Big fast-food chains lag rivals in taste - survey
* In-N-Out ranks No. 1 among hamburger chains
* Chipotle crowned king of Mexican category
* Diners flock to cheap chains, want better-tasting food
LOS ANGELES, June 30 (Reuters) - McDonald's Corp, Burger King, KFC and Taco Bell are the biggest U.S. fast-food chains, but they lag smaller rivals like In-N-Out Burger and Chick-fil-A when it comes to taste, according to a new survey released on Thursday by Consumer Reports.
"Chains like McDonald's and Taco Bell boast supersized values, but consumers don't necessarily think they offer much bang for the buck," said Tod Marks, Consumer Reports' senior projects editor.
The survey, based on responses from more than 36,700 subscribers who made more than 98,000 visits to 53 fast-food chains, found that the big four U.S. fast-food chains had "uninspiring food" and "only so-so service".
No more than 11 percent of respondents found the food at those big brands to be "excellent," while a higher number -- 15 to 19 percent -- found their food to be fair, poor, or very poor.
Southern California favorite In-N-Out Burger captured the No. 1 spot among all of the chains with high rankings for food, service, value and speed.
McDonald's ranked last in the hamburger category, with particularly poor performance in food satisfaction, to finish just behind Burger King .
Chick-fil-A's popular pickle-topped chicken sandwiches helped the company rise to the top of the chicken chains. Yum Brand's KFC was at the bottom of the bucket.
Chipotle Mexican Grill was the king of the south-of-the-border inspired chains, while Yum's Taco Bell ranked second to last.
Fifty-four percent of survey participants cited low prices as a reason for picking a particular fast-food restaurant. Despite the low prices, just 19 percent of all respondents said they got excellent value for their money.
In-N-Out Burger, Papa Murphy's and CiCi's Pizza were seen as offering the best value, while Sbarro, Round Table Pizza and KFC were the worst.
Full survey results are available at www.ConsumerReports.org.
Consumer Reports magazine is published by Consumers Union, a nonprofit organization that independently rates a variety of products. (Reporting and writing by Mary Slosson)
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