Learn Why These Fast Food Chains Have Bad Reputations

Find out why these major restaurant chains have a not-so-stellar rep.

Fast food restaurants are often a quick and convenient option when we’re in a hurry or need to grab a bite in an unfamiliar location. After years of traveling across the country and trying many different chains, I’ve compiled a list of fast food chains with bad reputations.

The Logo of the Burger King

These chains have earned a bad reputation due to the quality of their food, a lack of service, or questionable corporate practices.

You can decide for yourself whether or not you want to continue buying from these fast food chains.

Burger King

In spite of going through a significant rebranding in 2021, Burger King is suffering from a lack of quality.

Burger King is an American international burger and fast-food

Over the past few years, each trip to Burger King has been more disappointing than the last.

The food always feels soggy and bland, the wait times are extremely long, and employees don’t seem to care about their job.

The chain offers seriously unhealthy menu options, like the Triple Whopper With Cheese and its almost 1,300 calories.

I also think the chain is going through some issues at the corporate level with 26 locations closing this year due to a failure to reach an agreement between these franchisees and Burger King.


Health officials identified a Chipotle location as the origin of a norovirus outbreak in 2015.

Chipotle Mexican Grill Restaurant

I thought it might be an isolated incident, but over 600 customers became sick after eating at a different location in 2018.

The chain clearly has some issues with food safety. It’s also not as healthy or eco-friendly as the ads would have you believe, and it’s not surprising that it’s become one of the fast food chains with bad reputations.

While Chipotle purchases local products, the chain often ships these items to a central facility in Chicago for processing.

It also uses pre-cooked meat from a vendor, and imports meat from as far as Australia.  

Jack in the Box

Jack in the Box was at the heart of a health scandal in the early 90s after serving meat infected with E. Coli.

Jack-In-The-Box Fast Food Restaurant

It took years for the chain to regain the trust of consumers, but my most recent experience at a Jack in the Box location led me to rethink whether the chain deserved my trust.

The quality of the food has gone downhill, and I found that some of the menu items were horribly unhealthy.

For instance, a bacon ultimate cheeseburger includes over 900 calories and a horrifying 2,000 mg of sodium.

Taco Bell

Taco Bell is one of the most famous fast food chains with bad reputations, but it continues to remain popular thanks to its value menu.

Exterior of Taco Bell fast-food restaurant

My main concern with Taco Bell is the chain’s lack of transparency regarding its ingredients.

In 2011, a lawsuit accused Taco Bell of serving low-quality meat full of additives. In 2019, the chain had to recall several million pounds of beef due to metal shavings in the meat.

The chain has attempted to calm down rumors by explaining it used a small quantity of oatmeal to enhance the texture of the meat.

However, I don’t feel I can trust this chain to be honest about its ingredients. Despite that, I still stop by on occasion.


My last outing to BurgerIM was a fun experience we shared as a family, but I decided to stop supporting this chain in 2020 after some unacceptable business practices came to light.

BurgerIM tricked franchisees into opening new locations by promising profits, even though the chain was facing bankruptcy.

The chain stopped honoring its money-back guarantee, and left many franchisees in a disastrous financial situation.

BurgerIM CEO Oren Loni fled the U.S. to avoid facing justice before resurfacing two years later to deny all allegations.

I understand that franchise owners found themselves stuck in a terrible business deal, but I think there are better companies to support.


Can fast food be political? I didn’t think so until the Chick-fil-A scandal regarding same-sex marriage came to light.

Chick-fil-A is the largest American fast food restaurant chain

Like many Americans, I stopped supporting this chain after the CEO spoke against same-sex marriage and the chain’s financial support of controversial organizations made the headlines.

Over the years, Chick-fil-A donated $1.7 million to non-profit organizations that actively opposed same-sex marriage. One of these organizations also promoted conversion therapy.

The chain has stopped donating to these organizations, but the owner is still making personal donations.

Besides, the food is not as healthy as you might think with their classic chicken sandwich containing 1,400 mg of sodium.

Little Caesars

While I admire Little Caesars’ plan to invest money into revitalizing Detroit, the chain delivers a below-average experience every time I eat there.

Little Caesars Pizza Franchise

It seems that their pizza portal model often results in food sitting in a warmer for too long.

Plus, there have been issues with employees and communication. In 2017, a lawsuit revealed that Little Caesars was lying about its halal pizza.

More recently, an employee shared footage on social media that showed food containers on the floor, and a customer received a pizza with toppings forming a swastika.


With its menu rich in sodium, sugar, and saturated fat, In-N-Out is a chain that I never frequented regularly. Considering I live on the East Coast, it has been easy to avoid.

IN-N-OUT BURGER in Hollywood

I also think the portions are unhealthy, and heading to In-N-Out for an occasional treat can feel disappointing given that the food often tastes bland.

In-N-Out took a controversial stance by refusing to enforce the indoor vaccine mandate adopted by San Francisco in 2020.

In-N-Out doesn’t work with franchisees. The corporation retains control of all its locations, which means failing to enforce the vaccine mandate was a high-level decision.


From false advertisement to health and safety issues, few chains have had as many legal issues as McDonald’s.

McDonald's restaurant on cloudy blue sky

In 2020, a group of 52 former franchisees sued the chain for racial discrimination. A pattern of turning a blind eye to sexual harassment issues also emerged in recent years.

These two examples reveal there is a deeper issue with the way the chain treats people, which is why I recommend spending your money elsewhere.

Plus, the food is rarely fresh and employees have spoken up about issues with cleanliness standards.


Starbucks is an occasional treat for me due to the deceptively high sugar content of the drinks, but I’m thinking about finding another coffee shop after the latest controversy involving Starbucks.

Starbucks Retail Coffee Store

After a few New York stores joined a union, Starbucks illegally fired six workers and went as far as conducting surveillance on employees involved in the effort to unionize.

It’s not the first controversy for Starbucks. The coffee chain has committed tax evasion in Europe and has a history of violating Fair Trade agreements with coffee producers.

My issue with this chain is also that most drinks feel overpriced compared to what smaller coffee shops offer.


Subway cultivates the image of a healthy food chain, but several allegations have revealed that the chain has a history of lying to its customers.

subway sandwiches in wrappers

In 2013, the chain faced accusations regarding the size of its sandwiches. More concerning allegations appeared a year later when an online petition drew attention to the fact that Subway bread contains carcinogenic additives.

Besides, Subway bread contains unhealthy amounts of sugar, which makes this chain a poor choice in spite of its health-conscious image.

Subway is currently facing another legal scandal regarding its tuna which contains more chicken or pork than actual seafood.

It’s a chain I recommend avoiding due to the lack of transparency regarding the food.

Fast Food Chains with a Bad Reputation

  1. Burger King
  2. Chipotle
  3. Jack in the Box
  4. Taco Bell
  5. BurgerIM
  6. Chick-fil-A
  7. Little Caesars
  8. In-N-Out
  9. McDonald’s
  10. Starbucks
  11. Subway

Which Fast Food Chains Do You Avoid?

Let’s face it: fast food isn’t great for our health. I try to avoid eating fast food too often, especially from restaurants with known food safety issues or that mistreat employees.

That being said, there’s no shame in dining somewhere if you like it!

Which fast food restaurants have you sworn off? Let us know in the comments!

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Written by Erin Elizabeth

Erin is an editor and food writer who loves traveling and trying new foods and fun cocktails. Erin has been writing and editing professionally for 5 years since graduating from Temple University, and has been on the Restaurant Clicks team for 3 years. She has a long background working in the restaurant industry, and is an avid home chef and baker. Her favorite restaurants are those with spicy food and outdoor seating so that she can bring along her dog, Miss Piggy.