When it comes to their favorite fast-food chain, consumers keep clucking about Chick-fil-A, a new survey finds.
The chicken-sandwich chain maintained its lead to emerge as the favorite chain by a comfortable margin over second-place Panera Bread, finds the American Customer Satisfaction Index's Restaurant Report 2018.
Texas Roadhouse outpolled Cracker Barrel and LongHorn Steakhouse, both in a second-place tie, among full-service restaurants. And Pizza Hut and Papa John's came up even among pizza chains.
This year, the survey is based on interviews with 22,500 customers who are asked about quality of products, services and satisfaction with more than 380 companies in 46 industries and 10 economic sectors, ACSI says.
Measured on a scale from zero to 100 points, with 100 being the best, both categories scored restaurants on food accuracy; waitstaff behavior; food quality; beverage quality; restaurant cleanliness and layout; food variety; beverage variety; and website satisfaction.
Chick-fil-A was ranked 87 for the third year in a row. After Panera Bread at 81 came Subway at 80 and Arby's at 79.
Pizza Hut had the largest gain in its ACSI category with a 5 percent jump in customer satisfaction. Pizza Hut, under Yum! Brands wing, underwent changes that included a new rewards program and improvements in equipment, technology and marketing.
"We re-trained all of our employees in the fall and also introduced an oven-hot delivery system that keeps our pizzas hotter while adding thousands of drivers to enable our speed of service to be faster," said Pizza Hut's chief customer and operations officer Nicolas Burquier.
On the full-service restaurants list, Texas Roadhouse exhibited superior satisfaction as it led the board with 83 points compared to last year's 82. Cracker Barrel fell three points from last year.
Texas Roadhouse spokesman Travis Doster said consistency with service is the reason why customers continue to come back.
"From Day One, our servers have only had three tables at a time, which translates to better guest interactions and faster service," Doster said.
Longhorn’s initiative to serve larger steaks and reduce menu options reflected customers' requests, which helped them rebound from their 2017 slump of 77 to 81, according to the ACSI report.
Third place on the list is Olive Garden with 80 points, one less from last year. The remaining restaurants that tied at 79 are Outback Steakhouse, Red Lobster, Red Robin and TGI Fridays. Red Lobster and Outback Steakhouse decreased by 2 and 1 percent, respectively, while TGI Fridays surged by 4 percent.
However, Red Robin had the biggest victory, with an 8 percent gain to 79. The chain’s 40 percent growth in off-premises sales in the first quarter resulted from the modifications within the menu, online ordering and call center support, the ACSI report said.
By adapting to consumer preferences of healthier options, full-service restaurants soared overall in food quality with a 4 percent rise to 87, followed with another 4 percent gain to 86 in food variety. Order accuracy and waitstaff behavior increased 2 percent to 89 and 87, respectively.
The ACSI report also showed how food accuracy increased by 1 percent to 88 while all other categories remained consistent for 2018 in the limited-service category.
The ACSI Restaurant Report 2018 on full-service and limited-service dining chains is based on random applicants contacted by email between June 19, 2017, and May 29, 2018. Customers are asked to evaluate their recent experiences with the largest sit-down and fast-food restaurants in terms of market share.