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The Happy Customer Index

Fast-casual restaurant brands that scored the highest for ‘value’

Technomic Ignite Consumer looks at how brands impact consumers, including price paid, relative price, and affordability.

There’s been plenty of discussion about restaurant value of late, as the industry’s prices across segments continue to outpace general inflation rates long after the generationally high peak in June 2022. These stubbornly high prices have been cited as the driver of declining traffic levels in the space and have even led some chains, like McDonald’s, to adjust their strategies after turning off low-income consumers in particular.

That said, as we’ve learned from the margin-eroding discounting wars of The Great Recession of 2008 and 2009, the definition of “value” has very much evolved in the restaurant industry. It now includes things like portion sizes, prices compared to competitors, high-quality menu items, and high-quality service. We partnered with Technomic to understand which brands generated the top value scores in 2023 based on these breakdowns and here’s what we found.

The biggest improvements for price-based value measures in 2023 for fast-casual restaurants came from Dickey’s Barbecue Pit, with a 6.1% percentage change, followed by Boston Market, at 3.7%. Rounding out the list for most improvement were Charley’s Philly Steaks (3.2%), Portillo’s (2.3%), Panera Bread (2.2%), Five Guys (2.0%), Einstein Bros. Bagels (1.9%), Noodles & Co. (1.1%), Schlotzsky’s (0.8%), and Rubio’s (0.8%).

Fast-casual value through high-quality menu items winners was a relatively diverse list, ranging from healthy to indulgent, Robert Byrne, Technomic’s director of consumer and industry insights noted.

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