Chick-fil-A, Cracker Barrel top in customer satisfaction

Americans’ love affair with fast food continues.

What are known as limited-service restaurants saw a 2.6 percent increase in overall customer satisfaction from 2015 to 2016, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index.

The top five, in order, were: Chick-fil-A (87 on a 100-point satisfaction scale), Papa John’s (82), Little Caesars (81), Panera Bread (81) and Arby’s (80).

The index, which was based on 4,786 customer surveys, also looked at full-service chain restaurants. Their overall score dropped 1.2 percent, but full-service restaurants remain one of the top four industries in customer satisfaction, the organization said. The top five, in order, were Cracker Barrel (83), LongHorn Steakhouse (82), Texas Roadhouse (82), Olive Garden (81) and Red Robin (80).

Chick-fil-A and Cracker Barrel have found different ways to satisfy diners, said David VanAmburg, ACSI’s managing director.

“All Chick-fil-A does is chicken, and they’re really good at just doing chicken because they do well every year,” he said.

Unlike most full-service restaurants, Cracker Barrel has an Americana gift shop that adds to its bottom line. Sales and revenue per customer were up compared with last year, Mr. VanAmburg said.

Measuring satisfaction in restaurants is a little different than for most other industries, he said.

“Quality is all about accuracy and efficiency as well as good customer service,” Mr. VanAmburg said. “The food side is a combination of the quality of the food itself, whether the ingredients are fresh and things like that. The second element is kind of a combination of variety and the availability of that variety.”

Customers like the variety that some of the newer chains offer. Older chains that focus on burgers or other staples fared the worst in the rankings. The bottom five limited-service restaurants were: Wendy’s (76), Starbucks (75), Taco Bell (75), Jack in the Box (74) and McDonald’s (69).

“They have the history on their side but what’s working against the older chains is that they have been around,” said Mr. VanAmburg. “They’re on the tired side in the perception of consumers.”

Age and predictability also seem to work against full-service restaurants. The bottom five in customer satisfaction were: Ruby Tuesday (78),  TGI Fridays (78), Outback Steakhouse (77), Chili’s (75) and Denny’s (74).

Shea Beaumont:; 412-263-2576.


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