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Amid disruptions, Chick-fil-A remains customer satisfaction leader

Chick-Fil A restaurant
Chick-Fil A restaurant(KGNS)
Published: Jul. 1, 2021 at 12:05 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Chick-fil-A dominated the fast-food industry’s customer satisfaction index, even as the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the industry.

The American Customer Satisfaction Index says restaurants lost $120 billion from March to May of 2020 as COVID-19 guidelines and lockdowns upended the industry during the worldwide health crisis. Leading up to that point, it said customer satisfaction with both full-service and limited-service restaurants was already seeing a decline.

According to surveys from April 2019 to March 2020, ACSI said customer satisfaction with the Accommodation and Food Services sector fell 1.3% with a total score of 77.9 out of 100. It said the pandemic hit fast-forward on the trends the industry was already experiencing.

“Even before COVID-19, delivery was fast becoming the name of the game with consumers increasingly looking for alternative delivery options,” says David VanAmburg, Managing Director at the ACSI. “Millennials drove the ship, and the rise of third-party delivery services like Grubhub, DoorDash, Postmates, and Uber Eats offered consumers more choices and convenience. But the pandemic has since hammered the point home: Tech innovation remains a key to success for both fast food and full-service chains, and engaging with customers digitally, especially through reliable mobile apps, is critical.”

ACSI said customer satisfaction with full-service restaurants dipped below 80 for the second time in history. It said among 12 major full-service chains, seven reported declines in customer satisfaction and only one reported an improvement, which shows that sit-down chains were struggling to please customers, even before the pandemic started.

Even more troubling, the ACSI said the full-service restaurant industry is less satisfying when it comes to take out and delivery, which are crucial as pandemic guidelines lift. It said customers are happiest when they dine in.

According to ACSI, LongHorn Steakhouse, which was stable for a third consecutive year, became the new leader with a score of 81. Meanwhile, it said 2020′s leader, Texas Roadhouse, tumbled to 80. It said Cracker Barrell, Olive Garden and Red Lobster all tied for the industry average. It said Red Lobster was the only full-service restaurant to improve.

ACSI said the remaining full-service restaurants all scored below the industry average, including Outback Steakhouse, TGI Fridays, Applebee’s, Denny’s, Red Robin, Ruby Tuesday and Chili’s.

Turning to the fast-food side of the industry, ACSI said customer service dipped by 1.3% to 78, its lowest score since 2015. It said among 18 brands, 11 saw declines in customer satisfaction, but most of the changes were less than 2%. It said the fast-food side is positioned to fare better than dine-in restaurants in a COVID-impacted market thanks to a business model that already includes drive-thru and delivery.

ACSI said despite the 2% drop, Chick-fil-A remained the industry leader at 84. It said this is the sixth year in a row that Chick-fil-A has been first across both restaurant segments. It said Chipotle came in second place while Panera Bread, Arby’s, Domino’s, Subway, Dunkin’ and KFC all tied for third.

According to ACSI, as Domino’s became the new pizza leader, three other competitors lost ground. It said for the first time since 2009, Domin’s beat Papa John’s in customer satisfaction. It said Pizza Hut came in second to last and Little Ceasars remained in last place.

ACSI said Dunkin’ came in ahead of Starbucks for 2020. It said Taco Bell fell behind KFC and newcomer Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen came in the bottom five for customer satisfaction. For burger chains, it said Wendy’s tied with Burger King, Sonic came in next and Jack in the Box came in last.

However, ACSI said McDonald’s anchors the bottom of the fast-food category for customer satisfaction. It said even with a 1% climb, the chain still came in last.

To view the full report, click HERE.

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