Courting public opinion

Courting public opinion

From the editor

This issue, which features our inaugural Consumer Picks survey, is both a long time coming and a labor of love.

Not only has this public opinion study been underway for more than a year, but it also has been excitedly anticipated by everyone who has had a hand in it.

The project was born in the fall of 2010 when Dennis Lombardi of WD Partners, a well-known commentator on the restaurant industry scene, contacted me with an important and need-fulfilling project WD and Nation’s Restaurant News could embark upon together. During the ensuing months of meetings, we hammered out parameters and established timelines for this extensive, consumer-driven endeavor.

By 2011 the project was well on its way, with consumers immersed in a survey designed by WD’s statistical gurus to reveal their feelings about many of the country’s most notable restaurant brands as well as some of its emerging players.

As word of the study spread, operators responded positively, with many who recalled earlier industry consumer surveys saying they couldn’t wait to see the results. I don’t think they’ll be disappointed.

Given the volume of survey data and the importance of consumer perceptions to our readers, we have dedicated 13 pages of this issue to the Consumer Picks special report. It’s an eye-catching collection of rankings, charts, analytical stories and insightful demographic information.

For the NRN team, Consumer Picks has been an invigorating opportunity to establish what we hope will become another marquee project. Once Dennis and the WD team crunched what amounted to nearly 40,000 evaluations, the NRN editors set about deciding how best to present that data. That group effort was spearheaded by Christi Ravneberg, managing editor, production.

To view the results of our efforts, turn to page 8. In an effort to utilize as much of the survey’s considerable information as possible, we have borrowed space from this issue’s Business Intel and Marketing sections, both of which will return in their regular format in the Sept. 12 issue.

And for more Consumer Picks analysis, check out NRN.com, where we offer additional rankings and analysis as well as videos highlighting some of the survey’s more surprising findings.

Please note that the earlier reference to a Sept. 12 issue is not a typo: We will publish three issues this month, including a special issue on Sept. 26 to coincide with NRN’s annual Multi-Unit Foodservice Operators, or MUFSO, Conference. MUFSO will be held Sept. 25-27 at the Gaylord Texan in Grapevine, Texas.

On a related note, if you turn to the Community section, you’ll find a preview of the industry leaders who will be honored at this year’s MUFSO, including the Pioneer, Golden Chain and Norman Award winners.

In Operations we introduce you to two McDonald’s franchisees who are using their eco-friendly initiatives to their marketing advantage through consumer-directed educational efforts. And the End Quotes page features an interview with Kevin Miles, who recently took the reins at Zoës Kitchen, as well as a column by Alan J. Liddle sharing insight into his family’s own evolving dining habits.

But before you reach Al’s personal reflections at the issue’s end, please dive into Consumer Picks for an eye-opening look at what diners are thinking and which brands are winning the battle for mass appeal.

Some of you will find this study resonates with your own research or opinions about consumers and the current marketplace, while some of you may disagree. But either way, the people have spoken, and it’s important to listen to what they have to say.

Contact Robin Lee Allen at [email protected] [3].