HOME > Chowhound > Chains >
Aug 26, 2008 12:42 PM

Applebee's - Worst National Chain Ever?

I would - literally - sooner eat at a McDonald's than an Applebee's. And their pretention that they're offering something that could possibly be confused with real food, not prefab frozen deep-fried garbage, just makes it worse.

Not that I'm opinionated or anything...

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Id probably put Applebees in the same boat as McDonalds, Pizza Hut, Olive Garden, Chilis, Friday's, Red Lobster, Chipotle, Burger King, Dominos, Wendys, Ruby Tuesday's, Buffalo Wild Wings, PF Changs, Bucca di Beppo, Panda Express, Subway, & Quiznos(Iam probably forgetting a few). They are all pretty dreadfull & I avoid all of them.

    7 Replies
    1. re: swsidejim

      Some of the ones you named actually have a decent dish or two. I don't think I've ever had anything remotely tasty at Applebee's any of the times I've had the misfortune of eating there.

      1. re: mollyomormon

        not that I have experienced, and I have had the misfortune of going to all of the places I listed at least once(darn lunches with coworkers doing the choosing of where we go). :-)

        1. re: swsidejim

          Although I can't say that any of those would be a first choice, I agree with molly that there are decent options to be had at some of those places. Chipotle, while not a great (or authentic) Mexican spot uses good fresh ingredients. I once stopped in to get burritos for the kids just before thy closed and despite a half full steam table tray of rice, they prepared a fresh one for me because the other tray had been sitting a while. It's not excellent but it's a pretty good option as far as fast food goes.

          1. re: ferret

            different strokes, and different tastes for different folks, its all good.

            1. re: ferret

              For a quick, cheap meal chipotle is a good standby in Long Island NY. There aren't a lot of options because it's a very small menu that never seems to change but what they do have is always fresh and tastes home made. I don't think it's fair to lump it with other chains that do not use fresh ingredients.

              1. re: NicoleFriedman

                not fair...? good grief...., it was my list of places I think are as bad or worse than Applebees. Just my opinion, its great you fell find merit in Chipotle.

                For the record the worst lunch I have had in the last 5 years was @ Chipotle(darn coworkers insisting we try this place) . Terrible, bland food(didnt taste very "fresh" to me...), & bad customer service. Luckily I have many local tacquerias as a better option.

                1. re: swsidejim

                  Keep in mind that a lot of these places are independently owned and therefore the chipotle I go to in Nassau Long Island may be of better quality (or apparently a lot better quality) than the one you went to.

      2. C'mon 'hounds. Sure it is easy to savage all chains, and obviously most of us would choose independent tasty places for any occasion. And with some research, in most areas we'd be able to find a nonchain alternative.

        But even in the morass of chains, there are different approaches and target groups and price points. For me, the most awful abomination of a fake restaurant is any Olive Garden, with the faux family ads and the frozen-defrosted-microwaved entrees. But I'm willing to listen when there is a recent posting that the soup-salad-breadstick lunch worked ok, especially at under $10 with table-service for a group. On the other end, P.F. Chang's is far from authentic Chinese, costs at least double, and would certainly not be my choice if there was any acceptable independent hole-in-the-wall around. But if you search the boards many really like their lettuce cups and there are many other suggestions for dishes 'hounds have enjoyed. Most of us get hijacked into an office lunch or a family get-together planned by others on occasion, so realize that the company and not the chow is the focus, it isn't your last meal, and maybe you can order a drink and choose a least offensive dish from the usually extensive menus. Hey, if Applebee's is known for fried food I've heard they are offering a special on shrimp -- how bad can that be to tide you over?

        6 Replies
        1. re: nosh

          I actually really like some chain dishes but the stuff I've had from Applebee's has just been so bad! My former sister-in-law worked there and even when it was free, it was still just not good.

          1. re: nosh

            Based on what I read on these boards and on personal experience in a large metro area: I'm starting to wonder if the big chains are losing the one attribute that's made them appealing in the first place, which is consistency. The locations in the less affluent parts of town frequently mirror the worst of what I've read here, while in the more affluent areas the restaurants manage to provide good-quality (if somewhat uninteresting) food, perfectly acceptable ambience, and decent service.

            It may be worth noting that some of the chains apparently are trying to reposition themselves, too. The Ruby Tuesday on the better side of town, for example, has upscaled a lot since I previously ate at one about 10 years ago. Staying on topic, Applebee's seems to have gone in the opposite direction. I remember some decent burgers and sandwiches when the chain first appeared. The last time I ate there (in a large group) all the food except the entree size salads looked pretty much inedible.

            1. re: Emm

              i've noticed a LOT of variation in different locations of the same chain. i love getting wendy's mandarin chicken salad when i go on road trips. some locations have fresh, high quality lettuce and identifiable chicken meat. but inexplicably, a few towns over, the lettuce mix will have a much higher ratio of iceberg lettuce to real lettuce and weird, gummy -textured approximate chicken with chunks of hard, white unappetizing fat attached. it's intriguing to me how drastic the differences can be in the same chain.

            2. re: nosh

              I've been in that situation and tried the soup/salad/breadstick combo. It's purely awful! The soup is watery, as is the salad dressing and those gummy white bread sticks have no more personality than either of the above. Really, how much is it for the same combination at any small independently operated local Italian joint anyway?

              1. re: nosh

                My issue with these joints mirror yours somewhat but have to do with the hidden stuff

                I go into Burger King i know what im getting myself into. Two whopper jr's (no cheese no mayo so they make them hot) and valu fries. 900 calories. 4usd, and im out of the door in 7 minutes. I know its bad for me, and i do it anyway.

                But the Applebee's of the world upsell is "healthy/family/real food" until you realize that the quesadilla burger you just ordered is 1500 calories and over 100 grams of fat. with another 500 calories in an order of fries, your meal just delivered three days of fat to your system and cost you 20usd (okay, 10 for the burger and 3 for the fries, 3 for tea, dont stiff the waitress, you are coming up on 20)

                Dont get me started on "california pizza kitchen pasta salads!" which can end up in the 2000 calorie range ( thats THREE KFC double downs!!)

                Im a personal responsibility guy, if you KNOW your are ordering a 3000 calorie meal then i guess you have made a decision that sex with another human is not in your future and thats fine ( though as a health care provider it makes giving even decent health care to your 400 lb body MUCH less possible)

                but, corporate, dont try to sell me that your sysco frozen entrees and unlimited breadsticks are superior to the fried chicken at the supermarket where i can at least get some real fruit juice to drink with my dinner and maybe, maybe, some oatmeal and a banana for breakfst.

                1. re: nosh

                  "...Olive Garden, with the faux family ads ..." Hey -- my grandniece appears in two of those commercials. Hmmmm... I guess you're right; they ARE faux family.

                2. Au contraire...through a business relationship, I have a lifetime supply of free food passes at Applebee's, and I find some of the appetizers and asian salads and other items to be quite tasty. The store near me is a high traffic location, and service personnel are well trained to be cheerful and not to neglect anyone.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: Veggo

                    So, do you eat there 1,095 times a year?

                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                      LOL, of course not, the're not open for breakfast...:)
                      Once a month is adequate; I need my Mexican and my homemade toxins.

                    2. re: Veggo

                      Which location Veggo? I ate at the one out east on 70 and the whole experience was pretty dismal. Similar results at the Applebee's on Main in Sarasota.

                      1. re: Agent Orange

                        The one on 301 off I-75 near the Ellenton Outlet Mall.

                    3. When did you last eat at an Applebee's?

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: ccbweb

                        If you're asking me (the OP), it was about six months ago, when my wife and I were on a road trip and it was the only food available anywhere near the motel we ended up at one night. If anything it was even worse than my memories of it from a few years back when I used to get dragged along to it for occasional work lunches.

                        1. re: BobB

                          I was (asking you) and thanks for the reply!

                          We, too, had an awful meal at an Applebee's in a hotel in, I think, Missouri somewhere. (We were on a cross country roadtrip and I can't honestly remember which town it was.) It was the hotel restaurant and provided the room service. Wow, it was bad.

                          On the other hand, I have reason to have to be in the hospital for extended periods of time a few times a year and one of my friends is a fan of our local Applebee's here in Charlottesville, VA and will occasionally bring me takeout. As is always the case, a good staff in a restaurant can make a huge difference and the folks at the local Applebee's do a reasonable job and the food is always halfway decent in my book.

                          But I've never eaten _in_ the restaurant, so clearly its not that good.

                          1. re: ccbweb

                            what wouldn't taste good next to most hospital food?

                      2. Are you joking? In a world where TGI Friday's exists, nothing else will ever be the worst national chain ever. Fittingly, they even have Douchetard Supreme Guy Fieri, the one-man embodiment of the midlife crisis, as their spokesman. But they sucked and sucked hard long before that.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                          The only times I've ever been to Friday's is at the Newark airport during long flight delays. Otherwise I'd never know the wonder that is fried mac & cheese. Truly a menu item that was thought up at 3AM at the tail-end of a drunken R&D meeting. As a 13 year-old growing up in the 70's this menu would have been nirvana back then. As it is now, it's the food equivalent of a theme park -- you'll try it just so you can make it out the other side alive.

                          1. re: ferret

                            Theme park is not too far off. I think that was originally festival food. I know I've seen it at a renaissance festival. LOL, medieval fried mac & cheese, yet it somehow made more sense in that context.