Fast Food Ranks Sixth in Brand Intimacy Study

Starbucks placed first among QSRs, followed by Chick-fil-A and McDonald’s.

July 10, 2020

NEW YORK—The fast food industry ranked sixth out of the 15 industries studied in MBLM’s Brand Intimacy 2020 Study, which is the largest study of brands based on emotions. MBLM also analyzed how consumer sentiment about the industry has been affected by the pandemic.

The study, now in its 10th year, revealed that Starbucks ranked No. 1 in the fast-food industry, followed by Chick-fil-A and McDonald’s. The remaining brands in the top 10 for the industry were: Dunkin’, Subway, Wendy’s, KFC, Taco Bell, Domino’s and Pizza Hut. Additionally, top intimate brands in the United States continued to significantly outperform the top brands in the Fortune 500 and S&P indices in both revenue and profit during the past 10 years, according to the study.

MBLM also examined how the industry has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, Pizza Hut’s largest franchisee NPC International Inc. filed for bankruptcy because of shutdowns, which added to the competitive stress the brand had been facing ( On the other hand, Domino’s saw comparable-store sales increase by more than 20% in April and May, and its stock was up 26% for 2020 as of July (The Motley Fool).

The fast food industry is also giving back during the pandemic. For example, Chick-fil-A created a $10.8 million community relief effort in April, through which it provided funds to franchisees to distribute to local communities in need (The Chicken Wire). Starbucks launched its Starbucks Global Partner Emergency Relief Program in April to help its employees impacted by the pandemic (Starbucks Stories & News).

“The fast food industry has performed fairly consistently in our study over the past few years, and has built emotional connections with customers,” stated Mario Natarelli, managing partner for MBLM. “As with virtually all industries, the pandemic has greatly impacted fast food. Some of the top brands have garnered largely positive and supportive responses from consumers, while others have faced criticism and scrutiny. Understanding how and why consumers express their connections during COVID is valuable for all brands in the industry to examine. Now more than ever, positive emotions can drive performance.”

Coronavirus Resources

NACS has compiled resources to help the convenience retail community navigate the COVID-19 crisis. For news updates and guidance, visit our coronavirus resources page.