The Athenian Oracle, first published in 1703, contained the proverb, "One man's meat is another man's poison". This ancient quote seems quite fitting when one attempts to rank the worst fast food chains around the world.
At the end of the day, it's subjective based on personal experience. There are those folks that may adore some of these chains and that's fine. We based our list on a number of factors like:
- menu items
- employee satisfaction
- negative incidences (like food poisoning and rodent infestations)
- number of franchise closures
We are all aware that we can't expect too much from fast food. But the restaurants on this list have gone out of their way to make themselves regrettable. From reports of mass food poisoning to consistently negative customer reviews.
Read on for the 20 worst fast food restaurants in the world.
20. Jack In The Box
With only 2 stars on Yelp, it appears Jack In The Box needs to do better. The bulk of complaints seem to revolve around the payment system being down (at multiple locations), lack of menu items, unsanitary conditions, and the fact that they are supposed to be open 24/7, but often have nobody working late.
It also doesn't help that more than one event has caused some awful press for Jack. In 1993, there was an outbreak of food poisoning that left 732 people violently ill and 4 people dead. The chain has also been cited for multiple child labor law violations over the years.
It seems the least of their worries is their disturbing mascot, which appears to be the inspiration for more than one horror movie.
Described as the worst burger ever by a rater, at Trip Advisor, Hesburger is a fast food chain based in Finland. Customers have described the food as worse than McDonald's. They are overpriced, overcooked, and smothered in a weird homemade mayonnaise.
18. Little Caesars
"Pizza, Pizza", but is it? Is it? It depends on who you ask, while Trustpilot reviews average 2 stars, Yelp averages almost 3. But overall, the amount of customer complaints garners Little Caesars a spot on this list.
Words that run through most complaints include "soggy", "bland", "chewy". Dave Portnoy, a YouTuber, who's channel reviews food with one bite, described the pizza as "super doughy", "hard to pull apart", "floppy", and the cheese falling off.
The restaurant's motto of "hot n ready" often fails according to many customers as well, with long wait times and cold product. Customers have also reported stores being dirty.
In 2018, 5 franchises were shut down due to rodent infestations. The worst being when customers found rat droppings baked into their pizza dough. Definitely not the topping you hope to find.
Arby's may have the beef, but it seems a lot of people have beef with Arby's. For starters, according to their 2 star reviews on Yelp, customers often complain about the sandwiches being "dry" and "tasteless" and the French fries being too salty and "soggy".
There are many reports of slow service and rude employees. The food is some of the unhealthiest in its category. The menu items can have up to 3,400 milligrams of sodium and 35 grams of fat for a regular-sized sandwich.
Then there's the rash of random human body parts and fluids. Many folks don't need to hear about literal finger food but once before totally writing off a restaurant. One Arby's had a worker slice off a chunk of flesh while shredding lettuce. Rather than toss it, they waited for a customer to find it.
Then there was the teen that found a full on finger, which an employee had sliced off in the meat slicer, and didn't say anything, or even bother to fish it out.
We won't even get into the manager that urinated into the milkshake machine. It seems Arby's may want to make some improvements to their training programs.
16. Manchu Wok
While American fast food almost always ends up in other countries, it's rare for it to be the other way around. Sadly, with Manchu Wok, most people wish it would have stayed that way. The Canadian Chinese food chain makes Panda Express look like an exclusive NYC Chinatown eatery.
Mostly found in airports, malls, and shopping centers, Manchu Wok has awful reviews everywhere you look. Most of the complaints are that the food actually tastes old and seems reheated.
Many customers have stated the rice is awful, as though they don't know how to cook it. Others complain that you get a whole lot of juice and very little meat. One reviewer from Foursquare put the nut in the shell with, "everything tastes like dirty dish water".
15. Boston Market
Boston Market started with a good idea; homestyle cooking on demand. Especially, the rotisserie chicken, which was not as readily available in supermarkets in the 1980s as it is today.
It's not that Boston Market's food is terrible, it's fair to midland, but it's just kind of outdated. People that want homestyle cooking will just cook at home, especially since the pandemic.
The chain went from 1200 restaurants in 1997 to 350 in 2021. It's closed over 50 restaurants since the pandemic in 2020.
At one point, Quiznos was a real competitor in the chain sandwich game. In 2006, there were over 5,000 stores selling the toasted subs. Over time, they seemed to have gotten greedy, increasing prices, while lowering the quality of food. Stores began closing and corporate was taking major losses.
They decided to run a promotional campaign and sent out hundreds of thousands of coupons. When customers tried to redeem them, most franchise owners refused them. This left a bad taste in many customer's mouths.
Business kept lagging. Nobody seemed to want an overpriced, mediocre sandwich from a place that didn't honor its paper promises.
We won't even mention the disturbing monkey-rat mascot they put out at one point. Today, only 163 locations remain.
13. El Pollo Loco
El Pollo Loco is sort of like the Little Caesar's of the Mexican food chain world. It's small enough to not have major issues, but large enough for people to complain and make a dent in their reputation.
According to customers, it's edible enough to not be abysmal. Complaints have ranged from high prices (for small portions and poor quality), dry chicken, to running out of chicken all together. It's in the name folks, get it together.
The restaurant touts itself as "fresh" Mexican food. This gives the impression that it's healthy. Alas, not the case, with many meals reaching sodium levels of 3,000 milligrams and fat contents of 43 grams.
The Crazy Chicken also took a hit a while back when a woman found a bloody alcohol swab in her Mac n cheese.
We're not sure exactly what's going on with Subway, but with over 1,000 stores closing in 2021, it can't be good. Customers have been complaining about the chains' declining service and quality for some time now.
Rated only 1.9 stars on Sitejabber, customers have said there's too much bread and too little meat. Sandwiches are overloaded with poor quality vegetables, and orders were often wrong. Others complain about long wait times and rude employees.
11. Dairy Queen
At some point , the ice cream giant decided to float into the fast food business. The general consensus is, they should stick to Blizzards. Overall, reviews are mixed.
One blogger wanted to try the menu for themselves. What they found was unappetizing, to say the least. The burger was overflowing with toppings and sauce. It was messy to the point of frustration.
The chicken strips were covered in a weird imitation BBQ sauce that made them no fun to eat. The fries were said to be limp and tasteless.
Popeye's makes the list for its consistent inconsistency and poor customer service. When it's good, it's really good. But when it's bad, according to customers, it has a dry, hard, chewy, and even "funky" taste. It can also be too salty for many people's tastes.
Nobody likes to take their chances when it comes to their food. Customers have also stated very long lines and wait times. Up to 45 minutes in some places. It's not a good look when there's probably another chicken chain up the road.
Chipotle could really pop up at any point on this list depending on any number of horrors one personally finds most disturbing. The food, in theory, is actually healthier than most fast food and can be delicious when made correctly.
The main issue is that, too often, it's not. Customers complain about everything from missing ingredients, wrong ingredients, to just plain what on earth is in my bowl. This writer once received a bowl full of rice and sour cream. But that is neither here nor there.
The running theme at Chipotle seems to be confusion. Aside from consistently flubbed orders, customers have reported long lines, being told they only take cash after waiting in said lines, or being told they'll need to reorder online after placing an order.
Then there's the scandals. The Tex-Mex giant has had multiple, major outbreaks of food poisoning over the past decade (they paid out $25 million in fines).
They've been accused of violating child labor laws, (this cost them $1.3 million in fines) as well as workers' rights. Then there was the stolen data issue, where thousands of customers reported breaches and it was traced back to Chipotle.
The main complaint about Sonic is that it's too expensive and simply not worth it. Customers have also stated that the service is extremely slow and unprofessional.
There have been several reports of mice and roaches being spotted. There was also a case where an employee was arrested for dropping ecstasy pills into kids' meals.
7. Hardee's (Carl's Jr)
One of the most infamous compliments about Hardee's is its unapologetic, misogynistic ad campaign, which has thankfully come to an end. The commercials saw bikini-clad women scarfing down burgers.
What made it truly awful though, was when questioned, corporate doubled down and said basically, they want to appeal to young men and they don't want to see fat people.
If that's not enough to make them one of the worst, customers complain of high prices for subpar food, unhealthy items, and dirty restaurants. Their bacon cheeseburgers are one of the unhealthiest fast food items you can get, with 1380 calories and 81 grams of fat.
6. Burger King
With over 12,000 chains all over the world, Burger King is one of the most popular fast food restaurants, but also one of the most hated. A Twitter poll hung the King out to dry when they ranked as the least favorite according to their survey.
Customers actually give BK's corporate customer service 1-1/2 stars. So something is not right. People often complain that managers are rude, stores are unkempt, and employees don't use hair or beard nets.
Then there's the international incidents. In the UK it was found that chains were using horse meat. Germany closed 89 franchises when inspectors found food was outdated, sitting out for hours, and conditions were unsanitary.
5. Taco Bell
We know that all fast food is processed and uses preservatives to an extent, but Taco Bell goes overboard in this department. Almost all of the items are too heavy with genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and artificial preservatives. One such preservative is TBHQ, which is used to extend shelf life.
Taco Bell was also embroiled in a "mystery meat" scandal where they were caught using "meat" that only contained 35% meat. The rest was a filler concoction of oats, seasoning, and pink slime. Not only is the food loaded with additives, it's loaded with sodium and fat.
Many people choose Taco Bell because they think it's a healthier option. It is not.
4. Long John Silvers
It started out as an oasis for fish lovers in a sea of burger joints. But it seems Long John Silvers has been unable to keep up with the times. Franchises have been closing left and right over the past decade. Often, they can only be found at road stops.
Many customers report that the restaurants are outdated, "grubby", claustrophobic", and the vats are always breaking down, causing long wait times. As for the food, people have described it as having no taste at all and tasting fishy (not the good kind of fishy).
Others say that the food is laden with grease and salt. Still others have said that the batter is good, but it's too much and overpowers any taste the food may have.
3. White Castle
White Castle has a reputation for being the go to snack after a night of partying. If you've ever seen the movie Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle, you know it was spot on.
The thing is, many people end up with intestinal "disruptions" after eating their signature sliders. It's not that the meat is bad or that there's some bacteria lurking either. Some people say it's the onions, while others say it is the abundance of grease. Regardless, customers often report gas, cramps, and diarrhea after eating them.
Add to that, the fact that the patties are paper thin and you need to eat about 10 to be satisfied. Each tiny burger has 360 milligrams of sodium, so by eating 10 burgers you will have consumed 3600 milligrams of sodium, which is much more than the recommended daily allowance.
From the finger in the chili to the live mouse in the buns scandal, Wendy's has had its share of bad publicity. But what brings it in as the second worst fast food restaurant chain, is the sheer number of customer complaints.
Add to that the fact that nobody seems to care when customers have an issue. Facebook complaints include out-of-control price increases, the use of sea salt ruining the fries, cold, undercooked food, missing items, and long wait times.
Many customers have stated that their emails and phone calls are ignored. The managers are unhelpful and rude. It's one thing to make a mistake, but at least make it right.
You're either floored by this, or not surprised in the least. McDonalds is one of the mysteries of life. It remains one of the world's most popular fast food chains even though it's plagued with terribleness. So many, in fact, we'll just give you the shorthand version:
- unhealthy (the average sandwich has 1,100 calories, 1.200 milligrams of sodium, and 44 grams of fat)
- bad for the environment
- Ecoli on the ice machine
- mold in the McFlurry machine (when it's not broken)
- worms in the drink machine (London)
- filthy, smelly bathrooms
- dirty dining rooms
- serving food that fell on the floor
- rats everywhere
- chicken heads in the chicken meals
- human teeth in the fries (Japan)
- slow service
- rude workers
- hair, bugs, and various filth in the food
- greasy food
Yet the Happy Meal remains one of the most popular kids meals on the market.
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Written by Dana Hanson
Read more posts by Dana Hanson