Fast food pizza drives QSR customer satisfaction gains

Fast food pizza drives QSR customer satisfaction gains

Fast food pizza brands are making customers very happy this year, and that's helping to push the whole QSR category up a notch in its measurement of customer satisfaction, according to the latest ACSI Restaurant Report. The report also attributes CX gains in QSR, as well as customer experience progress for full-service restaurants to menu additions and revamps, along with investment in more mobile ordering options.

Overall, fast food bounced up 1.3 percent in overall customer satisfaction this year to a category score of 80, which was instrumental in driving up the whole customer satisfaction index score for "accommodation and food services" by 1.8 percent over last year to a score of 79.4.  Additionally, a substantial 3.8 percent jump in full-service customer satisfaction to an overall 81 score, accelerated the gains.

"As the economy improves, consumers have more money to spend, and they're dining out more," American Customer Satisfaction Index Managing Director David VanAmburg, said in the release. "At the same time, restaurants are adapting their menus and technology in line with shifting consumer preferences, as millennial tastes for fresh food, mobile ordering, and automated kiosks take hold. The bottom line: Restaurants are working hard to please consumers, and the latest ACSI scores show that it's paying off."

Chick-fil-A tops, but QSR pizza popularity pushes category forward

Chick-fil-A remained at the top of the QSR heap with an unchanged score of 87, well above the industry average and next major competitor in the fast casual category, Panera Bread, which fell 1 percent to 81. 

It was a relatively substantial leap in the index score among pizza chains — particularly at Pizza Hut — which appears to be the primary driver of the overall gains in QSR customer satisfaction overall. For instance, "the Hut" surged ahead 5 percent this year, making it the brand that gained the most in customer satisfaction this year. ACSI said that it attributes much of this growing customer "love" to the chain's new rewards programs and its infusion of cash into new equipment, technology and marketing. 

The chain is now neck-and-neck with Papa John's for the lead on customer satisfaction among fast food pizza brands, both tied at 80. While Pizza Hut catapulted forward in this measurement, Papa John's dropped back 2 percent after a year of controversy that started with its former CEO's negative comments late last year about the brand's previous affiliation with the NFL.

Meantime in the race for happy pizza patrons, Domino's is nipping at the heels of the aforementioned index leaders, rising a percentage point to 70, with fourth-largest pizza maker, Little Caesars falling back a point to a 77 score this year.

Burger chains bring up the category rear

When it comes to this customer satisfaction rating, burger chains fall to the back of the QSR pack. Likewise, the lead and second-place positions in the sector switched places this year after Wendy's gained a point to become the top burger brand, while Burger King lost a point to come in a No. 2 in 2018. 

Jack in the Box also fell 1 percent to 74, while McDonald's remained at the backend of the burger brands and the entire fast food category with a 69 for the third consecutive year, though ACSI said the increasing use of kiosks and mobile fast-pass lanes might have an effect on that in coming years. 

Others that lost a point on the satisfaction score this year in the fast food category include Dunkin' Donuts,  KFC, Subway and Arby's. In fact, Dunkin's one-point loss brings it down to a 78 score, while Starbucks gained a point, putting the two brands at a tie at a 78. KFC was a point below that at 77. 

And finally, the bleeding appears to have stopped for Chipotle Mexican Grill after its 6-percent dive two years ago. The fast casual chain is coming in at 79, while rival QSR brand, Taco Bell, took a 3 percent hit this year in customers satisfaction, bringing that brand in at 74.

Full-service finds its feet again

After last year's customer satisfaction slump in full-service dining, the table service brands appear to be back  in action. Texas Roadhouse tops the category, up 1 percent to 83, overtaking Cracker Barrel which fell 4 percent to 81, where it is tied with LongHorn Steakhouse for second place, after that brand catapulted ahead 5 percent this year.  

Red Robin was the top gainer though in this category, up 8 percent to 79 falling right behind Olive Garden, which fell 1 percent to 80. Outback Steakhouse, Red Lobster and TGI Fridays tied with Red Robin with TGI Fridays jumping 4 percent to finish at that level. ACSI said Fridays' menu overhaul "return to its roots as a bar" played a big part in the upward movement. 

Red Robin's gains were also attributed to menu innovation, online ordering and call center support, which all contributed to a 40-percent increase in off-premises sales in the first quarter, year over year. Applebee's, Chili's and Ruby Tuesday tied at 78, with Denny's just a point behind in last place at 77.

The ACSI Restaurant Report 2018 is based on 22,522 customer surveys collected between June 19, 2017, and May 29, 2018. 

Inset photo: ACSI

Feature photo: iStock

Topics: Business Strategy and Profitability, Chicken, Coffee/Bakery/Donut, CONNECT: The Mobile CX Summit, Customer Service / Experience, Equipment & Supplies, Fast Casual Executive Summit, Food & Beverage, Italian/Pizza, Mobile Payments, Online / Mobile / Social, Online Services, Trends / Statistics

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