Why McDonald's Is One Of The Most Disliked Fast Food Chains In The US

McDonald's is one of the most widely recognized restaurants in the world. With over 38,000 locations in over 100 countries, the unmistakable Golden Arches have been a beacon in the fast food industry for many decades. So, why is it that McDonald's is among the most hated fast food chains in the U.S.? Although it generates $23.18 billion worldwide — $9.42 billion in U.S. sales alone (per Statista) — consumers still have a hard time showing love for the burger giant.

Data collected by the American Customer Satisfaction Index shows that McDonald's is dead last among competing restaurants, such as Burger King, Subway, KFC, and Chick-fil-A (to name a few). The study — compiled from email interviews with 16,250 randomly chosen customers — asked participants to rate fast food restaurants from zero to 100 based on factors including beverage and food variety, cleanliness and layout of the restaurant, staff courtesy, ordering app usability, and other elements that complete the customer experience.

The "I'm Lovin' It" company failed to meet the national benchmark for fast food restaurants in all aspects, including customer standards regarding menu options, food and beverage quality (including temperature and taste), restaurant cleanliness, speed of checkout service, and the quality and reliability of its mobile app. The overall benchmark for customer satisfaction in this index was 78. McDonald's finished with a rating of 68 in 2022 and 69 in 2023, whereas competitor Chick-fil-A — for example — scored 83 in 2022 and 85 in 2023.

Other reasons why McDonald's may not be a fast food favorite

Despite worldwide recognition and booming sales, there could be trust issues among those who dine at the restaurant. Consider the ongoing problem with McDonald's seemingly always-out-of-order ice cream machines. The machines are incredibly laborious to maintain, and most workers anecdotally just don't want to deal with the extra hassle.

More recently, fast food companies have found that it is harder to attract and maintain new employees. People may not want to work for a major corporation with a reputation for high turnover and high stress in exchange for low pay. Understaffed locations may have issues with order fulfillment and cleanliness, which could contribute to McDonald's negative image. Other fast food companies face similar challenges, but not all businesses react the same way, and it seems that McDonald's in particular is fumbling.

Nevertheless, McDonald's has high hopes for 2024 and even plans to open up 9,000 more locations by 2027. But is the burger chain choosing quantity over quality? Despite the worry over lower-income customers visiting less frequently, McDonald's still pushed its marketing budget to nearly $4 billion a year, far more than its competitors spend. With this in mind, it appears likely that McDonald's will focus on limited-time menus and deals to get back on track.