fast food

The Fast Food Hierarchy

As a faithful keeper of fast food lore, I have plumbed the depths of the Greasy Fryer many a time, sampling all that the gods of the French and the fried have to offer. I have sampled countless burgers, innumerable nuggets, and fields of fries that boggle the human imagination. And as much as I’d like to believe there are few social barriers among the foodstuffs, I’ve come to realize this:

There is a Fast Food Hierarchy.

If you follow the ways of fast food long enough, you soon realize that not all buns aren’t created equal. Some fast food establishments are simply far better than their brethren, but how should one decide them?

Fortunately for posterity, I’ve developed a ranking system.

The Fast Food Hierarchy is made up of four holy artifacts, which guide the fast food denizen to make a decision as to which establishment deserves their allegiance: the Scales of Price and Food Quality, the Blade on Uniqueness, the Goblet of Variety, and the Parchment of the Value Menu.


The Scales of Price and Quality

Many judge fast food establishments based on the quality of their food alone. But this is for the unenlightened. You shouldn’t just like the food at a fast food establishment; you should get what you pay for.

If you’re eating fast food, chances are you’re trying to save money. A restaurant with cheap food that’s okay should rank higher in the hierarchy than one with good food that’s overpriced. I don’t mind paying more money for certain types of fast food, but it’d better taste good.


The Blade of Uniqueness

Like a sword slicing through an enemy force, the Blade of Uniqueness helps a fast food establishment slash through mediocrity by making it stand out. If a fast food restaurant wants to capture your attention, it should wow you with a creation you can only purchase at that restaurant, like the Big Mac or Chick Fil-A chicken sandwich.

If a fast food restaurant gives me something truly unique, it makes sure I won’t forget the place and will make a pilgrimage to its plastic chairs again someday.


The Goblet of Variety

A restaurant that just serves burgers will bore its patrons quickly. Sure, most fast food restaurants include other menu items like chicken nuggets and fish sandwiches, but if an establishment wants to establish its place in the Hierarchy, it should have multiple types of burgers, different ways of serving chicken, and if possible, animals on the menu with eight or more legs.


The Parchment of the Value Menu

This sacred text has been passed down from generation to generation of the fast food faithful. It makes fast food available to all, not just the wealthy or fortunate.

But just having a value menu isn’t enough. Some fast food establishments (I’m looking at you, Burger King) fill the value menu with the items that no one ever wants to order. This is an insult to the value and should be punished through demotion in the Fast Food Hierarchy.


Now that we’ve defined the parameters, how do some of the more famous fast food establishments measure up? Let’s give each fast food restaurant a ranking of 1-6 in each category and tally up the final score to see which restaurants are truly a light in the darkness.


And just so you’re aware, I did not submit to personal bias in this ranking. It was agony for me to avoid putting Chick Fil-A at the top.


Scales of Price and Quality 6
Blade of Uniqueness 4
Goblet of Variety 3
Parchment of the Value Menu 5
Total 18
McDonalds may not have the highest-quality food, but it’s cheap, meaning you get what you pay for. It also has a lot of unique menu items like the Big Mac and McRib (when it’s around) and has one of the best value menus in fast food. The only place where McDonalds comes up short is in the variety area: they have a lot of burgers, but only the basics in chicken sandwiches, fish, salads, and other items.


Burger King

Scales of Price and Quality 2
Blade of Uniqueness 2
Goblet of Variety 3
Parchment of the Value Menu 1
Total 8
Burger King’s business model of being nothing more than an alternative to McDonalds doesn’t help its ranking in the hierarchy. The main problem with Burger King is that their burgers pale in comparison with similar burgers, like the Wendy’s Double or Carl’s Jr. Famous Star, but aren’t any cheaper. Also, their value menu is a disgrace. If not for the chicken fries, there would be no reason to visit a Burger King at all.



Scales of Price and Quality 4
Blade of Uniqueness 3
Goblet of Variety 5
Parchment of the Value Menu 5
Total 17
Dollar for dollar, Wendy’s tends to be the priciest of the fast food establishments. But it’s well worth it. They’re always coming out with something new to try, from a bacon and mushroom burger to ghost pepper fries to a ranch chicken sandwich. Or, if you’re looking for a deal, you can grab a 4 for $4 meal.


Chick Fil-A

Scales of Price and Quality 5
Blade of Uniqueness 6
Goblet of Variety 3
Parchment of the Value Menu 4
Total 18
I’ll admit to a personal bias with Chick Fil-A. It’s freaking delicious. And the chicken sandwiches are truly unique, making Chick Fil-A’s price-to-quality ratio superb. Chick Fil-A doesn’t have a value menu per-se, but the kid’s menu offers some pretty good budget choices. The only place where Chick Fil-A falls short is in the variety aspect. It’s pretty much all chicken.


Taco Bell

Scales of Price and Quality 3
Blade of Uniqueness 4
Goblet of Variety 2
Parchment of the Value Menu 1
Total 10
Again, personal bias here. I get migraines when I eat the wrong types of food, and for me, Taco Bell is a one-way ticket on the migraine express. I have to admit, though, there’s not much like it, and the food is pretty much priced as it should be. Unfortunately, many of the menu items feel like the same ingredients simply repackaged in different ways, and a lot of the value menu items are downright disgusting.


Carl’s Jr./Hardees

Scales of Price and Quality 5
Blade of Uniqueness 5
Goblet of Variety 6
Parchment of the Value Menu 3
Total 19
In some places, it’s Carl’s Jr. In others, it’s Hardees. Either way, it’s delectable. I’m not sure if this is true in other areas, but the Carl’s Jr.s in Colorado actually serve Mexican food in addition to the traditional burgers and fries. And it’s better than anything you can get at Taco Bell.



Scales of Price and Quality 3
Blade of Uniqueness 5
Goblet of Variety 5
Parchment of the Value Menu 3
Total 16
I’m divided on Arby’s. On the one hand, their roast beef isn’t real high quality and looks like Jabba the Hutt’s back fat. On the other, they’ve got a lot of menu items, like the gyro, that make Arby’s a truly unique experience. They also bring the sauce, bigtime. Arby’s wide variety of sauce makes one appreciate life a little more.


Del Taco

Scales of Price and Quality 5
Blade of Uniqueness 4
Goblet of Variety 6
Parchment of the Value Menu 6
Total 21
Del Taco’s got it all: traditional tacos and burritos. Tasty chicken and ranch tacos and burritos. Rice and beans. French fries. Burgers. Steak and potato burritos. Churros. Milkshakes. And the list goes on! Add to that a stupendous value menu and you have a restaurant worth driving out of your way for.


So the Fast Food Hierarchy currently stands thusly:

Del Taco
Carl’s Jr./Hardees
Chick Fil-A (tie broken due to that yellow sauce)
Taco Bell
Burger King


Do you agree with the hierarchy? Let me know if there are other denizens of the fast food world you’d like me to rank.

Subway: Subliminal Mind Control in Action

Who wants to read another post about fast food?

For those of you new to this site, I’ve spoken about most of the elements of fast-foodery, from the hostage negotiation-type scenario that is asking for ketchup to the predatory war of the Yum! Brands franchises. I’ve gone on and on about McDonalds and Taco Bell and Wendy’s and any other fast food franchises you can think of. But I have yet to talk about Subway.

Because Subway scares me.

Subway twists and molds the human mind in a way yet to be understood by the world’s most advanced hypnotists and psychologists. I suspect the whole thing to be an underground experiment in human psychology instigated by a race of underground pink ferret people as preparation for the coming invasion. But that’s just me.

Each Subway establishment houses two employees, who are separated by an invisible wall, what I call the “Iron Condiment.” The employee on the right handles bread, meat, and cheese, while the fellow on the left is in charge of herding the unruly condiments onto the bread. And a strange, psychic phenomenon occurs every time a Subway employee passes through the Iron Condiment.

While an employee is in the bread sector, their short term memory is reduced to a fraction of a second. My typical interaction with a meat quadrant worker is as follows:

Me: Hi, can I please have a chicken bacon ranch sandwich with provolone cheese on Italian herbs and cheese bread?

Employee: What kind of bread?

Me: Italian herbs and cheese. And I’d like a chicken bacon ranch, please.

Employee [after slicing the bread]: What kind of sandwich, again?

Me: Chicken bacon ranch. With provolone cheese.

Employee [after putting the meat on my sandwich]: What kind of cheese?

Me: The kind I just mentioned half a second ago!

But this isn’t simply a case of a bored employee not paying attention. The instant you pass through the Iron Condiment, you’re in an entirely different world: the free world. When you begin speaking to an employee on this side of the invisible partition, something shifts in their brains and they transform from a grunting neanderthal into Rain Man. No matter how many condiments you list, all of them will be placed on your sandwich, in order, without fail. It goes something like this:

Me: Hey, can I have lettuce, tomatoes, olives, green peppers, banana peppers, onions, carrots, avocados, Sasquatch hair, jalapenos, pickles, spinach, a tiny break-dancing Yugoslavian man, and cucumbers?

Employee [proceeding to put each condiment on my sandwich in perfect order]: Sure.

It’s like the employees go through about twenty years of secondary education and brain exercises by moving six inches. The entire thing just creeps me out. I’ll stick to the Quarter Pounders. At least they’re just trying to mess with my arteries.

Fast Food Dominance


During my dabbling in the sciences, I’ve learned three important facts: clowns cannot breathe in space, tamales should only be consumed orally, and nature is full of symbiotic relationships. The hippopotamus relies on tiny birds to keep its back clean and ambrosia beetles carry and plant a nutritious fungus that eats a tree’s interior a serves as a food source. Different parts of nature depend on each other, linked in the near-unending chain of God’s creation. Any reasonable person would assume that the same to be true of fast food.

But that is not that case. I speak from experience when I say that any attempt of multiple fast food chains to coexist can end only in dominance and despair.

For those not already aware, I like fast food. I like it a lot. I’m the kind of person who, if I had the money, would stuff myself with Quarter Pounders and Double Stacks until grease oozed from every pore and each piece of my fecal matter took on the form of a huge, singular, steaming french fry. And like any connoisseur, I soon began to suspect that many of these restaurants were owned by the same organization.

I was right. Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, KFC, Wingstreet, and until recently, A&W and Long John Silver’s, are all owned by Yum! Brands (which is owned by Pepsi.) At first, they existed as singular organisms. But, pioneers of science that they were, the folks at Yum! Brands soon began combining their restaurants, serving radically different kinds of food under the same roof.

It seemed like a dream come true: customers would be able to walk into a Taco Bell/Pizza Hut and order a burrito alongside a steaming slice of pepperoni pizza or get a cheeseburger and a root beer with a side of mashed potatoes and coleslaw from a KFC/A&W. The possibilities would bring a greasy tear to the eye of any fast food denizen.

However, my joy soon turned to fear and confusion as I came to the stunning realization that these chains weren’t morphing together into awesome fast food mega-creatures but were instead eating each other alive! Whenever you walk into one of these combination fast food joints, one of the restaurants is completely dominant; it’s almost like the other restaurant ceases to exist.

I remember the first time I walked into a Taco Bell/Pizza Hut. The walls were lined with edifices of burritos, churros, tacos, and hot sauce. I ordered pizza. And the employees looked at me like I had just ordered a fried infant on a stick. They then informed me that they had no pizza ready and weren’t sure if they had enough sauce and dough to make one. At a pizza restaurant.

The same thing happened at KFC/A&W. I felt the piercing eyes of Colonel Sanders staring judgingly into my soul as I nervously ordered my cheeseburger. The guy behind the counter spat in my face and slapped me, heretic that I was. I walked out of the establishment, dejected, and was forced to anoint my head with gravy as I said my twenty “Hail Sanders” as a penance.

This isn’t natural selection. It’s something far more sinister. We can now clearly see that putting a Taco Bell and a Long John Silver’s in the same building is not simply akin to putting two Japanese fighting fish in the same bowl. It’s like putting two Japanese fighting fish in the same bowl and arming them with metal chains and razor blades.

There are no symbiotic fast food relationships. There is only shame, emptiness, and crusty, uneaten pizza toppings.

Ketchup Negotiations

ketchup packet

The fast food drive-thru (spelled “thru” because words that contain more than five letters are frowned upon at many fast food establishments) is one of the many gifts bestowed on mankind by the gods of the frozen patties. It’s quick, easy, and lets you obtain food without ever having to leave your vehicle; you don’t even have to wear pants if you don’t want to. But there is a dark side to the drive-thru. If you’ve been to one in the last few years, you’ve no doubt found yourself having to go through ketchup negotiations.

Ketchup is the most valuable fast food commodity. Without it, your fries are tasteless, naked, and shameful. And like gold or oil, it is a resource that you must fight tooth and nail for.

In days long ago, the drive-thru worker would include with your meal a few packets of ketchup. It was a happy time when all was right with the world. But these days, as you pull away from the second window and look inside your bag of food, you’ll no doubt be struck with a stunning realization: there is no ketchup. None. Those heartless cretins keep the red goodness to themselves and you are left ketcupless.

This happens every time you go to the drive-thru. The ketchup gluttons at McDonald’s and Wendy’s simply will not give you ketchup unless you ask for it. Having to ask for ketchup at the drive-thru is like having to ask for anesthetic before a kidney transplant; there’s no one who wouldn’t want it, so you’d think they’d just give it to you automatically.

Oh, but the ketchup debacle doesn’t stop there. If, after the employee hands you your bag of food, you do ask for ketchup, they’ll first stare at you for a moment with accusatory, anger-filled eyes. Then, grumbling, they’ll grab a huge handful of ketchup packets—usually around two hundred—and shove them into your hands, as if to say, “Here, you big crybaby, take your ketchup. In fact, take far more ketchup than you’ll ever need, just so you never need to come crying to me about your condiment problems again.”

So now you have too much ketchup. After you’ve devoured all your tasty French fries, there are still a good dozen-or-so ketchup packets at the bottom of the bag, staring at you. Some people think, “I’ll put the ketchup packets in the fridge and use them later.” But you’ll never end up using all the ketchup packets because by the time you’ve used up one batch, the sarcastic ketchup glutton over at the Burger King drive-thru overloads you again and you have a brand new mountain of packets in the fridge to work through. You’re trapped in an endless ketchup cycle!

You’d think it would end there, but no. The fast food powers-that-be have come up with something even more diabolical. A few years ago, some fast food chains introduced new, “improved” ketchup packets:

big ketchup packet

These hold more ketchup than the old packets. But how much more? No one knows.

Let’s say that, before the new packets were introduced, you needed five ketchup packets to adequately cover all your fries. How many of the new packets do you need? Two? Three? Six? You’d better get it right or your ketchup-to-fry ratio is going to be skewed. These new ketchup packets have completely screwed up the ketchup packet exchange rate.

It’s high time we stand up to these fast food fascists and put an end to the ketchup mind games. I implore you, the next time you receive a bag of burger and fry without packets, thrust it back into the drive-thru worker’s greedy hands and say “Nay! You shall not make a mockery of my taste buds this day! I say unto thee, give me sufficient ketchup or give me death!”

Or you could just go to Taco Bell, where ketchup isn’t an issue.