Papa John’s earned #1 ranking among limited-service (aka fast-food or QSR) restaurant chains in the just-released 2012 American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) results for the category.
Papa John’s’ score of 83 (up 5.1% versus last year) was the highest-ever by a brand within the limited-service category — and it tied the score of 2012’s #1 full-service restaurant chain, Red Lobster. (ACSI’s full-service chain rankings were also just released.)
In fact, QSR chains’ overall satisfaction score rose 1.3%, to 80, even as full-service chains’ overall score declined 2.4% — putting them also at 80. This is the first time the two types of chains have had the same average score.
“This bodes well for fast food and should be a warning signal for full service,” observes analytics-driven customer feedback supplier CFI Group, whose platform employs the ACSI data. “The quality of the fast-food experience is improving, according to diners. Add to that the industry’s ability to price low in a weak economy, and it seems a safe bet that fast food will make further inroads into the traditional restaurant business.”
Among QSR chains, Subway (covered by ACSI for the first time this year) and Little Caesar (+2.5%) follow Papa John’s, with 82 scores.
The rest of the rankings: Dunkin’ Donuts (79); Pizza Hut (78); Wendy’s (78); Domino’s Pizza (77); Taco Bell (77); Starbucks (76); KFC (75); Burger King (75) and McDonald’s (73).
Pizza Hut’s score declined by 3.7%, but it’s still in the top five, and still beating all of the burger chains, notes CFI.
Dunkin’, also being tracked for the first time, is three points ahead of Starbucks, which saw its score drop by 5%. (The satisfaction of Starbucks’ loyal fans is being dampened by rising prices, according to CFI.)
Wendy’s (+1.3%) is clearly outperforming Burger King (unchanged) and McDonald’s. But thanks to its expanded menu, remodeled stores and quality coffee, McDonald’s’ score is up 1.4% and at an all-time high (it was at 59 as of 2000, one of the lowest scores across all categories tracked by ACSI).
To justify their higher costs with ever-more-selective and frugal consumers, full-service restaurants have to distinguish themselves from one another, as well as from the much-improved QSR experience, points out CFI.
Outback Steakhouse, with an 81 score (flat with last year’s), is closest to Red Lobster’s 83 (+1.2%), followed by Olive Garden at 80 (down 2.4%).
Applebee’s debuts on the ACSI this year with a score of 77. Chili’s Grill & Bar, which has been at the bottom of the pack for several years, saw its score drop by 3.8% this year, to 76.
CHICAGO — Mild winter weather contributed to more frequent consumer visits to restaurants and other foodservice outlets this winter, resulting in a 1-percent increase from the first quarter (January-March) of 2011 to Q1 2012. That marks the strongest rate of traffic gain since the spring of 2008, reported The NPD Group, whose recent foodservice market research report shows that U.S. consumers spent three percent more at commercial foodservice outlets this winter than they did one year ago. More than half of the increase came from increased checks.
Despite the strong winter, traffic growth was confined to the quick service restaurant (QSR) and fine dining/upscale hotel segments, according NPD’s CREST, which tracks the foodservice industry based on consumer reporting of over 400,000 visits to commercial and non-commercial foodservice outlets each year.
Visits to QSR locations increased by 2 percent over the same quarter last year; major quick service chains had the strongest traffic growth with a 3-percent increase in traffic; fine dining/upscale hotel restaurants grew traffic by 6 percent; and the midscale/family dining segment struggled, with visits going down by three percent in the first quarter. Additionally, visits to casual dining restaurants were down 2 percent compared to winter 2011, stated NPD.
The morning meal daypart outpaced industry traffic by increasing visits 3 percent compared to one year ago, while lunch and dinner have held steady versus a year previously for the last two quarters. Visits during afternoon snack time increased by 1 percent. The quick-service segment grew during every daypart, with the strongest growth at the morning meal.
“Thanks to unusually mild weather, winter 2012 was a bright spot for the foodservice industry; however, the economic environment will continue to be a challenge for the sector,” says Bonnie Riggs, NPD restaurant industry analyst. “We forecast a slowdown in traffic growth for the balance of 2012 as the country continues its slow economic recovery.”