The Best Burger Chain According To Nearly 28% Of People

Throughout the 20th century, the burgeoning age of automobile travel meant that more Americans were taking to the road. And the further the American highway system expanded, the further away from home Americans could wander. Exciting as this was, it also presented a novel challenge; namely, where to eat while on the road? In 1921, White Castle swept in with a workable solution, opening what is thought to be the first roadside hamburger stand in the U.S. in Wichita, Kansas (via Smithsonian Magazine). 

Over time, burger stands became burger chains, which grew increasingly popular — and, not just on highways but everywhere American humans tended to congregate. With the advent of television advertising, competition among the various chains became ever more public and ever more fierce. But the stakes then were nothing compared to what they are today — with 196,839 fast food restaurants dotting the American landscape (via Ibis World) and relative newcomers like Five Guys and Shake Shack boasting higher-quality burgers and fresher produce, while old-timers like In-N-Out Burger continue upping the ante with "secret" menu items satisfying both classic and novel fast food cravings.

Today, McDonald's and Burger King are the two biggest burger chains in the U.S., according to Restaurant Business, but whether that means they're the most popular versus the most-capitalized isn't necessarily so obvious. Hoping to get to the heart of the matter, Mashed decided to survey hundreds of Americans with regard to which they believe is the best burger chain — and the results might surprise you.

Old-school burger chains may be able to learn something from the new class

There is no denying that America continues to adore its old burger chain favorites such as McDonald's and Burger King. However, you might not necessarily want to be so quick to discount the impact that some of the relative newcomers to the playing field are making, by changing the long-established rules of the burger chain game that may sometimes sacrifice quality for quickness and convenience.

In essence, the newcomers have been gradually transforming the burger landscape toward something a bit more "gourmet" while helping to make it socially acceptable for Americans to order their burgers lettuce-wrapped and their French fries fresh, not frozen. 

In fact, based upon the results of the recent Mashed survey, we might go so far as to say that perhaps it is time now for some of the old-school burger behemoths to acknowledge that the next generation of brands may actually be onto something with their modern tactics.

In fact, when Mashed surveyed hundreds of Americans about which American burger chain they thought was the best, the options to choose from didn't even include the two biggest old-school faves, namely McDonald's and Burger King, nor the OG burger chain, White Castle. Instead, the 603 U.S.-based respondents were able to pick from Five Guys, In-N-Out, Red Robin, Steak 'n Shake, Whataburger, and Shake Shack to see who they'd deem the best from the "other guys."

According to more than a quarter of those surveyed, these "guys" do burgers best

When Mashed surveyed 603 Americans to see which burger chain does it best, nearly 27.86% of people resoundingly said that title goes to Five Guys, which was founded relatively recently — in 1986, per the official website. But in that time, they've really stood out with the chain nabbing the Harris Poll distinction for "burger brand of the year" in both 2017 and 2018. Perhaps it's the fact that you can choose from 15 different toppings for your burger that makes them truly delicious — it's said there are 250,000 ways to customize it. Not many burger chains can lay stake to that claim.

The second place spot in the Mashed survey went to In-N-Out Burger (with 21.72% of the votes). Although the California-based favorite was founded in 1948, making it slightly older than either McDonald's or Burger King (both were founded in the 1950s, per CS Monitor), In-N-Out Burger skews closer to the benchmarks of Five Guys and other burger brand newcomers with its emphasis on quality over quantity, fresh ingredients, and customized ordering (via In-N-Out Burger). 

Founded in 1969, says Zippia, Red Robin took third place with 18.74% of all the votes. In fact, altogether, the top three monopolized more than two-thirds of all of the votes. The remainder was distributed fairly evenly among Steak 'n Shake (12.77%), Whataburger (10.28%), and Shake Shack (8.62%). Although Steak 'n Shake and Whataburger are among the oldest of the "best," like In-N-Out Burger, they too skew toward the new-burger-chain ethos. As for Shake Shack, which was founded basically a minute ago in "burger joint years," we consider it impressive that it made an appearance at all, but then again they do have delicious burgers — and shakes, of course.