Brand Keys today released its 18th annual Customer Loyalty Engagement Index, measuring customer loyalty in a variety of categories.

According to the report, conducted by New York-based research and consulting group Brand Keys, the "interaction of mobile and socially networked-consumer empowerment, along with perpetual price promotions, have finally reached saturation-levels, producing the highest levels of emotional consumer expectations for products and services in two decades."

These expectations have had direct effect on consumer loyalty and brand profitability, according to a news release.

In the Restaurant Category, expectations are up nearly 18 percent while restaurant brands have only been able to meet this expectation growth by 6 percent. For all 32 restaurant brands tracked in the category, emotional engagement expectations related to "healthy choice," "variety at value" and "my dining experience" had the strongest influence on consumer decision-making and engagement with brands.

While emotional engagement levels vary by category, brands in the Restaurant Category that best met expectations consumers held for their category-specific Ideal (100 percent) were:

Subway (QSR), 93 percent;

Panera (fast casual) 90 percent; and

Domino's Pizza (pizza) 89 percent.

Broken down by segment, including coffee, results are as follows:

Coffee

  1. Dunkin' Donuts
  2. Starbucks
  3. Tim Hortons
  4. McDonald's
  5. The Coffee Bean

QSR

  1. Subway
  2. Chick-fil-A/McDonald's (tie)
  3. Burger King
  4. Wendy's
  5. Taco Bell
  6. Popeyes'/KFC (tie)
  7. Hardee's
  8. Quiznos

Pizza

  1. Domino's
  2. Papa John's
  3. Pizza Hut
  4. Little Caesars
  5. Papa Murphy's
  6. Sbarro

Fast casual/casual

  1. Panera
  2. Chipotle
  3. Au Bon PainOlive Garden/Arby's (tie)
  4. IHOP
  5. Texas RoadhouseCosi/TGI Friday's/Applebee's (tie)
  6. Ruby Tuesday/Chili's/Red Lobster/Golden Corral (tie)
  7. Outback Steakhouse

Packaged coffee

  1. Dunkin' Donuts
  2. Starbucks
  3. Caribou/Chock Full O'Nuts (tie)
  4. Allegro/Green Mountain (tie)
  5. Eight O'Clock
  6. Folgers
  7. Lavazza/Peets (tie)
  8. Maxwell House

"Congratulations to the companies that continue to create meaningful differentiation and engagement," said Robert Passikoff, president, Brand Keys. "Our validated and predictive metrics prove that brands able to better meet consumer expectations act as surrogates for added-value, always producing higher levels of engagement and loyalty than those that rely on the primacy of product, coupons, or a dollar-menu."

For the Brand Keys 2014 survey, 32,000 consumers, 18 to 65 years of age, drawn from the nine U.S. Census Regions, self-selected the categories in which they are consumers, and the brands for which they are customers.

Being attentive to the engagement expectation gap presents brands with a real opportunity, according to the report.

"If you can do something that increases a brand's engagement level you'll always see more positive consumer behavior in the marketplace. Always," Passikoff said.

Read more about trends and statistics.

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