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How to save money at America’s 8 favorite restaurants

Mike Timmermann June 11, 2016
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A new survey has ranked the top restaurant brands in America, and many of them are easy on your wallet.

The annual Harris Poll took into account factors like familiarity, quality and purchase consideration. Data collected from more than 97,000 people was used to assess all sorts of brands, including 60 restaurants.

Read more: Use this simple trick to stop overeating (and spend less on food)

And the winning restaurants are…

Sandwich Shop: Subway

Even as the chain’s former pitchman Jared Fogle has been in the news for sex crimes, Subway beat out Panera Bread in this category. It’s the sixth straight year that Subway has secured the title. The brand’s success is attributed in part to its ability to get ahead of the fitness curve. Subway is currently pushing its digital products, including an app that lets you order ahead.

Fast Casual Mexican Restaurant: Moe’s Southwest Grill

Sorry, Chipotle. There’s a new leader in this category. Moe’s Southwest Grill leaped to the top of the list with its focus on fresh ingredients. Founded in Atlanta, Moe’s has more than 600 locations, which will greet you with an enthusiastic “Welcome to Moe’s” when you walk in the door. Taco Bell, Qdoba Mexican Grill and Baja Fresh Mexican Grill were the runners-up.

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Coffee & Quick Service Restaurant: Dunkin’ Donuts

Everyone seems to have their favorite when it comes to coffee, and the survey says the Dunkin’ Donuts brand is number one. Like many other brands, Dunkin’ Donuts is really focusing on its app, which comes with some perks. The chain is also known to offer beverage discounts when you visit during off-peak times. Krispy Kreme, Starbucks and Einstein Bros Bagels were the runners-up in this category.

Italian Dining Restaurant: Olive Garden

It must be the endless breadsticks keeping the Olive Garden brand going strong — or maybe it’s the aggressive promotions. Right now, the chain is marketing spaghetti entrees starting at $12.99 and breadstick sandwiches starting at $6.99. Olive Garden beat out Maggiano’s in the survey.

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Burger Restaurant: In-N-Out Burger

Those of us who live on the East Coast might not know what all the fuss is about, but just ask your friends in California. They’re obsessed with In-N-Out! The chain doesn’t have a big menu, but they know how to serve up delicious burgers, shakes and fries — for an affordable price. In-N-Out bested Five Guys for the top spot in this category.

Pizza Chain: Pizza Hut

The battle for your pizza dollar is always intense, and the Harris Poll gave the top honors to Pizza Hut this year.  The chain recently introduced its $5 Flavor Menu, which includes pizza, wings, sides and dessert for $5 each when you buy two or more. As for the rankings, Papa John’s and Domino’s rounded out the top three.

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Casual Dining Restaurant: IHOP (International House of Pancakes)

This might come as a surprise to you, but IHOP was the leader in a crowded field of casual dining restaurants. The pancake house wants you to spend more than just breakfast with them. IHOP is offering free refills on fries when you purchase one of their burgers through July.

Check out the Harris Poll rankings in this category:

  1. IHOP (International House of Pancakes)
  2. Outback Steakhouse
  3. LongHorn Steakhouse
  4. Red Lobster Seafood Restaurants
  5. Bonefish Grill
  6. Applebee’s
  7. Chili’s Grill & Bar
  8. Buffalo Wild Wings

Chicken Restaurant: Chick-fil-A

People who participated in the Harris Poll gave Chick-fil-A some love when it came to the top chicken restaurant. The chain recently offered a free sandwich to anyone who downloaded their app, but there are other ways to save money there, including a kids eat free promotion. In the poll, Zaxby’s and Popeyes rounded out the top three.

Ways to save

In addition to taking advantage of restaurant specials, you can trim your bill by enrolling in their rewards programs, which may offer coupons. Also, sites like Valpak.com and Smartsource.com often feature promotions for chains like these. And finally, consider paying your bill with a rewards credit card that gives cash back.

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Read more: 8 ways to save while dining out

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Michael Timmermann paid off his mortgage in two years. Now, he shares his money-saving tips on his blog, Save on Almost Everything.
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