You Won't Find A Microwave In These Popular Fast Food Chains

Over the years, fast-food restaurants have earned a bad reputation. Some diners feel these establishments have traded quality for convenience, selling food that has been warming under heat lamps or reheating burgers and sandwiches in microwave ovens. In addition, some restaurants have been called out for their sketchy food handling practices, with stories of moldy ice machines and tea made with sink water surfacing on the internet. 

While some restaurants have been guilty over the years of cutting corners in order to deliver meals faster or to keep costs down, recently, there has been a trend of fast-food establishments touting their commitment to freshness. That means cutting back or eliminating frozen food and tossing the microwave ovens into the dumpster. If you're looking to eat fresh and avoid reheated soggy food while still being able to dine on the go, these are the fast-food joints you can add to your go-to list. 

In-N-Out Burger

Perhaps the most famous fast-food chain when it comes to a stalwart commitment to freshness, West Coast burger purveyor In-N-Out Burger is so focused on delivering fresh food, it won't expand beyond Texas, as vice president Carl Van Fleet told Business Insider. The main reason behind the franchise's resistance to head East is its staunch refusal to carry frozen meat. With distribution centers located only in California and Texas, the chain's burger patties can only travel so far. As such, In-N-Out remains a dream that is out of reach for East Coast burger lovers. 

The chain's freshness devotion also extends to its individual locations, with hand-cut fries, fresh-baked slow-rising buns, and zero microwaves on the premises. This last fact is a particular point of pride for the chain and is explicitly stated on its website. So, while you can only enjoy a delicious Animal Style Double Double in six states, you are guaranteed that each burger you order is as fresh as it can possibly be. 

Five Guys

Similar to In-N-Out, Five Guys prides itself on delivering fresh meat (never frozen) to its customers. The beef is hand-shaped into patties and then refrigerated, where it can last up to 30 hours. Each burger is cooked on the spot, avoiding the need to have pre-made burgers sitting under lamps for hours on end. The whole burger-making process is a meticulous and organized operation that employs an entire team of specialists for each step. 

The method is a proven one, and Five Guys now boasts more than 1,700 locations across the globe. The chain's dedication to bringing freshly-made burgers to its customers is supported by its fact sheet, which proudly states that there are "no freezers, no microwaves, and no timers" at any of its locations. Part of this comes from the fact that the cooks are skilled enough to know how long to keep each burger on the grill and when to flip it, simply by watching the meat as it changes color.  


Chipotle has set the bar high when it comes to responsibly sourcing fresh food. One of the chain's proudest claims is that there are no can openers, freezers, or microwaves anywhere in its kitchens. The commitment to fresh, not frozen, is so great that Chipotle is even willing to sacrifice offering seafood on the menu, given it doesn't last if it's not frozen, a representative told Business Insider. Because of this mindset, Chipotle is hesitant to add new items to its menu, preferring to stick with its mainstays to guarantee quality control. 

Over the years, Chipotle has earned a reputation as a chain that is willing to walk the walk as strongly as it talks the talk — and it shows. According to a report from Intrinsic Investing, the chain was awarded an A+ on the Humane Society's Food Industry Scorecard for its animal welfare practices. It has also begun making inroads into the drive-thru space with the introduction of the "Chipotlane," a new take on the drive-thru that allows customers to place their order via Chipotle's app and pick it up at the restaurant window. 


Although it has weathered its fair share of controversies, Chick-Fil-A is well known for its delicious chicken. The recipe is so popular, in fact, that it propelled the chain to almost $19 billion in sales in 2022, according to Restaurant Business. Part of that success can be attributed to the chain's freshness and fidelity. The chicken is hand-breaded and cooked on-site, as opposed to being delivered pre-breaded and then reheated, according to its website. Additionally, the produce is delivered fresh to each Chick-Fil-A location up to six times a week, so nothing lingers too long in the back fridge. 

In addition to hand-preparing the food and serving up fresh vegetables, Chick-Fil-A also maintains a rigorously clean kitchen and, according to a blog post by a former employee, there are no microwaves on the premises. Instead, everything is stored in a walk-in fridge that is regularly stocked with fresh produce. The company also notes that it cuts down on waste and the need to reheat food by cooking efficiently and preventing too much food from being prepared.

Noodles & Company

Known for its hodgepodge menu that blends everything from Italian dishes to Thai favorites, Noodles & Company was almost undone by a negative review in its early days. According to Inc., an April 1996 review in the Wisconsin State Journal blasted the new restaurant by saying, "The premise of the restaurant is great. But it seldom delivers on its promise." Revenues dropped and the founder, Aaron Kennedy, quickly went back to the drawing board and rigorously revamped everything from food quality to wait times. 

Those shifts still inform the chain's approach today and have helped Noodles & Company expand to 468 locations across the U.S. Everything on the menu is cooked to order, and you won't find heat lamps or microwaves in any Noodles & Company restaurant. As proof of how seriously the chain takes its commitment to freshness, Inc. pointed out that, following that disastrous review, Kennedy identified 15 problem areas and set about fixing them one by one. Today, nearly 30 years later, current CEO Dave Boennighausen uses these standards as a guideline to keep the brand's restaurants running smoothly.


Founded in Denver back in 1995, Qdoba is a chain that specializes in burritos, tacos, and quesadillas. Today, it has expanded to nearly 740 locations in just about every state. Much like Chipotle, the restaurant values freshness above all else. So much so that the district manager Chris Pace prefers to refer to it as "fresh-Mex" rather than "Tex-Mex" (via CT Insider). 

Qdoba's values assert that all the food is free of MSG, additives, and artificial colors. The chain also tries to set itself apart from the competition in many ways, offering breakfast items and trendy birria tacos in addition to its signature burritos. However, one way that Qdoba is aligned with similar chains like Chipotle is a shared stance on microwaves. According to Qdoba's website, everything is prepared by hand, from the steak to the guacamole. You won't find a can opener or a microwave anywhere on the premises. 

Raising Cane's

It's been a slow but steady growth for the chicken finger-slinging Raising Cane's, which currently has nearly 700 locations in 38 states. The chain was founded by Louisiana native Todd Graves, who pitched the concept of the restaurant in a business class at LSU and was promptly dismissed by the professor. However, Graves knew he was onto something by adopting a philosophy of serving simple comfort food, as well as having a restaurant that was good at one thing in particular. 

Raising Cane's website outlines the fact that the chain focuses on its "one love" (chicken fingers), laying out a mission statement of "no heat lamps, microwaves, or compromises." Putting its money where its mouth is, Raising Cane's employees hand-batter the chicken fingers, squeeze lemons for lemonade on site, and even make their coleslaw from scratch every day. This level of dedication has pushed Raising Cane's revenue to $1.5 billion in 2022 (via Zippia).

Elevation Burger

Saveur called Elevation Burger "the first organic burger joint" when it opened back in 2005, and since then, the chain has earned a reputation as a burger place that caters to health-conscious customers. From grass-fed organic beef to grilling the veggie patties on a separate surface from the beef burgers and cooking the fries in olive oil, the chain has healthy food practices in mind. 

Since the start, Elevation Burger founder Hans Hess tried to differentiate his restaurant, cooking the burgers on steam-heated griddles as opposed to griddles heated by flames, in order to deliver the heat more evenly across the surface. The restaurants also have an open kitchen, where everything is prepared in full view of the customer, making every step transparent. Given the chain's commitment to healthy cooking and organic ingredients, it's no surprise that microwaves are not welcome in the Elevation Burger environment, as managing partner Michael Berger confirmed in an interview with Foodservice Equipment & Supplies Magazine.


For a dozen years, BurgerFi has been one of the leaders in the so-called "better burger" movement, serving up all-natural, grass-fed beef without any additives or other chemicals to give the burgers body and flavor. The chain adheres to a policy of sourcing its beef from ranches that have adopted the "never ever" policy, meaning the animals are never, ever exposed to steroids, growth hormones, or antibiotics. This dedication to serving high-quality food is reflected in the A grade awarded to the company by the Consumer Report's Chain Reaction Report for its Angus beef (via PR Newswire). 

In addition to keeping the beef free of additives, BurgerFi never freezes its meat, thereby eliminating the need for microwaves. It also maintains a low carbon footprint, according to its website, with strict rules when it comes to the handling of materials such as plastic and cardboard. As a result of its devotion to high-quality eats and environmental awareness, BurgerFi has earned a spot on USA Today's list of 10 best fast casual restaurants in 2021. 

Baja Fresh

A Tex-Mex chain that has been running steady for more than 30 years, Baja Fresh is serious enough about its no microwave policy that it's proudly emblazoned right on its website. Additionally, the company eschews other fast-food staples such as can openers and freezers, preferring to deliver its food to the customer as fresh as possible. You won't find a microwave in any of the franchise's locations around the country, as confirmed by a franchisee in an interview with the Thousand Oaks Acorn. In that interview, co-owner Anu Singh remarked that she couldn't even warm up her coffee if it cooled down before she finished drinking it! 

Baja Fresh also offers a plant-based menu that earned itself a slot at the 2020 Critic's Choice Awards (via People). The chain joined other franchises, such as The Counter, Pinkberry, and Cold Stone Creamery in serving a vegan menu, which included Baja Fresh's vegetarian tacos and burritos.