Have you filled out your Fast Food Bracket yet?

(Click on Bracket for larger view)

Ah March, that time of year when people put anything and everything into “bracket” form. Last year, So Good brought down the house with our wildly popular Meat Madness tournament. One full month of debates, arguments and voting, leading to some interesting final results, and ultimately, bacon defeating steak to be crowned the greatest meat in the land.  We even had some controversy along the way, as Deadspin accused an ESPN reporter of copying the idea of a meat bracket.

Rather than re-hash Meat Madness, this year So Good has returned with an all new competition: The Fast Food Bracket.

The rules are fairly simple. Over the course of the next month, So Good readers will vote, match-up by match-up, to determine what is the best fast food chain in America.  When we use the term “fast food”, we are using it loosely. These tournament competitors really fall under the larger umbrella of Quick Service Restaurants, or QSR.

Please weigh in with your predictions, intriguing match-ups and thoughts in the comments!

Here is how the participants and seeding were determined, working off last year’s list of the top 50 QSR chains:

  • You must have a substantial portion of your sales come from food, specifically non-dessert foods (sorry Starbucks, Jamba Juice and Cold Stone, that means you’re out…Dairy Queen, Dunkin Donut’s, you guys have a big enough variety of food offerings, so you’re in)
  • Only 32 chains are eligible. Sure, I could have done 64, but just like with Meat Madness, that would have taken forever to vote on. 32 it is. Complain in the comments about your favorite “bubble chain” that got bounced, but you’re just gonna have to deal with it.
  • The top 16 chains by revenue get automatic berths, with the top 4 holding #1 seeds, next 4 holding #2 seeds, etc. Doesn’t matter how bad people think your food sucks, just like the big conferences get an edge in basketball, so do these guys.
  • I combined Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. even though they are listed separately on the QSR 50 list, because they are jointly own/run. However, this did not move their seed up – tough noogies.
  • After that, the seeding was at my discretion, but for the most part I stuck to the basic structure of ranking them based on revenue.
  • The only chains outside of the top 32 in revenue that made the cut as “wild-cards” based on reputation and pop culture familiarity were: In n Out, White Castle and Five Guys.

Voting begins when the “real” tournament starts on Thursday, with voting on two match-ups at a time during the first round. Make sure to check back to So Good at approximately noon each day so you can vote on each of the match-ups.

Last year I heard stories from all across the country of people printing out Meat Madness brackets in their office, running an office pool or making their predictions. Glad everyone enjoyed it so much, and hope they enjoy this competition as well.

Just like with Meat Madness, voting criteria is totally up to you. Want to vote just based on which you think is the best tasting and nothing else? Go for it. Maybe you want to factor in cost? Convenience? Quality of service? Number of locations? Variety of menu options?

The choice is yours.  But one thing is clear: in one month’s time, So Good will be crowning one lucky chain as the “Top Fast Food Chain” in America.

We love Green Tea.

90 Responses

  1. Nick

    That Panera-Popeye’s 4-5 matchup in round 1 is going to be a tough one. I’m trying to decide if I’m going to vote based on “one last meal” or “stuck in a small town for 3 days and my choices for food every evening are this or Applebee’s.”

  2. Youppi

    final 4: Popeye’s, Chic-Fil-A, Five Guys, In-N-Out Burger…

    That’s right… not ONE number one seed in the final four. That’s my prediction…

    Also, shake shack should have had some representation… What the F is Zaxby’s? you know it’s going to lose to BK anyway, so I say come up with another one, a dark horse.

    Also; sorry Sonic fans, but aside from those Limeades, Sonic BLOWS.

  3. Laura M

    Boston Market vs Wendy’s!? That’s just ridiculous for a first round match. I think Boston Market got the raw deal here and thus will finish far below it’s actual deserved spot. Frankly, I’m outraged.

  4. Bruce! Chalupa

    The Jack in the Box-Five guys match-up is going to be tough.

    Also, I really with there were JitBs (and In-N-Outs) in Maryland! *drools* I miss my breakfast Jacks and questionable-but-cheap-n-tasty tacos!

  5. Chckn 'n Bscts

    No Bojangles!!!!!!!!!! Would have been a sleeper to take it all!

    You, my friend, are ON NOTICE.

  6. lindno

    In-N-Out is going to cruise to an easy win. The Animal Burger won’t even break a sweat.

    FYI, Laura, Boston Market is seriously horrendous.

  7. slanch

    Sorry everybody, you’re all playing for second place, I finished in second last year and this year I’m taking the gold!

  8. Altissima

    I loved last year’s Meat Madness. This year’s Fast Food Bracket is totally irrelevant for overseas readers – I am familiar with only about 1 in every eight of the QSR’s included.
    Please do another bracket on more generic foodstuffs, so we foreigners can play along.

  9. Eick

    @Matt – the #1 – #4 seedings were all automatic based on company revenue. Also, didn’t you try Sonic for the first time with me a few months ago?

  10. Eick

    @Evan – sounds like a compelling reason to vote for them. Since the top 16 chains by revenue were guaranteed all the #1-#4 seeds, Chipotle actually got the highest seeding possible.

  11. Tomlovesbacon

    Final four Five Guys, In-n-Out, Wendys, Burger King. With In-n-Out taking the win.

  12. J Stats

    St. Louis Bread Co….good to see the local boy in there (under it’s other name Panera (because I guess the rest of the nation doesn’t wanna give us no love or somethin). Panda v Sonic will be tough to choose though

  13. Jennifer

    My final 2 are Five Guys and Arbys.

    Arbys I would eat everyday if I could.

    The rest of my final four is Popeyes and Chik-Fil-A

  14. MagnumDK

    DQ, Subway, Sonic, Taco Bell in the Final Four. DQ pulls a stunning double-overtime upset over Mickey D’s in the Elite Eight round.

  15. Brian

    Final 4
    Popeye’s( just sneaks by Sonic)
    Steak and Shake

    Popeye’s will come out on top….”I’ts N’awlins neighbor”…

  16. Travis

    Jack-In-The-Box, Burger King, White Castle & Taco Bell in the final four

    JITB vs. Taco Bell in the championship with Taco Bell taking home the crown

  17. Kenney

    Final Four: In and Out, Whataburger, Sonic, Jack in the Box

    Championship: Sonic and Whataburger

    Whataburger all the way…. they are amazing… Tequitos at 2am can’t be beat…. their double bacon cheeseburgers are out of this world…. fries are fantastic…. shakes are great… Just a great place to eat!

  18. Laura M

    Lindno, I think you are driven by West Coast feelings given your In-N-Out preference, so I will chalk this up to geographical preference.

    For an upset, Subway and White Castle is looking really good. White Castle has a sick cult following.

  19. Val

    Quiznos v Dairy Queen? Quiznos hands down and the winner in this bracket for sure, unless this is a soft ice cream contest — which I don’t think it is!

  20. Pedro Lujan

    Popeyes RULES! Love that chicken baby! Should win with no problems, they have the most flavorful food of all.

  21. Westcoastbeast

    Final Four: In-n-Out, MickeyDs, Panda, Wendys

    In-n-Out vs Wendys in the finals. In-n-Out cruises to victory. They’ve got heart, over-coming adversity against Steak-n-shake in the second round. Craving a frisco melt right now….

  22. Brenda

    Why the stigma between Quiznos and Subway? Quiznos uses fresh sliced meats daily real cheese and the steak sandwich doesn’t look like minced cat food. So in my opinion, and we have tested the two products, Quiznos is the superior product….

  23. Anu

    I have Sonic beating Taco Bell in the finals 🙂
    I say Sonic will take all. Love their chili cheese dogs and tater tots and limeades 🙂

  24. Eick

    @Brenda – personally I think Quizno’s is pretty terrible. The sandwiches are sub-par and until they recently started dropping prices waaaay overpriced.

  25. JCA

    What happened to Del Taco???
    Final Four: In-n-Out, Chick Fil-A, Sonic, and Jack In The Box.

    Winner? In-n-Out hands down.


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