Nearly 46% Think This Chain Restaurant Has The Best Salads

"Salad," the powers that be at McDonald's might have scoffed in early 2020. "Diners won't miss 'em," they may have shrugged as they unceremoniously pulled salads from the menu back in the early days of the pandemic, per the Wall Street Journal. Sure, this move was meant to be "temporary," and, indeed, its heart was in the right place in that it was intended to help restaurant operators streamline their processes amid pandemic-related chaos. But when salads returned to McDonald's in 2022, it was at the discretion of franchisees whether to offer them or not, and many chose not to. 

As it turns out, the decision isn't sitting well with some McDonald's customers. Indeed, salads have had a place on fast-food menus since 1979, according to The Washington Post, which says Wendy's started the trend, which, by the way, led four in 10 Americans to change their ordering habits while dining out by 1983, according to a National Restaurant Association study (via The Washington Post). 

But even if tossing the salad becomes a trend among fast-food restaurants (McDonald's is, after all, a leader in the space), the salad game at sit-down restaurant chains is still going strong. That said, it's going stronger at some than others, at least according to the 549 U.S.-based respondents to Mashed's survey about the best chain restaurant salads.

Olive Garden has the best salad, according to 46% of survey respondents

In a Mashed survey seeking to identify the national chain restaurant with the best salad, we offered the following choices: Applebee's, Buffalo Wild Wings, Olive Garden, Outback Steakhouse, TGI Friday's, and The Cheesecake Factory. Monopolizing nearly half the votes was the salad from Olive Garden, with 45.90%. The next 42% of the votes were divided fairly evenly among The Cheesecake Factory (14.39%), Outback Steakhouse (14.21%), and Applebee's (12.92%). And after that, we have the stragglers: TGI Friday's, with 8.56% of the votes, and Buffalo Wild Wings, with less than 5%.

With its Italian dressing, fresh peppers, and easy serving tongs, Olive Garden's salad has plenty of fans. Here's why Olive Garden salads are so delicious.

Still, Olive Garden's win is an interesting result for a number of reasons. First, we've always considered salads a viable choice at Buffalo Wild Wings, and certainly one of the best among the healthier options available there. And while some dishes at TGI Friday's leave something to be desired, the Chinese chicken salad has never disappointed. As for Applebee's, we weren't too surprised it fell into the bottom 25th percentile in our survey — there's a wedge salad on the menu that's so "meh" that we ranked it dead last in our ranking of the 31 most popular Applebee's menu items.