Chick-fil-A, Five Guys tops in QSR study

LOUISVILLE Colo. It takes a lot more than good food to stand out with quick-service customers, as Chick-fil-A and Five Guys Burgers and Fries recently proved. The two chains were the highest-scoring brands on a survey of favorite quick-service restaurants conducted by Louisville-based Market Force Information.

Lorton, Va.-based Five Guys and Atlanta-based Chick-fil-A topped the list of favorite restaurants indexed by market size. Five Guys, which has nearly 500 units in 36 states, had the top score with 14.4 percent, while 1,485-unit Chik-fil-A placed second with 12.5 percent. Click here for the results. [3]

When the more than 3,000 consumers surveyed were asked to name characteristics of restaurants they liked most, Chick-fil-A and Five Guys finished with the most and second-most citations of friendliness and cleanliness. Chick-fil-A also had the most citations for accommodating children, and Five Guys tied with Chipotle for highest quality of food.

Chick-fil-A, the company long known for pioneering the chicken segment of quick service, recently reported that it would surpass $3 billion in annual sales this year. Chain officials said 2009 marks 42 consecutive years of systemwide sales growth. The chain's strong performance has even led one analyst, Mark Kalinowki, to say that it may one day surpass [4] segment leader KFC as the nation's largest chicken brand.

Five Guys, considered one of the leaders of the burgeoning “better burger” segment, recently received a new influx of growth capital [5], closing a $30 million credit facility with GE Capital Franchise Finance.

Denver-based Chipotle, the nearly 900-unit fast-casual chain, was third among restaurants indexed by market size, with a 7.7-percent score, while St. Louis-based Panera Bread garnered a 7.3-percent score for its system of more than 1,300 bakery-cafes.

Market Force also released figures for the survey in which market size was not taken into account. By that measure, Chick-fil-A still did well, tying quick-service giant McDonald’s with 11 percent of all votes. Taco Bell was third with 7 percent of all votes, followed by Panera Bread and Subway with 6 percent and a four-way tie among Burger King, Chipotle, Arby’s and Five Guys with 4 percent.

According to Market Force’s survey, when consumers were asked to predict their spending habits at quick-service restaurants for the first quarter of 2010, slightly more than half expected to eat out the same amount. Five percent of respondents said they would eat out at quick-service restaurants more early next year, while 44 percent said they plan to cut back on fast-food meals.

Market Force’s survey was conducted in early December with more than 3,000 respondents picked from the company’s network of more than 300,000 mystery shoppers and retailers. Approximately 75 percent of survey participants were women, who hold significant sway in household purchasing decisions, Market Force said.

Contact Mark Brandau at [email protected] [6].