Eating out? Perhaps you're headed to one of these chains

Research indicates that Americans dine out about 20 percent of the time, or more than four times a week, on average. In a year, they'll spend $910 each on restaurant meals, with that industry capturing nearly 50 percent of their food dollars, according to the National Restaurant Association. So where is all this money going? Much of it, surely, is spent at chains voted by customers as the best in an annual survey by Restaurants & Institutions magazine. Eight criteria are used in making the selections: food quality, value, service, cleanliness, reputation, convenience, atmosphere, and menu variety. The reigning Consumers' Choice in Chains winners in 13 categories:

  • Burger: Culver's
  • Cafeteria/Buffet: Sweet Tomatoes
  • Casual dining: P.F. Chang's China Bistro
  • Chicken: Chick-fil-A
  • Coffee/snacks: Starbucks Coffee
  • Family dining: Cracker Barrel Old Country Stores
  • Italian: Olive Garden
  • Mexican: Baja Fresh Mexican Grill
  • Pizza: Papa Murphy's Take 'N' Bake Pizza
  • Sandwich/bread: Panera Bread
  • Seafood: Red Lobster
  • Steakhouse: Outback Steakhouse
  • Treats: Cold Stone Creamery
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