Consumer satisfaction with quick-service restaurants has reached parity with that for casual-dining chains for the first time in the history of the American Customer Satisfaction Index, or ACSI, which was released Tuesday.
According to the 2012 ACSI, the aggregate customer satisfaction scores for full-service restaurants and limited-service restaurants tied at a rating of 80 out of 100. The results represented a decline of 2.4 percent from 82 last year for full-service restaurants. Meanwhile the limited-service group — which includes quick-service brands and pizza chains — rose 1.3 percent from its 79 rating last year.
“The opposing customer satisfaction trends for full-service outlets versus fast food are all the more troubling for sit-down restaurant operators, given the current weak economy,” wrote Claes Fornell, founder of the ACSI and author of “The Satisfied Customer: Winners and Losers in the Battle for Buyer Preference.”
“The juxtaposition of low prices with newly improved quality makes fast food an attractive option for budget-conscious diners," he added. "It’s a safe bet that fast food will make further inroads into the traditional restaurant business.”
Papa John’s Pizza received the highest individual score for any company, including restaurant brands, in the 2012 ACSI, with 83 out of 100.
It was the 11th time in the past 13 years that Papa John’s received the top satisfaction score compared with its main national competitors. Little Caesars finished close behind with 82, Pizza Hut had 78, and Domino’s scored 77.
Papa John’s founder, chairman and chief executive John Schnatter said in a statement that the chain’s top placement in the ACSI was a testament to its commitment to its “Better ingredients, better pizza” positioning for the past 27 years.
“We know our customers’ expectations are very high, and our team members work hard to deliver on those expectations — including investing in technology and providing pizza lovers with benefits not found with our competitors,” Schnatter said. “We take great pride in the ACSI ranking, and it is a real testament to our franchise- and corporate-restaurant operators and team members and their focus on delivering a superior-quality product with excellent service.”
Papa John’s ranking had grown 5.1 percent over its 2011 score. Other notable performers in the limited-service category were newcomers Subway and Dunkin’ Donuts, who placed on the ACSI for the first time in 2012 with rankings of 82.
Wendy’s score grew 1.3 percent from a year earlier to 78, leading the burger category. Burger King finished with a 75 ranking and McDonald’s had a 73 ranking, its all-time high and a marked improvement from its low score of 59 in 2000.
Taco Bell’s score improved 1.3 percent to 77, while Starbucks Coffee’s ranking dove 5 percent to 76.
In the full-service category, Applebee’s made the ACSI list for the first time, debuting at a 77 ranking, which lagged the whole sector except for Chili’s, which scored 76. Red Lobster improved its score 1.2 percent to 83, while Outback Steakhouse’s ranking was flat at 81. Olive Garden declined 2.4 percent to a ranking of 80.
The ACSI was created at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business and is produced annually by ACSI LLC. The study includes data from interviews with more than 70,000 consumers and gauges the satisfaction of more than 225 companies in 47 industries and 10 economic sectors.