In-N-Out is favorite for burgers, Jersey Mike’s makes comeback in sandwich category
A new, large-scale consumer study conducted by Market Force Information (Market Force) reveals America’s favorite quick-service restaurant (QSR) chains in seven popular food categories: burgers, sandwiches, Mexican, pizza, chicken, coffee and bakery, and frozen dessert and smoothie. The study found In-N-Out is still America’s favorite burger chain, while Jersey Mike’s ranked tops for sandwiches, Chipotle for Mexican food, Blaze for pizza, Chick-fil-A for chicken, Krispy Kreme for coffee and bakery, and Culver’s for frozen dessert and smoothie. Chick-fil-A earned the highest scores across all categories, making it America’s favorite QSR overall.
More than 7,600 consumers were polled for the study, which ranks the brands on two factors – consumers’ satisfaction levels with their most recent visit and their likelihood to recommend the restaurant to others. The study also uncovers consumers’ QSR dining habits, brand preferences, delivery trends and in-restaurant technology use.
Burgers: In-N-Out Burger’s Reign Remains
In-N-Out Burger – a West Coast chain with a cult following – ranked No. 1 among burger chains in Market Force’s 2019 QSR study for the third consecutive year with a 73% score, followed by Five Guys in second place with 68% and Culver’s a close third with 67%. Carl’s Jr., Burger King and McDonald’s ranked lowest among the 14 burger chains studied, with McDonald’s coming in a full 45 percentage points below In-N-Out. [See Graph 1].
Graph 1: Favorite QSR Burger Chains
In-N-Out Has Best Value, Friendliest Staff
Market Force also asked diners to rank the burger chains on eight customer experience categories, including value, food quality, service speed, staff friendliness, cleanliness, atmosphere, healthy options and curb appeal. In-N-Out performed well, earning the top spot for value, staff friendliness, cleanliness and curb appeal, but was unseated this year by Five Guys for atmosphere, food quality and service speed. It was also bested by Smashburger in the healthy options category. On the flip side, McDonald’s found itself at the bottom for both food quality and friendly service. [See Graph 2.]
Graph 2: Favorite QSR Burger Chains Ranked by Customer Experience Attributes
Sandwiches: Jersey Mike’s Unseats Wawa as Sandwich Favorite
While revered convenience store Wawa nabbed the sandwich top spot in 2018, Jersey Mike’s moved up from third place this year to outscore second-place Firehouse Subs and both Wawa and Jimmy John’s, which tied for third. Panera Bread, Arby’s and Subway again landed in the bottom three spots. [See Graph 3].
Graph 3: Favorite QSR Sandwich Chains
Sandwich Chains Run Gamut in Customer Experience Rankings
No single brand dominated across the eight customer experience attributes that Market Force studied, though Panera took the top spot in two – healthy options and atmosphere – but scored poorly on value for money spent. Jersey Mike’s came out on top for food quality and staff friendliness, while Jimmy John’s, Firehouse Subs and Wawa ranked highest for service speed, cleanliness and value, respectively. Arby’s, Subway and Panera all made an appearance in the bottom slot, with Subway doing so four times. [See Graph 4].
Graph 4: Favorite QSR Sandwich Chains Ranked by Attributes
Mexican: Chipotle Lands at Top, Taco Bell at Bottom
Chipotle ranked first in the Mexican food category for the third straight year, ahead of second-place Moe’s Southwest Grill and third-place El Pollo Loco. Qdoba, which ranked third in Market Force’s 2018 study, failed to receive enough votes to make the rankings this year. Del Taco was fourth and Taco Bell was once again ranked lowest of the chains studied, with a score that trailed Chipotle by 21 percentage points. [See Graph 5].
Graph 5: Favorite QSR Mexican Chains
Chipotle Is Tastiest and Cleanest
Chipotle and Moe’s Southwest Grill battled it out across the categories, with Chipotle winning for food and Moe’s for service. Del Taco was the value leader – an area where Chipotle lagged. Taco Bell and Del Taco ranked toward the bottom in most categories. [See Graph 6.]
Graph 6: Favorite QSR Mexican Chains Ranked by Attributes
Pizza: Blaze Pizza Is Big Cheese Among Diners
Blaze Pizza, a Pasadena, Calif.-based chain of more than 300 restaurants in 42 states and five countries, nabbed the No. 1 spot in the pizza category, followed closely by Papa Murphy’s in second and Marco’s Pizza in third. The three brands scored far ahead of Papa John’s and Pizza Hut, which tied for fifth, while Little Caesar’s landed at the bottom. Pizza Ranch failed to receive enough votes to make the list after placing first in 2018. [See Graph 7].
Graph 7: Favorite QSR Pizza Chains
Papa Murphy’s, Blaze Pizza Excel in Customer Experience
Papa Murphy’s and Blaze Pizza led in every customer experience category except staff friendliness, which went to Marco’s. Papa Murphy’s was No. 1 in the key food quality and value categories, while Blaze Pizza was a clear winner in atmosphere, curb appeal and healthy options, and tied for first with Marco’s for its speed of service. Marco’s performed well, landing in the top three in every area except value. [See Graph 8].
Graph 8: Favorite QSR Pizza Chains Ranked by Customer Experience Attributes
Chicken: Chick-fil-A Rules Roost for Fifth Consecutive Year
Consumers continue to crave chicken, and Chick-fil-A continues to deliver, ranking as America’s favorite chicken chain for the fifth straight year with a 79% score – neck and neck with Raising Cane’s, which ranked second at 78%. Zaxby’s rounded out the top three with a score of 60%. KFC and Church’s Chicken landed at the bottom of the seven chains studied. [See Graph 9].
Graph 9: Favorite QSR Chicken Chains
Chick-fil-A and Raising Cane’s Fly High in Customer Experience
Chick-fil-A was the overall winner for good reason, as the chicken chain outscored others in every category except atmosphere, an area that Raising Cane’s won out. Raising Cane’s performed well across the board, landing in the No. 2 spot for six of the eight categories, and El Pollo Loco placed in the top three for three categories. Church’s Chicken and KFC were last or second-to-last in every category, with Church’s Chicken ranking significantly behind the leaders in healthy options, cleanliness and atmosphere. [See Graph 10].
Graph 10: Favorite QSR Chicken Chains Ranked by Attributes
Coffee and Bakery: Krispy Kreme Reigns Supreme
In the coffee and bakery category, Krispy Kreme was the clear favorite with a score of 64%, followed by Panera at 60% and Starbucks at 55%. Dunkin’ Donuts brought up the rear with a score of 48%. [See Graph 11].
Graph 11: Favorite QSR Coffee and Bakery Chains
Panera, Krispy Kreme Dominate Customer Experience Categories
Of the eight customer experience categories studied, Krispy Kreme came in at No. 1 for half, including food quality, value, cleanliness and service speed. Panera edged out Starbucks for staff friendliness, and was also lauded for its healthy options, atmosphere and curb appeal. Starbucks was in the top three for every category except value, where it ranked last with nearly 20 percentage points less than top-ranked Krispy Kreme. [See Graph 12].
Graph 12: Favorite Coffee and Bakery QSR Chains
Frozen Dessert and Smoothie: Culver’s Scoops Top Spot
In the frozen dessert and smoothie category, Culver’s was the favorite, followed by Cold Stone Creamery, Baskin-Robbins and Dairy Queen. [See Graph 13].
Graph 13: Favorite Frozen Dessert and Smoothie QSR Chains
Culver’s Leads in Most Customer Experience Categories
Of the eight customer experience categories studied, Culver’s came in No. 1 for six, including staff friendliness, cleanliness, atmosphere, service speed, curb appeal and value. Cold Stone Creamery was found to have the best food quality. Dairy Queen trailed in six categories, and Baskin-Robbins in the other two. [See Graph 14].
Graph 14: Favorite QSR Frozen Dessert and Smoothie Chains Ranked by Attributes
For the rankings, Market Force asked participants to rate their satisfaction with their most recent QSR experience, and their likelihood to refer that restaurant to others. The results were averaged to attain a Composite Loyalty Index score. Only chains that received at least 100 consumer responses and representing 2% or more of responses were analyzed.
The survey was conducted online in May 2019 across the United States. The pool of 7,668 respondents represented a cross-section of the four U.S. census regions. Fifty-four percent reported household incomes of more than $50,000 a year. Respondents’ ages ranged from 18 to over 65. Approximately 71% were women and 29% were men.
For more information on Market Force’s services for the restaurant industry, visit http://www.marketforce.com/industries/restaurants.
Market Force Information is a customer experience (CX) management company that provides location- level measurement solutions that help businesses protect their brand reputation, delight customers and make more money. Solutions include customer experience surveys, employee engagement surveys, mystery shopping, contact center services and social media review tracking, which are integrated into one technology and analytics platform, KnowledgeForce. Founded in 2005, Market Force has a growing global presence, with offices in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. It serves more than 200 clients that operate multi-location businesses, including restaurants, major retailers, grocery and drug stores, petro/convenience stores, banking & financial institutions and entertainment brands. The company has been recognized as one of the top 50 market research organizations in the AMA Gold Report. For more information about Market Force, please visit online at www.marketforce.com.