Most food chains are failing this crucial test — here’s how the biggest restaurants in the US measure up

Hollis Johnson

Would you like a dose of antibiotics with that burger?

Even as some restaurant chains move to ditch antibiotics – in part due to customer backlash over the overuse of the drugs – most restaurant chains are still failing to make changes.

There’s evidence that antibiotic overuse is contributing to the rise of super-strong bacteria that no longer respond to antibiotics, something that could contribute to the rise of untreatable superbugs in the future.

Despite this, 16 out of 25 of the biggest restaurant chains in America received a failing grade in new Chain Reaction report released on Tuesday. The report, compiled by six organizations dedicated to food safety and health, graded chains based on their policies, practices, and transparency regarding antibiotic use in their meat and poultry supply chains.

Companies were given a numerical score (0-100%) and a letter grade (F-A). Here’s the full list, ranking chains from the worst to the best.

Applebee’s — 0% (FAIL)


Applebee’s was one of seven chains to receive a zero out of 100 in the report. The low score is due to the fact that the company did not respond to the Chain Reaction’s survey or provide a public antibiotics policy.

Buffalo Wild Wings — 0% (FAIL)

Flickr / Ginny

Buffalo Wild Wings also did not answer the survey, or provide public information about the chain’s approach to antibiotics.

Burger King — 0% (FAIL)

Burger King

Ditto for Burger King…

Chili’s — 0% (FAIL)

Wikimedia Commons

…and Chili’s…

IHOP — 0% (FAIL)

Business Insider/Natalie Walters

…and IHOP…

Little Caesars — 0% (FAIL)

Kim Bhasin / Business Insider

…and Little Caesars.

Domino’s — 0% (FAIL)


Domino’s also did not respond to the survey, or provide a public policy on antibiotics, despite the fact that pizza chains including Pizza Hut, Papa John’s, and Papa Murphy’s have all recently released news about updating their antibiotics policies.

Starbucks — 4% (FAIL)

Jacqui Frank

While Starbucks is known for its transparency when sourcing coffee, it did not provide much information on the company’s auditing practices or suppliers – though it did complete the Chain Reaction survey, earning the chain a failing grade of 4/100.

“We are currently working with our suppliers to address concerns about antibiotic use and are looking to collaborate with others across our industry and in the NGO community to encourage the responsible use of antibiotics,” the chain wrote in the survey.

Olive Garden — 4% (FAIL)

Olive Garden/Facebook

Olive Garden didn’t complete the Chain Report survey, but parent company Darden does have plans to phase out antibiotics that are medically important to humans, previously used for growth purposes, by December 2016 in its “land-based protein supply.”

Sonic — 4% (FAIL)

Flickr/Bob B. Brown

Sonic doesn’t have a public antibiotics policy, but reported in the Chain Reaction survey that the company is evaluating its protein supply regarding antibiotics.

Arby’s — 4% (FAIL)

Hollis Johnson

While Arby’s has “the meats,” it still needs to do work if it wants to serve antibiotic-free meats. In 2017, the chain says it will begin to transition to serving chicken “raised without antibiotics important to human health.”

KFC — 8% (FAIL)

Justin Sullivan / Getty

While KFC is doubling down on emphasizing food quality, the report claims that the chain has failed to take action when it comes to antibiotics in its chicken.

The chain did get points for reporting that, “by 2017, antibiotics important in human medicine will only be used to maintain chicken health, and only under the supervision and prescription of a licensed veterinarian. The use of these antibiotics for growth promotion is not allowed.”

Jack in the Box —8% (FAIL)

Facebook/Jack in the Box

Jack in the Box has no established anti-antibiotics policy or a commitment to cut antibiotics from its supply chain.

“We are encouraged by and applaud research into the development of safe and ethical alternatives for the treatment of sick and injured animals, and we look forward to a time when antibiotics important to human medicine can be phased out of the food-supply chain,” the company wrote in the Chain Reaction survey.

Dunkin’ Donuts — 8% (FAIL)

Dunkin’ Donuts

The coffee-and-donut chain was the only chain downgraded to an F, after weakening its public antibiotic policy with what the Chain Reactions calls “confusing and regressive” language. Last year, Dunkin’ Donuts received a C.

Denny’s — 8% (FAIL)

By Jolts on Flickr

Denny’s follows FDA Guidance 213, which discourages the use of medically important antibiotics for growth promotion, but doesn’t have an official policy.

Dairy Queen — 8% (FAIL)

Hollis Johnson

According to the Chain Reaction report, “Dairy Queen responded to our survey stating they do not have a policy on antibiotic use but that their suppliers ‘must have policies in place that manage use of antibiotics in the animals in their supply chain.'”

Papa John’s — 26% (D)


In July, Papa John’s completed its transition to poultry raised without antibiotics and fed a vegetarian diet for grilled-chicken pizza toppings and chicken poppers, helping it become the lowest-rated chain to receive a passing grade.

However, the authors of the Chain Reaction report dismissed the change as only applying to a fraction of chicken purchases.

Pizza Hut — 35% (D+)

@PizzaHut on Instagram

The authors similarly dismissed Pizza Hut’s pledge to cut chicken produced with antibiotics important to human medicine from the menu by March 2017 as a token effort that isn’t significant enough in 2016.

Taco Bell —41% (C-)

Taco Bell

Taco Bell’s April announcement that it would source only chicken raised without antibiotics important to human medicine by early 2017 earned the chain a C-minus.

Wendy’s — 47% (C)

Hollis Johnson

While Wendy’s still works with suppliers who use antibiotics important to human medicine, the chain updated its antibiotic policy in 2016 and issued goals for the future. The chain plans to eliminate all antibiotics important to human medicine from chicken by 2017, and reduce the use of antibiotics in pork and beef.

McDonald’s — 53% (C+)

Kim Bhasin / Business Insider

McDonald’s breaks the top five, with a C-plus grade. This year, the chain completed transitioning its chicken supply to 100% chicken raised without antibiotics important in human medicine.

Chick-fil-A —72% (B)

Facebook/Chick fil A

The chicken chain has a “no antibiotics ever” chicken policy, and requires independent third-party audits of its suppliers. Earlier this year, the company reported that 23% of chicken was now raised entirely without antibiotics.

Subway — 74% (B)

Kate Taylor

While many chains are focused on cutting antibiotics from chicken, Subway is one of the few with plans to additionally convert to pork and beef raised without antibiotics by 2025.

Chipotle — 96% (A)

Business Insider/Hayley Peterson

Chipotle was one of just two chains to earn an A in the report. One small area where Chipotle falls short – the report urges all chains to utilize independent audits, while Chipotle uses a combination of internal and third-party audits.

Panera — 98% (A)

Yelp/Luke C.

Panera lead the way, with the top score in the entire restaurant industry.

“We’re committed to raising meat without antibiotics,” Sara Burnett, director of wellness and food policy, told Business Insider. “So that helps filter out supplier and supply chains we wouldn’t feel good about using.”

“We would love to see everybody across the board [increase their grades],” says Panera head chef Dan Kish. “We started when the antibiotics-free theme 13 years ago – but it had nothing to do with the antibiotics at the time. It was because we found chicken that actually tasted like chicken, and it happened to be antibiotic-free.”