TIME Fast Food

10 Best Fast Food Restaurants in America

In-N-Out Burger As The Company Is Valued At Near $2 Billion
In-N-Out Burger's signature Double-Double cheeseburger and french fries. Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

There are a few surprises on the Consumer Reports’ list this year of the best fast food restaurants in America – and a few names that are not that well known nationally.

The bottom line is that whether we’re aiming to eat pizza, burgers, chicken or grilled sandwiches, Americans want a lot more than just food on the cheap when we eat out. We care about the quality and freshness of our food; we care about the quality of the service we receive. These priorities when choosing a destination for grabbing a quick bite emerged in Consumer Reports most recent ranking of our nation’s fast food restaurants.

The magazine asked more than 32,000 readers – who ate more than 96,000 meals at 65 chains – what they thought. The less ubiquitous fast food restaurants and the regional ones were the most popular with diners.

Respondents looked at five criteria to rank each chain: food quality and freshness, value, politeness, speed of service, and cleanliness of the dining area. Based on these criteria, they had to come up with a grade out of 100.

The top winner: In-N-Out Burger, which has a cult following of fans from across the country. Its restaurants are only available in a handful of states, mostly on the West Coast, which means that for many Americans, vacationing in California often includes paying a visit to an In-N-Out Burger restaurant.

Other names that made the list of the best fast food restaurants include Chick-fil-A and Potbelly Sandwich Shop, but most of the other chains on the list aren’t that well known.

“You’ll find many fine national (defined as operating in six or more states) and regional restaurants,” noted Consumer Reports.

10) Culver’s

Consumer Reports Grade: 84/100

Started in Wisconsin in the 1980s, Culver’s, which offers fresh frozen custard and burgers, is still predominantly in the Midwest but has also expanded into Texas. Culver’s also features its own brand of root beer. Politeness of its staffs and dining-area cleanliness were among its highlights.

9) Rubio’s Fresh Mexican Grill

Consumer Reports Grade: 84/100

Rubio’s, which was founded in California in the 1980s, offers Mexican food using fresh sustainable seafood with an emphasis on tacos. The company operates 190 locations in California, Arizona, Utah, Colorado and Nevada. Noteworthy for Rubio’s: quality of the food, its staffs’ politeness, and cleanliness of dining areas.

8) Potbelly Sandwich Shop

Consumer Reports Grade: 84/100

Another fast food chain that specializes in subs, Potbelly, which was founded in Chicago in 1977, has locations in 23 states. It often has local musicians performing live at a Potbelly Sandwich Shop – whose staffs’ politeness helped it earn this spot on the list.

7) Firehouse Subs

Consumer Reports Grade: 84/100

Founded just 20 years ago in Jacksonville, Florida, by former firefighters, Firehouse Subs specializes in hot subs and also offers subs and salads under 500 calories. It has more than 700 restaurants in 36 states. It earned this spot on the list because of its staffs’ politeness and the cleanliness of its dining areas.

6) Chick-Fil-A

Consumer Reports Grade: 85/100

Chick-fil-A, which is headquartered in Atlanta and specializes in chicken sandwiches, made the news three years ago because of its opposition to same-sex marriage legislation – but it also made the Consumer Reports list of the best fast food restaurants in America for the quality of its food and of its service.

5) Jason’s Deli

Consumer Reports Grade: 85/100

Founded in Texas in 1976, Jason’s Deli offers a deli-style menu with sandwiches, salads and soups. It boasts 240 locations across 28 states. In the last decade, the company has eliminated trans fats, high fructose corn syrup and MSG from all of its food. It rated highly for its food quality, politeness of its staff, and the cleanliness of its dining areas.

4) The Habit Burger Grill

Consumer Reports Grade: 86/100

The Habit Burger Grill was started in California in 1969 and like In-N-Out Burger, it has remained on the small side, with only 100 locations in California, Arizona and Utah. Food quality, politeness of staff, and cleanliness all rated high for this restaurant.

3) Portillo’s Hot Dogs

Consumer Reports Grade: 87/100

Portillo’s specializes in Chicago-style hot dogs and sandwiches. It has less than 50 locations, mostly in the Chicago area, as well as in Arizona and California, but you can order some items online. Like the other winners on this list, its food quality, politeness of staff, and cleanliness of its dining areas stood out.

2) Papa Murphy’s Take N’Bake Pizza

Consumer Reports Grade: 88/100

Papa Murphy’s, which ranks as the best pizza fast food restaurant in the country in this list, is actually a take-and-bake pizzeria. Customers order their pizza in the store but take it home to bake, reducing the restaurant’s costs significantly. The company, which has more than 1,400 locations in the U.S., went public in May, and is noted for the quality of its food, politeness of its staff, and the speed of its service.

1) In-N-Out Burger

Consumer Reports Grade: 88/100

One of the cruelest April Fool’s jokes to New Yorkers a few years ago was the announcement by an anonymous prankster that In-N-Out Burger was going to open a location in the Big Apple. The top burger chain in the country, however, actually wants to remain small and confines itself to the West Coast. The quality of its food helped it win this highly coveted spot.

 

TIME

5 Hot Jobs That Could Be Right for You Right Now

Some of the hottest jobs in the nation this year aren’t your typical “job of the future.”

This post is in partnership with The Fiscal Times. The article below was originally published on The Fiscal Times.

Sure, there’s a high demand for nurses as baby boomers age and increasingly require medical assistance, as well as for software developers as the tech boom continues.

Related: Jobs Report Confirms Economy Is on the Mend

But in some major local markets, jobs that are in high demand are more surprising, according to a report from ZipRecruiter released Monday. Here are a few:

  • Accountant/Financial Analyst: Although the accounting industry went through a significant round of layoffs after the financial crisis, accounting firms are hiring again. In Chicago and in Dallas, the hottest job for the first part of the year was accountant/financial analyst, a job that has a 2.8 percent projected growth rate in the Windy City and 4.3 percent in Dallas for the next six months. Demand for accountants is also expected to rise in Atlanta (5.2 percent), Baltimore (2.7 percent), St. Louis (2.5 percent), Houston (1.3 percent), Washington, D.C. (0.7 percent) and Philadelphia (0.2 percent).
  • Restaurant Manager: The Department of Labor barely sees growth in this field for the next eight years – but in Miami, at least, restaurant manager is the hottest job so far this year, with a projected growth rate of 7.8 percent for the rest of 2014. Restaurant manager also has high growth potential in New York (5.7 percent), Boston (3.6 percent) and Dallas (3.2 percent).
  • Machinist: Although the importance of manufacturing to the economy is declining in the U.S., machinist is the top job in the Minneapolis market; demand for machinists is projected to grow 3 percent there. Other markets where this demand will supposedly grow include Seattle (6.5 percent) and Tampa (1.5 percent).
  • Customer Service Representative: If you think customer service is now handled by computers or workers in India – think again. While it isn’t yet the top job in any major U.S. market, demand for customer service rep is expected to rise throughout the country: in New York (4.2 percent), Chicago (3.8 percent), Los Angeles (1.9 percent), Houston (1.9 percent), Miami (1.7 percent), Detroit (0.6 percent) and Philadelphia (0.3 percent).
  • Account Executive: This hot job also has growth prospects across the country for the next six months: Chicago (4.2 percent), Baltimore (3.4 percent), Boston (3.2 percent), Miami (2.2 percent), St. Louis (2.2 percent), Houston (0.8 percent) and Philadelphia (0.3 percent).

Related: Jobs Market Reaches Another Meaningless Milestone

ZipRecruiter studied job postings at more than 50 job networks to find the hottest jobs so far this year and their rate of growth for the rest of the year.

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TIME Transportation

10 American Cities With the Worst Traffic

U.S. Cities with Worst Traffic
Zoran Milich—Getty Images

Traffic-jammed cities include Los Angeles, San Francisco and Honolulu

This post is in partnership with The Fiscal Times. The article below was originally published on The Fiscal Times.

You’ve heard it before: “Los Angeles has the worst traffic in the world.”

The city has earned a reputation for its abhorrent traffic, and an annual traffic index released this week by TomTom, the maker of GPS devices, shows that reputation is well-deserved: L.A. really does have the worst roadway congestion in the country. Drivers there who have a 30-minute commute spend an average of 90 hours a year sitting in traffic.

Related: The 10 Richest Small Cities in America

The report finds that overall travel times in L.A. are about 36 percent longer than they would be without traffic delays — and 75 percent longer during the evening rush hour.

And as notoriously bad as L.A. traffic is, the TomTom index suggests that it has actually gotten worse: Congestion rose 2 percentage points from 2012 to 2013.

Los Angelinos might find some small measure of comfort in knowing that it could be worse: They could be in Rio de Janeiro, which has the worst traffic in all of the Americas, according to the index.

Mexico City and Sao Paulo also ranked worse than L.A. Half of the 10 worst cities in the report are in the U.S., with West Coast population centers like San Francisco, Seattle and San Jose joining Los Angeles on the list.

The index is compiled by measuring travel times during the whole day and peak periods and comparing them with travel times during non-congested hours. Based on information collected from its GPS units, TomTom reported data for each weekday and took into account local roads and highways.

Related: 5 Easy Ways to Save on Gas This Summer

Here are the 10 U.S. cities with the worst traffic:

1. Los Angeles: The list-topper features a nearly 40-minute delay per hour driven during peak commuting times , and its overall traffic levels make it the fourth-worst of 63 cities studied across the Americas.

2. San Francisco: Commuters will be delayed 83 hours per year based on a 30-minute commute. The city’s 32 percent congestion rate ranks as sixth-worst in the Americas.

3. Honolulu: The evening commute posts a huge challenge in the Hawaiian capital, with more than a 50 percent congestion rate each weekday night. After a roughly three-percent drop in congestion in the middle of 2013, Honolulu’s congestion has trended back upward.

4. Seattle: Thursday night is a bad time to be on the roads in the Emerald City – it has an average of more than 80 percent congestion.

5. San Jose: Congestion here has trended upward since the first quarter of 2012, culminating in a 35-minute delay per hour driven in the peak period.

6. New York: With the largest population on the list, New York holds a steady percent of congestion throughout its weekday mornings (35-40 percent) and evenings (40-55 percent).

7. Miami: The congestion level on Miami’s highways is 12 percent, while it has 32 percent congestion on non-highways.

8. Washington: Drivers with a 30-minute commute can expect to spend 73 hours in traffic annually in our nation’s capital.

9. Portland: Morning commutes are a breeze in Portland compared to other cities on the list, with a 31 percent congestion rate.

10. New Orleans: With a 25-minute delay per hour driven during peak periods, New Orleans has a morning congestion rate similar to Portland’s.

By comparison to those cities, driving in Cleveland, Indianapolis and Kansas City might be generally less frustrating. Those three cities earned bragging rights for the least amount of traffic. The congestion rate for all three put together (29 percent) is smaller than that for Los Angeles’ (36 percent).

Read more from The Fiscal Times:

Your Tax Dollars Pay for Walmart Execs’ Bonuses

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