Americans are currently spending more money dining out than shopping for groceries, and many QSR chains are capitalizing on this trend.
Customer satisfaction in regards to quick service restaurants (QSRs) is on the rise once more, and according to the recent report from the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), the increase in customer satisfaction is being attributed to improvements in the quality of food at QSRs.
Data from the ACSI has revealed that limited-service restaurants have posted a 2.6% gain to 79 on a 100-point scale. The gap between fast food and full-service restaurants is narrowing, as the latter has slid down 1.2% to 81.
The ACSI report is based on 4,786 customer surveys collected in March 2016.
“Americans are now spending more money dining out than shopping for groceries,” said Claes Fornell, ACSI chairman and founder. “Fast food restaurants appear to be capitalizing on this trend more than full-service restaurants, maintaining the lower prices and speedy service that has long defined the industry, while also appealing to health-conscious consumers via more diverse offerings and higher-quality ingredients.”
Nearly all fast food restaurants achieved higher customer satisfaction, with a notable exception being Chipotle Mexican Grill, which debuted near the top of the industry last year. Chipotle has dropped 6% to 78 after suffering from a spate of food-related illnesses.
“Higher quality drives the improving scores for the industry, but quality issues relating to food-borne illnesses knock down Chipotle,” said ACSI managing director David VanAmburg. “Just as Netflix’s stock took a dive after the singular event of its pricing and Qwikster branding misstep in 2011, Chipotle’s stock also has fallen after its food-quality crisis. Netflix rebounded rather quickly, but it can take more time for a restaurant to recover from quality issues.”
Chick-fil-A, already the top-rated restaurant in the ACSI, shows that product focus has its benefits as the chicken sandwich specialist has pulled further ahead with a 1% increase to 87. Before Chick-fil-A entered the ACSI, Papa John’s often held the top spot in the industry. The pizza chain has climbed 5% to second place at 82. Little Caesars surged 9% to 81, tied with fast casual chain Panera Bread.
Customers are more satisfied at Dunkin’ Donuts (+3% to 80) than at Starbucks (+1% to 75). Arby’s (+8% to 80) is tied with Subway (+4%) and both beat the burger chains. Burger King and Wendy’s are up 6% and 4%, respectively, to 76. McDonald’s is still in last place among fast food chains, but its all-day breakfast proves popular as customer satisfaction jumped 3% to 69.
Full-service restaurants remain one of the highest-scoring industries measured by the ACSI. The industry is also one of the most consistent; this year’s score of 81 equals its long-term average. Most large full-service restaurant chains have improved, but the industry has retreated as smaller restaurants, which make the bulk of the category, fell 2% to mirror the average of 81.
Restaurant-retail hybrid Cracker Barrel rose 4% to take first place with an ACSI score of 83. Darden’s LongHorn Steakhouse (+1%) and Texas Roadhouse (-1%) are tied at 82. Olive Garden, also a Darden brand, is up 3% to 81. After debuting in last place for customer satisfaction in the industry, Ruby Tuesday is the most improved, having jumped 7% to 78 and tying TGI Fridays (+3%). Chili’s inched up 1% to 75, while Denny’s slipped 1% to the bottom with a score of 74.