles:

1. Subway
2. In-N-Out
3. Chipotle
4. Jack in the Box
5. Burger King
6. Carl's Jr.
7. Wendy's 
8. Popeyes
9. Rubio's
10. Baja Fresh

Follow @bri_sacks for food-biz news. 

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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Lifestyle and LeisureDining and DrinkingRestaurant and Catering IndustryRestaurantsConsumersIHOP CorporationPanera Bread Company
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