Whether it hits late at night, right after a workday, or first thing in the morning, there's nothing quite like a fast food craving. When you're craving a juicy burger, hot fries, crispy tacos, or cheesy pizza, you simply have to have it. Luckily, there's no shortage of stellar fast-food joints around.
A recent study on restaurant habits showed that consumers are choosing fast food more often, not just for convenience, but also because of rising food costs. Chefs aren't any different from you, whether they're running a massive hospitality organization, working in a fine dining restaurant, or behind the pass at your local favorite. They head to their favorite drive-thru for convenience, quick service, and flavorful food.
But where are their go-to? We asked chefs to dish on their favorite fast food chains, and to share some ordering tips. Here are the fast-food spots they love, their top orders, and some pro tips for getting a flavorful meal.
RELATED:10 Most Overrated Fast-Food Burgers
Living más is a popular choice among the chefs we polled about fast food, with the cheesiness and crunch of Taco Bell menu items being a major factor.
Brian Poe, the chef and owner of The Tip Tap Room and Crane River Cheese Club in Boston, is a fan of the Cheesy Gordita Crunch (we weren't kidding about cheese and crunch), and says, "I love it so much that when I can't get to a Taco Bell, I often recreate it at Crane River Cheese Club, The Tip Tap Room, and at home."
"My guilty pleasure fast food item is the Cheesy Gordita Crunch from Taco Bell. It instantly takes me back to my slightly irresponsible late teen and twenties years with that first bite," says Poe. "My tip when ordering is to upgrade your Cheesy Gordita Crunch (they have a 'make it your own' list with extra features) by adding refried beans, extra hot sauce, and avocado ranch. Might as well order two or three."
Chef Tobias Cox, VP of Dimension Hospitality Group, is also a fan, and for good reason, as he explains, "I started my career at Taco Bell in Littleton Colorado when I was 15, I had to have a special permit to work because of my age."
"What I learned at Taco Bell was really fundamental for my career. I learned how to be fast at everything I did, learned how to deal with great customers and tough customers, I learned how to work and communicate with a team in a fast-paced environment while being organized, and willing to learn and do whatever I needed to get the job done," he shared.
Cox remains a huge fan, and is a Mexican Pizza enthusiast. He told us, "I joined the hundreds of thousands of fans all over the world and wrote in on a petition to save this amazing dish. Now I am happy to report it's on [the menu] for good and I just had one yesterday.
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"The best chicken tender restaurant! I love the four-piece meal," Gonzalez raves. "The chicken tenders are huge and tender. I like to exchange the coleslaw for another Cane Sauce (Cane Sauce is way better than Chick-fil-A's Polynesian sauce). My kids love the Sweet Tea here."
If you're a chicken finger fan, seek out one of the 670+ Raising Cane's locations in 38 states across the country, though the chain has the most locations in Texas and California. And don't skip the predominantly pink Post Malone-designed branch of the restaurant in Utah if you're in the area.
Cox is also a fan of this burger chain, but not for the item you'd expect! He tells us, "My family and I love to go to Wendy's for an original Frosty."
He even offers a pro-tip for how to eat the frozen drink, saying, "Anything can be dunked in a Frosty—especially Wendy's French Fries!"
He's not the only fan. "As for fast food, it would have to be Wendy's junior bacon cheeseburger," says James Beard-nominated Chef Douglass Williams, owner of Mida and Apizza in Boston told us previously. "More than just eating it, I have so many memories of making it, the touch of the bun, the pride that I took in making it, and understanding its simplicity. I can talk about this burger and just smile!"
It's no surprise to see America's favorite fast food chain on this list, but seeing it praised by a member of the family that built NYC's Delmonico's is shocking. Max Tucci, whose book "The Delmonico Way," which celebrates his family recipes, told us, "On my current book tour, I'm oftentimes asked, 'growing up in Delmonico's and having the best chefs, did you or do you ever eat fast food?'"
The answer is yes, says Tucci. "I tell them, I prepare a Delmonico Steak and have McDonald's French Fries delivered!"
Top Chef winner Kristen Kish is a fan of the roast beef sandwich chain, but not for the sandwiches. The chef, who admitted she has a "childish palate," says that Arby's "Chicken fingers and curly fries are by far the greatest fast food I think that is out there." She went on to explain that "it's just chicken fingers all day, every day, no matter what fast food place I go to, I always gravitate towards the fried chicken of some kind."
We've talked to dozens of chefs who've raved about this chain, with Chef Charles Withers, of C Salt on Cape Cod saying he always goes for Shake Shack's Smoke Shack burger, saying, "It has some heat and acidity from the cherry peppers, smoked bacon, and American cheese. It hits all the best notes of a delicious dish for me." Executive Chef Aidan McGee of Boston's The Dublineris also a fan and also goes for extra cheese.
It's not unusual to hear chefs wax poetic about this West Coast chain that has only moved as far east as Texas so far. With fresh, never frozen beef that is ground from beef at company-owned facilities, fresh-cut fries, and freshly baked buns, In-N-Out is all about quality.
Chef Withers' favorite is the In-N-Out Double Animal Style, which he put on the same level as Shake Shack's Smoke Shack burger. Other famous In-N-Out fans include celebrity chefs Gordon Ramsay, the late Anthony Bourdain, and Tyler Florence.
Celebrity Chef Aarón Sánchez, who appears on Iron Chef America, MasterChef, and Chopped, is a fan of the Texas-based chain Whataburger, and it's all about the sauce.
"Most of the other places have that special sauce, which is basically ketchup and mayo with relish in it." Whataburger, on the other hand, says Sánchez, uses "a mustard-based dressing. That makes a huge difference as far as flavor."
The burrito and bowl chain isn't just a favorite of office workers around the country, it's also got a fan in Celebrity Chef Richard Blais. He not only enjoys its food, but appreciated how the company is run, he said "I'm a big fan of Chipotle from every which way from their [food] and business model. They're just a sound company, and we eat a lot of Chipotle in my house."
Blais also shouted out this Florida chain, which makes amazing Caribbean-style food, saying, "I don't know if you've ever had Pollo Tropical, but it's Caribbean-inspired grilled chicken, and plantains, and beans and rice, and I could eat it every single day. And it's fast food, but one of my favorite concepts." Pollo Tropical has about 140 locations throughout Florida and some surrounding states that focuses on citrus-marinated chicken and other proteins with a tropical flair.
Common menu items at fast food outlets include fish and chips, sandwiches, pitas, hamburgers, fried chicken, french fries, onion rings, chicken nuggets, tacos, pizza, hot dogs, and ice cream, though many fast food restaurants offer "slower" foods like chili, mashed potatoes, and salads.What are the top 10 food chains? ›
- #3 McDonald's Corp. ( MCD)
- #4 Darden Restaurants Inc. ( DRI)
- #5 Yum China Holdings, Inc. ( YUMC)
- #6 Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc. ( CMG)
- #7 Yum Brands Inc (YUM)
- #8 Restaurant Brands International, Inc. ( QSR)
- #9 Domino's Pizza, Inc. ( DPZ)
- #10 Bloomin' Brands, Inc. ( BLMN)
Common menu items at fast food outlets include fish and chips, sandwiches, pitas, hamburgers, fried chicken, french fries, onion rings, chicken nuggets, tacos, pizza, hot dogs, and ice cream, though many fast food restaurants offer "slower" foods like chili, mashed potatoes, and salads.Do pro chefs like fast food? ›
Contrary to what you might believe, some chefs like to rave about their favorite fast-food items. In-N-Out, McDonald's breakfast, and Del Taco's original menu items are some chef favorites. Some chefs also told Insider they like to order Nathan's Famous beef hot dog and Chick-fil-A's grilled chicken club.What is the most eaten fast food restaurant? ›
Most popular fast food companies
McDonald's is by far the most popular fast food chain in the United States. It has about 13,500 locations in the U.S., 40,000 worldwide, and it operates in 118 countries. McDonald's serves 69 million people every day, more than the population of Thailand and the United Kingdom.
The largest fast food chain in the US is McDonald's, with a revenue of $23.18 billion and a market share of 43.8%. As of 2021, the US fast food industry has a market size of $366.9 billion. 36.6% of Americans consume fast food every day.What is #1 on the food chain? ›
On a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being the score of a primary producer (a plant) and 5 being a pure apex predator (a animal that only eats meat and has few or no predators of its own, like a tiger, crocodile or boa constrictor), they found that based on diet, humans score a 2.21—roughly equal to an anchovy or pig.What Food Network chefs don t get along? ›
- Alton Brown vs. Adam Richman. ...
- Andrew Zimmern vs. Tyler Florence. ...
- Anthony Bourdain vs. Guy Fieri. ...
- Anthony Bourdain vs. Paula Deen. ...
- Anthony Bourdain vs. Almost Every Celebrity Chef. ...
- Emeril Lagasse vs. ...
- Gordon Ramsay vs. ...
- Gordon Ramsay vs.
“I don't kick things out of my diet, like carbs,” he says. “But I'm not going to eat fast food.”Do fast food CEOs eat their food? ›
In reality, it depends on the CEO. When chains are getting ready to introduce a new product, the entire C-level tends to sample it at headquarters. This obviously doesn't count as visiting one of the restaurants, but according to Quora plenty of fast food CEOs eat at their restaurants all the time.
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First Place. Chick-fil-A won a blue ribbon for being the cleanest fast-food restaurant in America. While the chain came neck-in-neck with the second-place restaurant for interior cleanness (at 68.6%), it jumped ahead thanks to higher marks for food prep and kitchen sparkle (66.5%).What is the richest fast food chain? ›
Most valuable QSR brands worldwide 2022
McDonald's was the most valuable fast food brand in the world with an estimated brand value of about 196.5 billion U.S. dollars in 2022. That same year, the brand value of Starbucks amounted to approximately 61.7 billion U.S. dollars.
Fried rice can be very unhealthy dish given that it is a very carb and fat heavy dish from the rice and heavy oil usage, and not enough protein content -- an average restaurant serving of fried rice is about 800 calories. However, it's easy to make a healthier version of fried rice by portioning ingredients mindfully.Is pizza a junk food? ›
Pizza is not only delicious but can also be a healthy meal choice when thought is put into its preparation. Though many frozen and fast-food varieties tend to be high in calories, fat, sodium and other unhealthy ingredients, pizza can be made healthier.What is the 2 biggest fast food chain? ›
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- Pizza. (c) Seba Tataru / Shutterstock.
- Ramen. (c) LisaBee Imagery / Shutterstock.
- Burger. (c) FoodAndPhoto / Shutterstock.
- Paella. (c) Food Collection / Shutterstock.
- Moussaka. (c) Timolina / Shutterstock.
- Beef Bourguignon. ...
- Pierogi. ...
- Chicken Tikka Massala.
- McDonald's ($36.4 billion)
- Starbucks Coffee ($17.9 billion)
- Subway ($11.3 billion)
- Taco Bell ($9.4 billion)
- Burger King ($9.3 billion)
- Wendy's ($9.1 billion)
- Dunkin' Donuts ($8.2 billion)
- Chick-fil-A ($7.9 billion)
At the top of the scale are meat-eaters that don't have any predators themselves, such as polar bears and orca whales. Instead, we sit somewhere between pigs and anchovies, scientists reported recently. That puts us right in the middle of the chain, with polar bears and orca whales occupying the highest position.What is food chain 12? ›
What is a Food Chain? A food chain refers to the order of events in an ecosystem, where one living organism eats another organism, and later that organism is consumed by another larger organism. The flow of nutrients and energy from one organism to another at different trophic levels forms a food chain.
The Food web is the natural interconnections of food chains. It is a detailed interconnecting diagram that shows the overall food relationships. It consists of all the food chains in a single ecosystem. The correct food chain - Phytoplankton→ Zooplankton→ Fish.Do chefs get tired? ›
As a chef, you're likely on your feet much of the day, cooking and preparing food. You may experience some physical stress and get tired or uncomfortable during the workday.Who is the hardest chef to work for? ›
- Guy Fieri. Getty Images. ...
- Gordon Ramsay. Getty Images. ...
- Marco Pierre White. Getty Images. ...
- Mario Batali. Getty Images. ...
- Mike Isabella. Getty Images. ...
- John Besh. Getty Images. ...
- Paula Deen. Getty Images. ...
- Geoffrey Zakarian. Getty Images.
Gordon Ramsay is a huge fan of In-N-Out. "Especially when it's freshly cooked and served animal style," he told Thrillist in 2022. While in Austin, Texas, I tried the celebrity chef's favorite order, and I was impressed.Who is best chef in the world? ›
- #1 Dabiz Muñoz. Spain.
- #2 Rene Redzepi. Denmark.
- #3 Joan Roca. Spain.
- #4 Massimo Bottura. Italy.
- #5 Andoni Luis Aduriz. Spain.
- #6 Bjorn Frantzén. Sweden.
- #7 Disfrutar. Spain.
- #8 Alain Passard. France.
Case in point: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, two of the richest people in the world, prefer a McDonald's burger to most high-end cuisine. Read on for more insights into seven billionaires' favorite snacks.What billionaire eats McDonald's every day? ›
Warren Buffett is one of the most frugal billionaires. Here's how he makes and spends his fortune. Warren Buffett, one of the world's richest people, lives a modest life. He drinks five cokes a day and eats McDonald's for breakfast every morning.Does Warren Buffett eat fast food? ›
He drinks five cokes a day and eats McDonald's for breakfast every morning. Warren Buffett says he'd give up an extra year of his life to be able to eat anything he wants. Famously a fan of junk food, the 92-year-old has said he drinks 5 cans of Coke a day and eats McDonald's daily.What restaurant makes the most money? ›
|Rank||Chain||2019 Sales (Millions)|
|3||Buffalo Wild Wings||3,700|
The Top 10 Fast-Food Restaurants by Sales in America
McDonald's: $37 billion in system-wide U.S. sales. Starbucks: $13 billion in system-wide U.S. sales. Subway: $10.8 billion in system-wide U.S. sales. Burger King: $10 billion in system-wide U.S. sales.
Most historians agree that the American company White Castle was the first fast-food outlet, starting in Wichita, Kansas in 1916 with food stands and founding in 1921, selling hamburgers for five cents apiece from its inception and spawning numerous competitors and emulators.What is the most hated fast food restaurant in the US? ›
With 15 states on this list, Burger King is the most-hated restaurant in the U.S., according to this data.What is America's favorite restaurant? ›
(WFLA) — For the eighth straight year, the popular fast-food chain Chick-fil-A was ranked as America's favorite restaurant, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI). The index, which ranks customer satisfaction of full-service restaurants on a scale of 0-100, scored the chicken chain at 83.Which fast food restaurant messes up orders the most? ›
Which fast food chains make the most mistakes? "A recent survey conducted by Mashed found that consumers believe one brand, in particular, messes up more than the rest. Out of 599 respondents, 181 people, or 30.22%, pegged McDonald's as the fast-food chain that gets orders wrong the most," notes the website.Which chef owns the most restaurants? ›
#1: Alain Ducasse
Throughout his career, he has operated over 30 restaurants, his most famous being Ducasse in Paris. Fun fact: While Alain Ducasse currently holds the most Michelin Stars, the late Joël Robuchon earned 31 stars throughout his lifetime. Curious about Michelin Star eateries in the US?
He drinks five cokes a day and eats McDonald's for breakfast every morning. Warren Buffett says he'd give up an extra year of his life to be able to eat anything he wants. Famously a fan of junk food, the 92-year-old has said he drinks 5 cans of Coke a day and eats McDonald's daily.Who is the richest family in the food industry? ›
The Mars Family (Mars, Inc.)
In the U.S., six of the top food and beverage billionaires all belong to the same family. Jaqueline, John, Marijke, Pamela, Valerie, and Victoria Mars all have at minimum $9.6 billion in wealth.
An apex predator, also known as a top predator, is a predator at the top of a food chain, without natural predators of its own.What is the most famous food chain? ›
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|rank||company||2018 us systemwide sales millions|
Smaller food chains are better because the energy loss at each trophic level is so great that after three or four trophic levels, there is very little usable energy remaining to support the next trophic level.What is the king of all foods? ›
Though water as a food appears unattractive, it is the single-largest nutrient of the human body and has innumerable roles to play. Biologically Active: Water as a nutrient is biologically very active and provides form and structure to the cells.What is food chain 7? ›
A food chain is a pathway that represents the exchange of energy from one organism to another. In other words, it is the chronological order of who eats whom in a biological community.What is a food chain 4? ›
A food chain represents the relationship between predator and prey. It is a way of classifying animals, plants, and fungi that eat other organisms in order to survive. The four levels in this food chain are primary consumers, secondary consumers, tertiary consumers, and finally decomposers or phytoremediators.What is a food chain a list of? ›
group of organisms linked in order of the food they eat, from producers to consumers, and from prey, predators, scavengers, and decomposers. all related food chains in an ecosystem. Also called a food cycle.What makes fast food unhealthy? ›
Fast food is typically loaded with calories, sodium, and unhealthy fat—often enough in one meal for an entire day. It also tends to be low in nutrients and almost totally lacking in fruit, vegetables, and fiber.