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Small fast-food chains earn big praise in survey

SAN CLEMENTE Calif. Customer satisfaction with fast-food chains showed significant improvement in 2008, with regional chains boasting the best scores, according to an annual survey by the Sandelman & Associates research firm here.

The survey found that 13 percent of the 141 fast-food chains that were tracked saw an improvement in customer satisfaction scores, and more than half posted higher overall satisfaction scores than in 2007.

Regional chains dominated in overall excellence, with In-N-Out Burger of Irvine, Calif., garnering the highest ratings, followed by Raising Cane's of Baton Rouge, La., and Giordano’s Pizza of Chicago, according to the Sandelman survey.

Bob Sandelman, founder and chief executive of the research firm, said the top-rated chains “are raising the bar for the fast-food giants."

"And this customer satisfaction improvement is just what the economy ordered,” he added.

The Sandelman survey tracks 15 attributes ranked by 93,800 quick-service restaurant users in 75 markets quarterly throughout the year.

The Top 10 in the “2008 Quick-Track Awards of Excellence,” their home base and the percentage of customers rating them “excellent” overall at their last visit were:


  1. In-N-Out Burger, Irvine, Calif., 60 percent
  2. Raising Cane’s, Baton Rouge, La., 59 percent
  3. Giordano’s Pizza, Chicago, 56 percent
  4. Chick-Fil-A, Atlanta, 55 percent
  5. Panera Bread, St. Louis, 54 percent
  6. Chipotle, Denver, 52 percent
  7. Pei Wei Asian Diner, Scottsdale, Ariz., 51 percent
  8. Firehouse Subs, Jacksonville, Fla., 51 percent
  9. Taco Tote, El Paso, Texas, 50 percent
  10. Qdoba, Wheat Ridge, Colo., 49 percent

Among the 15 attributes, the 2008 survey found that Subway was top-rated for healthy-nutritious food, McDonald’s won for best for appeal to kids, and Little Caesars led in value and affordability.

Other surveyed attributes were taste of food, speed of service, value for the money, quality of ingredients, friendliness of staff, accuracy in filling orders, and being “a place for someone like me.”

Contact Ron Ruggless at [email protected].


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