We can’t always make the food we eat with our own hands—which means we rely on strangers to keep clean when feeding us.
But the service industry isn’t perfect—there are tainted ingredients that could make you sick, less than stellar production spaces, and worse.
Luckily, a consumer data agency has collected feedback from diners on the cleanliness of the restaurants they ate in—everything from how clean the flatware and glassware was to the state of the restaurants’ bathrooms—all so you can get a good sense of which chain restaurants are least likely to make you sick when you eat there.
The agency, Technomic, combined this information with publicly available health data and presented a list of restaurants that are “winning at cleanliness,” according to the publication Restaurant Business. The list is divided into two categories: “limited service,” including fast-food and fast-casual chains, and “full service,” which are sit-down restaurants where you’d expect table service.
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The top contenders in the fast-casual category might disappoint you—most of America’s leading fast-food chains are absent. Sandwich chain Firehouse Subs, Culver’s, a burger joint known for frozen custard, and Newk’s Eatery, a mostly Southeastern chain known for its sandwich-and-salad combo, are among the cleanest in this category. But the award for cleanest fast-casual chain actually goes to Chick-fil-A, the fried chicken restaurant that just recently claimed the title of America’s “best.” The chain also boasts gluten-free options, and even some (relatively) healthy choices.
You might be more familiar with the top five contenders in the full service category, many of which have restaurants across the nation. Carraba’s Italian Grill comes in fifth place, where 64 percent of diners said they felt confident in the cleanliness of its kitchens and facilities, surpassed by The Capital Grill and competitor Brio Tuscan Grille. Seasons 52, an American grill focused on seasonal ingredients, snagged the no. 2 spot, just shy of Fleming’s Prime, an upscale steakhouse and seafood chain that 70 percent of all diners gave a thumbs up to.
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While we can use fellow diners’ responses to assure ourselves that the risk of running into something unpleasant at one of these chains is lower than we’d expect, there’s no true way to know all the ins and outs of commercial kitchens outside what local health boards have to say (refer to this handy guide to see the authority in charge of your area).
In addition to keeping an eye out for sanitary dining areas and facilities in general, understanding which meals are the best for your diet at casual chains—even at the drive thru—is very important and is always in your control.
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