American Cuisine

How many of America’s favorite food chains have you been to?

When restaurateur Alan Stillman opened the first TGI Friday’s in New York City in 1965, he started the casual dining craze. Soon, restaurants such as Applebee’s, Olive Garden and Red Lobster were also serving satisfying staples in a relaxed atmosphere and opening locations across the United States. Nowadays, there are countless chain restaurants. But which ones are the best?

Heckfan took a look at Restaurant Business’s “Top 500 Chain Restaurant Report” to find out which chains are the most popular in the United States.

Here is a list of the top 10 most popular chain restaurants in the United States, ranked from No. 10 – No. 1.

10. LongHorn Steakhouse

Annual sales: $1.8 billion

Main business: Steaks, obviously, and steakhouse burgers, sandwiches, salads, soups and seafood

The story behind LongHorn

Originally opened in 1981 as a steakhouse and exclusive clubhouse in Atlanta, the restaurant now has more than 500 locations.

While that’s not as much as Outback, steak lovers give the chain higher marks – 4.5 stars on average on TripAdvisor. Yelpers also praised the quality of the food.

LongHorn food

Avoid: It’s OK

Recommendation: Flo’s Filet is a 6 – to 10-ounce melt-in-the-mouth tender cut of beef, you know

9. The Cheesecake Factory

Annual sales: $2.1 billion

Main business: Basically everything you can imagine

The story behind Cheesecake Factory

It opened in California in 1972.

The menu feels dictionary-thick, and the choice of what to eat from the Cheesecake Factory’s vast array is part of the popular chain’s appeal.

At least 3 stars on Yelp, 4.5 stars on TripAdvisor, and 10 out of 10 recommendations for two Cheesecake factories in China. The Cheesecake Factory has been a hit since 1972.

Cheesecake Factory food

Avoid: Pasta level preparation can be a little uneven, so it’s best to turn your attention elsewhere

What to do: Cheesecake is the name of the game, so try one of the 34 options on the menu, such as Tiramisu

8. Cracker Barrel

Annual sales: $2.4 billion

Main: Southern cuisine

The story behind Cracker Barrel

When Dan Evins opened the first Cracker Barrel in Tennessee in 1969, he simply wanted to serve home-cooked meals to people traveling along the interstate.

Not only is it currently in the top 10 in terms of revenue, but Cracker Barrel is No. 4 on MarketForce’s list of Best casual Restaurants.

The bad reviews are mostly complaints about poor service.

Cracker Barrel food

Avoid: This is southern food. If you order something healthy without gravy coating, you’re missing out.

Recommendations: Dumplings, fried okra, macaroni and cheese, hash browns casserole, mashed potatoes and more.

7. Red Lobster

Annual sales: $2.4 billion

Main: Seafood, plus some soups, salads, chicken and steak

The story behind Red Lobster

Red Lobster has been bringing crabs, shrimp and lobsters inland to the United States far from the ocean since 1968.

Though it started in Florida, 44 states now boast Red Lobster.

One of the largest chains in the US, TripAdvisor diners liked it best, giving it an average rating of four stars. Yelp users were lukewarm, giving it an average of 2.5 to 3 stars, with some lamenting that the seafood wasn’t very fresh and that the price was a bit overpriced.

Red Lobster food

Avoid: anything not related to seafood; If you’re eating chicken at Red Lobster, you’re wrong!

Recommended: The ultimate feast! These include Maine lobster tails, sea scallops, garlic shrimp, bread shrimp and snow crab legs

6.Outback Steakhouse

Annual sales: $2.6 billion

Main business: Mainly meat, including steak, ribs, ribs and chicken, as well as some fish dishes

The story behind the Outback Steakhouse

It just opened in 1988, and you can’t get in there until two hours. Today, the Australian-themed restaurant still has long lines because the steaks are worth it.

The first was in Tampa, Florida, and today has more than 700 locations in the United States and 22 international countries.

There were complaints of poor service everywhere, but it was no big deal.

Outback Steakhouse food

Avoid: Fish

Recommended: The steak is good Bloomin’ Onion, bet you can’t stop

5. Texas Roadhouse

Annual sales: $3 billion

Main business: Meat dominates — steaks, burgers, ribs, some seafood and salads.

The story behind the Texas Roadhouse

Interestingly, the Texas Roadhouse actually started in Indiana, where it debuted in 1993.

It currently has the highest reviews from Yelp and TripAdvisor reviewers, which is why we placed it in the top five.

Texas Roadhouse Food

Avoid: Make yourself comfortable! You really can’t go wrong!

Recommended: Ignore the dreaded name, Road Kill Rib Steak

4. Chili’s Grill & Bar

Annual sales: $3.5 billion

Main: Salads, soups, burgers, ribs, steaks, tacos, quesadillas, etc

The story behind Chili’s

Chili’s took Tex-Mex beyond the Southwest after its successful opening in Dallas in 1975.

The steaming, oil-sizzling fajitas became popular in the 1980s and now have thousands of locations around the world.

Like all the restaurants on this list, Chili’s isn’t universally popular, with complaints about slow service and mediocre food.

But in general, diners like to go here for a satisfying meal, and there’s a lot of choice

Chili’s food

Avoid: Fried appetizers are sacred to some, too unhealthy for others

Recommended: baby back ribs

3. Buffalo Wild Wings

Annual sales: $3.6 billion

The business: Standard Sports-bar food, such as rice chips, mozzarella sticks, onion rings, burgers, sandwiches, wraps and sandwiches, and, most famously, chicken wings

The story behind Buffalo Wings

When owners Jim Disbrow and Scott Lowery moved from Buffalo to Ohio and couldn’t find Buffalo style wings, they decided to bring Buffalo style wings to Ohio in 1982. Then they succeeded.

It seems that everyone loves Buffalo wings, as the chain now has more than 1,000 locations.

But be warned: quite a few commenters complain about long wait times.

Buffalo Wings

Avoid: The food here is always of good quality.

Recommended: Buffalo style wings, which, by the way, come in 23 different sauces to choose from!

2. Applebee’s Grill + Bar

Annual sales: $4 billion

Main products: Chicken, salads, sandwiches, burgers, burritos, tacos, pasta and seafood

The story behind Applebee’s

America’s largest chain had another name when it debuted in Atlanta in 1980: TJ Applebee’s Rx for Edibles & Elixir.

Thankfully, the name has been shortened. Today, the chain has nearly 2,000 locations worldwide.

Online reviews are bound to have complaints about the food itself, described as so-so and bland, but most of the complaints are about the service.

Applebee’s food

Avoid: Salads that lack fresh ingredients or quality dressings.

What to watch: Launched in 2019, the “Loaded” fajitas quickly became a favorite.

1. Olive Garden

Annual sales: $4.2 billion

Mainly: Americanized Italian specialties, so mostly pasta and pizza

The story behind Olive Garden

Is it the unlimited supply of breadsticks that makes Olive Garden so popular? Or a family-style Italian restaurant that brings heaps of pasta and other delicacies to the table and ensures that everyone is stuffed, as if an Italian grandmother had cooked for them specifically?

Whatever the reason, Olive Garden is wildly popular. Despite having fewer than 1,000 stores, it is the world’s second-largest chain by revenue.

In 2020, the restaurant jumped to the top of the top 500 casual dining list.

The restaurant also has a strong following on Yelp and TripAdvisor, despite numerous complaints about poor service.

Olive Garden food

Avoid: There’s nothing particularly bad here.

Recommended: Try lasagna and bread at this traditional family-style restaurant.


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