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The Best Chain Restaurant in America Is ...

If you’re from the Midwest or the South, there’s probably one near you

 Steak 'n Shake chain restaurant.

Sean Pavone/Alamy

With the lowest average meal price among all surveyed eateries and stellar customer service, Steak 'n' Shake took the top spot in a ranking of large chain restaurants.

Steak 'n Shake delivers the best bang for your buck among America’s largest casual dining restaurant chains, according to a new ranking by Money magazine.

The magazine surveyed 40 U.S. restaurant chains with more than 100 locations, taking into account menu options, price and customer service. The Indianapolis-based Steak 'n Shake chain, founded in 1934 in Normal, Ill., posted the lowest average meal price of all the restaurants surveyed, at $4.39 per order. The 544-restaurant chain also scored well in customer service, and its consistency across the categories earned it the top spot on the list.

The top five also included Bob Evans, Waffle House, Red Robin Gourmet Burgers and Brews, and Johnny Rockets. Each chain that landed in the top boasted an average meal price of less than $11, with the standard Waffle House meal checking in at just over five bucks.

The list balanced price with service: Bonefish Grill (which offers discounts to AARP members) actually scored the highest in customer satisfaction by a fairly wide margin. But its average meal price was also the highest at $19.75, sending it down to the No. 19 spot on the list.

The ranking included large chains with sit-down dining and table service, eliminating fast food chains but including standard-fare restaurants like Cracker Barrel along with specialty restaurants, such as the breakfast-focused IHOP and the Mellow Mushroom pizza chain. The result is a bit of an apples-and-oranges (or pizzas-and-pancakes) comparison, but offers a snapshot into the value and service offered by many of the most commonly visited eateries in the country.

Here’s the full top 10. For the rest of the top 25 rankings, visit the Money web site.

  1. Steak 'n Shake
    Average meal price: $4.39
  2. Bob Evans
    Average meal price: $6.65
  3. Waffle House
    Average meal price: $5.04
  4. Red Robin Gourmet Burgers and Brews
    Average meal price: $10.53
  5. Johnny Rockets
    Average meal price: $9.15
  6. Buca di Beppo
    Average meal price: $14.73
  7. Cicis
    Average meal price: $6.09
  8. Buffalo Wild Wings
    Average meal price: $11.43
  9. Friendly’s
    Average meal price: $8.56
  10. Cracker Barrel Old Country Store
    Average meal price: $8.19

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