Quality fast food is something you don’t hear about every day. It’s as if the term “fast food” is a plague that people try to avoid every time they hear it. As much as everybody loves fast food, no one wants to admit it. This is all because of the quality and health risks that fast foods bring.
Over the past decade people are starting to become more aware of the unhealthy offerings from fast food chains. However, there are a few that stand out and offer some really high quality service.
Defining High Quality Fast Food
Now keep in mind that saying a fast food company is high quality doesn’t automatically mean that they serve healthy food. That is practically impossible because fast foods tend to serve meals high in calories, fats, and carbohydrates. Many of these restaurants however fight back by ensuring their meals are also rich in fiber, protein, and some other nutritional goodies.
Others will instead focus on high quality customer service. From the moment you walk in to the second your food is served you will forget that you’re in a fast food restaurant. It may almost feel like you’re in a fine dining restaurant. That was the original idea when Applebee’s came out and to this day they still function like a semi-fine dining chain, albeit with much cheaper food on their menu.
Now with all that in mind, what are some great examples of high quality fast food chains in the country today? What are some fast food chains that define the very meaning of good service, good food, and good presentation? Consider the two discussed below.
Panera Bread Company
Panera Bread is always a good place to start. Just because they serve bread doesn’t automatically mean that they serve healthy food. However, they do focus on high quality meals and top of the line customer service. Where does Panera Bread make a difference in this line of business? It differs because it was the first (and in many places the only) fast food restaurant/café to willingly release to the public the nutritional facts about their menu. Every item on their menu has an accompanied list of nutritional facts. This means you know, before you even pay for it and put it in your mouth, just how many calories you are eating, how much sugar you are consuming, how much proteins you are getting, and others.
If you log online to the official Panera Bread Company website you will notice there is nutritional section. Here you can read up the nutritional facts of all their offered menu items. Using this and the nutritional calculator on the website you can design your own nutritional meal based on a 2000 calorie standard. All company-owned outlets feature this as well. Now you don’t have to take the guess work because all of the information is provided right there for you.
Chipotle Mexican Grill
Then there is Chipotle Mexican Grill. Unlike most restaurants and fast food chains, Chipotle focuses on just five menu items:
- Fajita Burritos
- Burrito Bowls
The reason why they do not expand their menu is because they want to focus on serving high quality meals. The idea, as explained by founder Steve Ells, is that by concentrating on fewer items on their menu they can do a better job than anybody else in the market. This is important because of the rapidly growing popularity of Mexican food in the United States. Practically everywhere you go some restaurant or fast food is serving Mexican meals. They won’t be quality fast food chains because they try to serve as many items as possible, using the cheapest ingredients as possible, as quickly as possible.
Another thing that stands out is Chipotle’s “Food with Integrity” campaign. They have been using ingredients that all come from safe sources. All of the meat comes from animals that they have raised on their own farms and these animals have never been subjected to hormonal changes, antibiotics, or other chemicals that could have harmed the animal.
Food with Integrity also focuses on environment-friendly and farmer-friendly methods. This means there are no harmful pesticides and other chemicals used because they could be dangerous to the Earth, to the air people breathe, and they could cause harmful side effects not only to the farmer but also to people digesting the food coming from the ingredients. With Food with Integrity, Chipotle Mexican Grill has proven to be one of the most reliable names when it comes to high quality fast food.
Again, remember that just because a restaurant or fast food chain serves high quality meals that use self-grown ingredients and raised cattle or because they post their nutritional facts unbiased it doesn’t necessarily mean their food is the healthiest in the business. That being said, Panera Bread and Chipotle Mexican Grill are leagues ahead of the competition.
If you order a vegetarian burrito bowl from Chipotle, served with brown rice, fajita vegetables, black beans, roasted chili-corn salsa, and lettuce, you are getting 385 calories and 7g of fat (1g saturated). That might sound like a lot of calories but it is remarkably pretty consistent with what most Americans eat on a daily basis. As a matter of fact, this is several times better than what they used to serve: a burrito from Chipotle ten years ago tested for more than 800 calories. Today this is no longer the case. In recent years Health.com has listed them amongst the Healthiest Fast Food Restaurants in the US.
The same can be said for Panera Bread. Their Sesame Semolina Loaf contains only 140 calories, no more than 0.5g of fat, absolutely 0g of saturated fat, and a good 4g of protein. Some of their meals can reach up to 400 or 300 calories but these are their larger bowl meals, complete with vegetables and meat. Still, because of the low count and high health benefits paired with excellent customer service, strong focus on quality and great tasting menu, plus excellent online service, these two have proven time and time again what it means to serve quality fast food to their consumers.