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12 June, 2017

Top 5 Most Loved Fast-Food Restaurants In America

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Top 5 Most Loved Fast-Food Restaurants In America

Fast-food restaurants are serious business in America.

The $208 billion industry caters to the fickle taste buds of consumers, who have grown up in the shadow of McDonald’s golden arches. That’s created a basic ideal fast-food meal: quick delivery, tasty food and friendly service.

In recent years, however, diners have added to their expectations. They now also want healthy food and quality ingredients, as well as a dining room that offers more than bare-bones chairs and tables.

That’s shifted the way Americans view their fast-food outlets. Some of the most iconic names in the industry are suffering, while upstarts are convincing consumers to shift their allegiances to their more innovative menus.

As a result, some of the country’s oldest brand names in fast-food are coping with lower sales and troubling trends, such as difficulty in luring Millennial consumers through their doors. Younger chains generally doing a better job of appealing to America’s tastebuds, according to a new report from the American Consumer Satisfaction Index.

“Consumers are looking for something newer and fresher,” said ACSI director of research Forrest Morgeson. With the economy improving, he added, “consumers will be willing and ready to spend a little more, so they won’t go first and foremost with the supplier that gives them the best price. They’re willing to spend a little more money for higher quality.”

As the economy recovers, fast-food restaurants need to step up their game. During the recession, price alone would get consumers through the door. In better economic times, however, diners tend to prefer quality over price.

The ACSI surveyed 5,023 people earlier this year about their experiences with fast-food restaurants. The chains were rated on a number of factors, including quality of food, courtesy of the staff, speed of delivery and cleanliness of the restaurants.

No. 5, Papa John’s

This pizza chain has a good news/bad news situation. While Papa John’s (PZZA) ranked as one of the top pizza chains by consumers (tying it with rival Pizza Hut), its score slipped four points, dropping from 82 to 78 in just a year.

“You don’t want to see a decline like that if you are Papa John’s,” Morgeson said. “They are still in a top position,” but the pizza chains were also dinged this year because they competed on price, rather than quality.

Papa John’s, whose motto is “Better Ingredients. Better Pizza,” announced earlier this month that it’s spending $100 million a year to eliminate artificial ingredients and other additives. Last year, it removed MSG from its ranch dressing and trans fats from its garlic sauce, according to Bloomberg News.

Its founder, John Schnatter, told the publication: “It’s hard to remove some of these things and still get the flavor and functionality you want.”

No. 4, Dunkin’ Donuts

America apparently likes running on Dunkin’ Donuts (DNKN), which was the only fast-food restaurant to see an increase in customer satisfaction, according to the survey.

Its rating rise to 78 points from 75 in 2014, according to the ACSI. A rebranding has helped the chain compete more effectively with Starbucks (SBUX), according to Morgeson.

Older slogans emphasized donuts, such as “America’s Donut Shoppe,” but the company’s focus now is on beverages such as Dunkacinnos and Coolattas. That’s helped lure customers away from higher-priced coffee stores like Starbucks, as well as fast-food rivals like McDonald’s (MCD).

No. 3, Panera

While the bakery-cafe chain is new to the ACSI’s survey this year, it has clearly already made a big impact on consumers. Panera debuted with a score of 80, putting it ahead of many older and bigger rivals.

The ACSI added Panera (PNRA) because “there’s a new category of fast-food restaurants that are stealing market share from the more established players,” said Morgeson. Panera “offers a little bit more service.”

The chain is also winning fans for its vow to remove “no no” ingredients, such as artificial smoke flavor and glycerol ester of wood rosin, part of its pledge to serve up healthier fast-food dishes.

No. 2, Chipotle

 

Chipotle Mexican Grill (CMG), another newbie to the ACSI’s rankings, is a clear favorite with American diners.

The chain scored an 83 on this year’s survey, making it the second most-loved fast-food in the country. The company has high standards for humanely raised meat and premium ingredients, one reason why Americans are increasingly choosing to eat there.

Even though it’s more expensive than traditional burger-focused fast-food restaurants, Chipotle has diners swallowing price increases, and they appear to want more. Still, the chain’s high standards haven’t come without growing pains. When it dropped one of its pork vendors after discovering it wasn’t keeping to its guidelines, Chipotle faced a shortage of carnitas, the shredding pork that fills its burritos.

No.1, Chick-fil-A

Forks down, Chick-fil-A is killing it when it comes to customer satisfaction. The chain scored an 86 in the ACSI’s survey, the highest of all fast-food restaurants.

“The thing to note with Chick-fil-A is there’s the perception that they have much better quality food,” Morgeson said. Both Chipotle and Chick-fil-A “focus on a specific type of item on the menu, and they focus on really high quality food. They do it very well, and they don’t try to be everything to all people.”

 

So which one is your favorite?  Let everyone know below.




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