Cheesecake Factory is Consumers’ Favorite Casual-Dining Restaurant, Market Force Study Finds

Cheesecake Factory is Consumers' Favorite Casual-Dining Restaurant, Market Force Study Finds

Maggiano’s is favorite for Italian, The Capital Grille for steak, Pappadeaux for seafood, Mimi’s Cafe is favorite for breakfast

Cheesecake Factory is North America’s favorite casual-dining chain, according to a study by Market Force Information, a worldwide leader in customer intelligence solutions. More than 6,100 consumers were polled for the study, which ranks the top restaurant chains in five categories: general menu, breakfast, steak, Italian and seafood. Cheesecake Factory ranked No. 1 in the general menu category, receiving high marks for quality of food, healthiness of food and atmosphere.

For the rankings, Market Force asked participants to rate their satisfaction with their most recent casual-dining experience and their likelihood to refer that restaurant to others. The results were averaged to attain a Composite Loyalty Score.

Out of the largest restaurant chains that offer general menus, Cheesecake Factory scored highest with 61%, Cracker Barrel ranked second with 58%, Red Robin was third with 47%, Ruby Tuesday and Buffalo Wild Wings tied for fourth with 46%, and Chili’s Bar and Grill rounded out the top five with 44%. [See Graph 1].

Cheesecake Factory is Consumers' Favorite Casual-Dining Restaurant, Market Force Study Finds
Graph 1: Favorite Casual Dining Chains
Southern California-based Cheesecake Factory is known for offering endless menu choices and big portions. The restaurant chain, which operates more than 150 locations in North America, has consistently achieved positive same-store sales over the past few years.

Cracker Barrel Wins on Service, Red Robin is Most Kid-Friendly

To understand why consumers prefer one casual dining chain to another, Market Force asked respondents to rate them by key attributes, such as customer service, food quality and value. Cracker Barrel dominated in the fast and friendly service categories, and performed consistently well across the other attributes studied. Cheesecake Factory was the clear leader in the food quality category, trailed by Cracker Barrel and Red Robin. It also tied with Applebee’s for healthy food and with Cracker Barrel for atmosphere. Value was a tight category, with TGI Fridays scoring first, Cracker Barrel second and Chili’s third. When it comes to accommodating children, Red Robin took top honors. [See Graph 2].

Cheesecake Factory is Consumers' Favorite Casual-Dining Restaurant, Market Force Study Finds
Graph 2: Casual Dining Chains Ranked by Attribute
Italian Chains

Americans love their Italian food, and in the battle of the pastas, Maggiano’s emerged victorious over Carrabba’s Italian Grill, which ranked second. Romano’s Macaroni Grill, Olive Garden and East Side Mario’s also made the top five. [See Graph 3].

Cheesecake Factory is Consumers' Favorite Casual-Dining Restaurant, Market Force Study Finds
Graph 3: Favorite Italian Food Chains
Maggiano’s and Carrabba’s tied for delivering the highest-quality food, and Maggiano’s ranked first for atmosphere and Carrabba’s for food variety. All of the restaurants were clustered in the friendly service category, suggesting very little differentiation among brands. East Side Mario’s excelled in the high-value and kid-friendly categories, but ranked lowest for food quality of the five chains studied.

Steakhouse Chains

When it comes to steakhouses, Orlando-based The Capital Grille was a clear winner in the Market Force study. It scored 77%, while second-place Texas Roadhouse scored just 61% and third-place The Keg scored 57%. [See Graph 4].

Cheesecake Factory is Consumers' Favorite Casual-Dining Restaurant, Market Force Study Finds
Graph 4: Favorite Steakhouse Chains
The Capital Grille ranked highest for food quality, atmosphere and cleanliness, and The Keg was second in all three of these categories. Texas Roadhouse prevailed as the No. 1 brand for fast service and friendly service, and was a standout for accommodating children. Texas Roadhouse and Logan’s Roadhouse also scored first and second for value, a category where The Capital Grille and The Keg didn’t perform as well.

Seafood Chains

In the casual-dining seafood category, the top-five favorites were Pappadeaux, Bonefish Grill, Bahama Breeze, Joe’s Crab Shack and Red Lobster. [See Graph 5.]

Cheesecake Factory is Consumers' Favorite Casual-Dining Restaurant, Market Force Study Finds
Graph 5: Favorite Seafood Chains
Similar to the other food categories, the seafood chain leaders – Pappadeaux and Bonefish Grill – rated No. 1 for food quality. They also both ranked in the top three for atmosphere. Joe’s Crab Shack had the fastest service, was best at accommodating children and delivered more of an experience than a meal. Bahama Breeze scored well across the board, particularly in the value category where it took first place and Red Lobster was second.

Breakfast Chains

Market Force also looked at which casual-dining establishments consumers prefer across various styles of food, including breakfast. French-themed Mimi’s Café was the favorite, followed by Waffle House and Bob Evans Restaurant in a tie for second, and Perkins in third place. Village Inn, IHOP and Denny’s also secured top spots in the rankings. [See Graph 6].

Cheesecake Factory is Consumers' Favorite Casual-Dining Restaurant, Market Force Study Finds
Graph 6: Favorite Breakfast Chains
What sets Mimi’s apart? Food and atmosphere are two big factors. Mimi’s Café was the clear leader in food quality and was lauded for having an inviting atmosphere. Perkins received the highest marks for friendly service, kid-friendliness and for offering a wide variety of food. Diners found Denny’s to be the most wallet-friendly, earning it a No. 1 ranking for value and promotions. The study found that Waffle House delivers the fastest service by a wide margin.

Casual Dining Spending and Frequency

Nearly half (46%) of those studied said they patronize casual dining restaurants at least five times per month, and 57% said they plan on spending a minimum of $10 per person when they do. When asked about their dining habits this year compared to 2013, 12% said they have dined out more, 28% have dined out less and 60% about the same.

Survey Demographics

The survey was conducted in April 2014 across the United States and Canada. The pool of 6,106 respondents reflected a broad spectrum of income levels, with nearly 62% reporting household incomes of more than $50,000 a year. Respondents’ ages ranged from 18 to over 65. Approximately 75% were women and 25% were men. Approximately 70% are married, and 40% have children at home.

Market Force is the leading global customer intelligence solutions company for multi-location businesses, including major retailers, restaurants, grocery and convenience stores, financial institutions, entertainment studios and consumer packaged goods companies. With more than 125 years of combined industry experience, Market Force has pioneered the industry with a suite of customer intelligence solutions – from proprietary decision-support tools to 600,000 field associates across North America and Europe who conduct mystery shopping, to real customer surveys, contact center solutions and social media monitoring. Its solutions enable brands to identify the actions required at the store level to increase customer loyalty and improve financial performance. Market Force was named one of Forbes’ America’s Most Promising Companies in 2011. For more information, visit