SAN CLEMENTE Calif. The In-N-Out Burger chain and sandwich concept Capriotti’s received top honors in a 2009 survey of customer satisfaction released this month by market-research firm Sandelman & Associates.
The two chains were among a number of regional quick-service brands that continue to capture the highest customer satisfaction ratings among 140 brands monitored annually by the San Clemente, Calif.-based consulting group. This is In-N-Out’s second year at the top spot. The Irvine, Calif.-based concept operates about 230 locations primarily in the western U.S., but holds a nationwide cult following. Capriotti’s, which is based in Las Vegas and has nearly 60 locations in 10 states, did not make the Top 10 in 2008.
Ratings in general were up during the 2009 study, with 69 percent of the 140 chains showing a higher rating than in the previous year. In 2008, just 13 percent of QSR chains posted statistically significant improvements in customer satisfaction scores compared with 2007.
"Fast-food chains are better at meeting consumers’ wants and needs in these trying times," said Bob Sandelman, the research firm’s chief executive and founder. "Our awards of excellence winners, many of whom are smaller, regional brands, are raising the bar and fast-food giants are responding."
Afew national chains performed well in the latest study – Atlanta-based Chick-fil-A, with more than 1,400 units, came in third place, and St. Louis-based Panera Bread, with 1,300 units, placed fifth.
Subway ranked highest for offering healthy and nutritious food. McDonald’s was ranked highly as being kid-friendly and Little Caesar’s was recognized for value and affordability.
In the 2009 survey, which questioned 90,900 quick-service users, 62 percent of In-N-Out customers rated their last visit to the chain as "excellent" overall, which is the top honor.
The awards are given for various aspects of the dining experience, including taste of the food, speed of service, and value for the money. In-N-Out Burger, for example, ranked highly for having tasty food, quality of ingredients, friendliness of staff and accuracy in filling orders.
Chains with the most improved overall rating in the annual survey included Fatburger, Taco Time, Lenny’s Sub Shop, Shakey’s Pizza and Chick-fil-A.
Sandelman ranked the top 10 chains based on the percentage of "excellent" ratings overall:
In-N-Out Burger (62%)
Raising Cane’s (57%)
Panera Bread (57%)
Pei Wei Asian Diner (56%)
Giordano’s Pizza (55%)
Café Rio (55%)
Idaho Pizza Company (54%)
Penn Station (53%)