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What's behind our restaurant Ratings?

The Consumer Reports National Research Center comprises highly trained social scientists, including 9 Ph.D.s, using state-of-the-art techniques to survey more than 1 million consumers each year about products, services, health care and consumer issues.
We look for:
  • Reader Score
    Overall satisfaction with the dining experience.
  • Food
    A combined rating of two separate attributes - food taste and food quality.
  • Menu variety
    Variety of choices on the menu.
  • Value
    Value you got for your money, considering price and quality.
  • Service
    Quality of service.
  • Ambiance
    General atmosphere and mood.
  • Breakfast price
    Median per person price paid for breakfast including food and drinks.
  • Lunch price
    Median per person price paid for lunch including food and drinks.
  • Dinner price
    Median per person price paid for dinner including food and drinks.

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Restaurant survey respondents told us about 170,838 visits to full-service chains. On one end are family-oriented, pot-roast-and-hash-brown restaurants with simple décor, sturdy tableware, and a bill of about $10 per person for breakfast or lunch. On the other, white-tablecloth, where guests can sample carpaccio and ahi tuna on fine china, sip wine in clubby surroundings, and pay more than $40 per person for dinner and drinks. For most restaurant chains, price is the median diners paid for their own dinner and drinks minus the tip; but for family chains, price reflects the median for breakfast or lunch, including beverages and excluding the tip. Scores for taste, value, service, mood, noise, menu, and cleanliness are relative. Our reader score reflects diners’ overall satisfaction.

Restaurant buying guide

Every day, Americans spend about $1.7 billion at the nation's 970,000 restaurants--close to the amount they spend each year on indigestion remedies. Clearly, diners deserve a sure thing: a clean place that provides tasty food and good value. To find the best bets, we surveyed 47,565 readers who ate a total of 110,517 meals at 102 table-service chain restaurants--a step (sometimes a leap) up from fast-food joints.

On one end are family-oriented, pot-roast-and-hash-brown restaurants with simple décor, sturdy tableware, and a bill of about $10 per person for breakfast or lunch. On the other, white-tablecloth, where guests can sample carpaccio and ahi tuna on fine china, sip wine in clubby surroundings, and pay more than $40 per person for dinner and drinks.

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