A Data-Driven Guide to the Best Fast Food Fries

Ask anyone who has eaten fast food in the last century and there’s a good chance that they are strongly opinionated on which establishment serves the best fries.

Friendships have been destroyed over the classic Burger King vs. Mcdonald’s debate.

Philosophers have spent hours analyzing the allure of curly fries over waffles fries.

Online bloggers have put their careers on the line to die on the hill on the esoteric selections of Checkers and Fatburger.

Luckily, we don’t have to wonder anymore.

Using data, I present to you the definitive ranking of the best fast food fries.

Image for post

How does this work?

I pulled the top ten rankings around fast food fries based on Google’s search engine output of “Best fast food fries” as this shows the rankings that have gotten the most visibility. There are a few caveats:

  • The list has to consist of ten establishments at minimum. This weeds out lists consisting of only three-five restaurants, which heavily favor the large chains.
  • The list can contain no more than fifteen establishments. If a list contains more than fifteen, only the first fifteen will be considered in the ranking.
  • No establishment can be counted twice on one list. No one cares if you had the waffles fries and potato wedges at KFC — KFC counts once.
  • Potato wedges do count as fries.
  • No weight is given to brands. Buzzfeed, while one of the largest brands providing data, was 8th in the search results. Even if Joe from his mother-in-law’s basement started a blog and drove his ranking higher than Buzzfeed, they are counted the same.
  • No attributions are counted. If an article directly references another source, only that source will be counted.

The following sources were chosen for this guide: FirstWeFeast, Thrillist, Uproxx, Ranker, Daily Meal, Chowhound, EatThis, Buzzfeed, Spoon University, and FoodBeast.

Round One

With all the ranking data collected across ten sources, we had 26 restaurants make it onto atleast one list.

Here are the first round contenders:

· Mcdonalds

· Arbys

· Checker’s

· Chick-Fil-A

· Shake Shack

· Five Guys

· Wendys

· Steak N Shake

· Popeyes

· KFC

· Whataburger

· Dairy Queen

· Rally’s

· Burger King

· Del Taco

· While Castle

· Jack in the Box

· Taco Bell

· Culver’s

· Sonic

· Carl’s Jr

· In-N-Out

· Shakey’s

· Fatburger

· A&W

· Red Robin

With ten different lists containing only ten to fifteen selections, many of these restaurants made only one or two lists. To further weed out the outliers, I set a new constraint: In order to truly be considered among the best, you had to be on atleast five different lists.

This cuts about thirteen restaurants from the list:

  • Dairy Queen and Del Taco — Four lists. Dairy Queen peaked at a number #3 ranking.
  • Rally’s, Culver’s, and A & W — Three lists. The star here was Rally’s, who peaked at a #4 ranking.
  • Whataburger, White Castle, Jack In the Box, Fatburger — Two lists. While they may be in the conversation for best burger or best indulgence in a stoner movie, they are unfortunately off the list for fries.
  • Checker’s, Taco Bell, Shakey’s, and Red Robin — One list. Let’s be honest, when’s the last time your friend ever dragged you to Taco Bell because you were missing out on their seasoned fries?

Round Two

Thirteen down, thirteen still alive. Lots of familiar faces.

Here are the second round contenders:

· Mcdonalds

· Arbys

· Chik Fil — A

· Shake Shack

· Five Guys

· Wendys

· Steak N Shake

· Popeyes

· KFC

· Burger King

· Sonic

· Carl’s Jr

· In-N-Out

While it is impressive to beat out thirteen establishments, we ideally want to hit our final round with a top ten. At this point, two more actions need to be done to weed out three more:

  • Get an average ranking across all selections
  • Incentivize the establishments who appeared on the most lists

Since the best establishment will likely have the lowest average, it only makes sense to use an incentive that pushes the score lower. Let’s use Mcdonalds as an example — Mcdonald’s appeared on all 10 lists with the following rankings respectively:

4, 2, 2, 1, 3, 1, 6, 2, 1, 1

This averages out to 2.3. Because they appeared on every list, let’s subtract a half point per list to their score: Mcdonalds now sits at a score of -2.7 with both numbers.

Looking at our average rankings, this is our current bottom three:

  • Sonic — 10.667
  • Carl’s Jr — 10.8
  • In-N-Out — 10.85

A quick check-in on our lists shows that In-N-Out, while consistently ranked outside the top ten, was ranked on 7 lists (versus 5 for Carl’s Jr and 6 for Sonic) — while the list bump is enough to push In-N-Out above Sonic, it’s unfortunately not enough to net a spot in the coveted top ten. We say goodbye to our honorable mentions with the final scores:

  • In-N-Out — 7.36
  • Sonic — 7.66
  • Carl’s Jr — 8.3

Final Round

Now — it’s the moment you’ve been waiting for. Which establishment takes home the top prize?

First — a quick round of applause for only two restaurants that showed up on all ten lists: Wendys and Mcdonalds.

Without further ado — the top ten fries:

  1. Mcdonalds: -2.7
  2. Arbys: -2.16
  3. Chik-Fil A: 0.16
  4. Shack Shack: 1.125
  5. Wendys: 1.8
  6. Five Guys: 2.278
  7. Steak N Shake: 4.333
  8. Popeyes: 4.786
  9. Burger King: 4.875
  10. KFC: 5.5

Congratulations on this new-found ability you now have to end one of the world’s most rigorous debates.

Written by

Growth @Livongo • Bostonian • Fan of sports and quirky theatre • Marketing Nerd • Weekly reads http://mindmeld.substack.com ✍️

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store