Customers are more satisfied with full-service restaurants than fast-food outlets— with a notable exception.
Chick fil-A has a commanding lead in customer satisfaction across the entire restaurant/food services sector, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index’s (ACSI) Restaurant Report 2018 -2019. The eatery led the industry with an ACSI score of 86 (on a scale of 0 to 100.)
Following a 3.8% jump a year ago, customer satisfaction with full-service restaurants remains high with an ACSI score of 81. Texas Roadhouse – unchanged over the last year – retains the top spot at 83. After falling 4% last year, Cracker Barrel turns things around, up 1% to second place at 82. LongHorn Steakhouse holds steady at 81, ahead of Darden sister brand Olive Garden, at 79 in a three-way tie with Outback Steakhouse and Red Robin. Chili’s, Red Lobster, Ruby Tuesday, and TGI Fridays all score 78.
Customer satisfaction with limited-service (fast food) restaurants trails the full-service industry, declining 1.3% to 79. With Chick-fil-A in the top spot, Panera Bread is at No. 2, at 81, while four chains – Arby’s, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Papa John’s, and Pizza Hut – tie at 80.
The remaining chains are at or below the industry average. Domino’s (unchanged), Starbucks (up 1%), and Subway (down 1%) all score 79. Dunkin’ and KFC (Yum! Brands) score 78, followed by Little Caesars and Wendy’s, both steady at 77.
ACSI newcomer Sonic Drive-In scores 76, tying Burger King (unchanged). Both Jack in the Box and Taco Bell (Yum! Brands) inch up 1% to 75. McDonald’s is stagnant at the low score of 69 for the fourth consecutive year.
The report that fast-food chains are doing worse across nearly all aspects of the customer experience. Beverage variety (80) is the only element to improve, yet sits at the bottom with food variety and mobile app reliability.
As foot traffic slows, off-premises dining—projected to account for 37% of restaurant industry sales in 2018—plays an important role. According to ACSI data, full-service restaurant diners who order food for delivery are far more satisfied (83) than those who dine in (79).
“The restaurant industry faces challenges in everything from staffing shortages to competition from other vendors, like prepared foods from grocers and convenience stores,” says David VanAmburg, managing director at the ACSI. “Overall, foot traffic continues to decline, and restaurants are seeking to grow sales by relying on guests spending more per visit. Restaurants that focus on changing consumer tastes and preferences, however, could see the biggest boost in customer satisfaction.”
Here are other findings from the report.
• Food order accuracy leads all areas of customer experience with an ACSI score of 89. Staff remains helpful and courteous (87) and food quality continues to be high at 87, but food variety dips to 85. Speed of service to the table is still significantly lower at 83.
• Mobile apps, measured for the first time this year, score well for both reliability (86) and quality (84). Websites not so much, slipping to the bottom with an ACSI score of 82.
• Food order accuracy drops 2% to 86, followed by staff courtesy and helpfulness (84), and beverage quality, food quality, and store layout and cleanliness, all dipping to 83.
• Service speed—integral to the fast food experience—retreats 2% to 82, now lower than full-service restaurants (83). The fast food segment also struggles in the mobile app space compared to full-service restaurants, with scores of 81 for quality and 80 for reliability.
The ACSI Restaurant Report 2018-2019 on full-service and limited-service (fast food) dining chains is based on interviews with 23,468 customers, chosen at random and contacted via email between June 5, 2018 and May 27, 2019. Download the full Restaurant Report.