Chick-fil-A Leads in Customer Satisfaction

The popular chicken chain has been ranked No. 1 in the ACSI survey 9 years in a row.

June 29, 2023

According to the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) Restaurant Study 2022-2023, customer satisfaction with full-service restaurants is up 1% to a score of 81 (on a scale of 0 to 100). With this improvement, the industry moves back into first place in the Index, sharing the top with athletic shoes and soft drinks. Meanwhile, the fast food industry climbs 3% to 78.

“This year we’re seeing customer satisfaction returning to pre-pandemic levels for full-service dining, while fast food outlets have rebounded to within a point of their 2019 score,” said Forrest Morgeson, assistant professor of marketing at Michigan State University and director of research emeritus at the ACSI. “This good news is tempered, though, by increasing inflationary pressures, which are already slowing traffic. Sooner rather than later, the industry is going to feel the pinch, and price competition and value will matter.”

Chick-fil-A leads the industry—and all restaurants—for the ninth straight year after climbing 2% to an ACSI score of 85. However, while Chick-fil-A improves year over year, its lead dwindles as the next three chains on the list post gains of 4% or higher.

Jimmy John’s takes over sole possession of second place after rising 6% to 84. The group of smaller fast food purveyors are not far behind, up 4% to 82, followed by KFC (up 4%) and Papa John’s (up 5%), at 81 and 80, respectively.

Chipotle (down 3% to 75) and Sonic (down 3% to 72) take the biggest hits among fast food restaurants, but the bottom spot belongs to Taco Bell and McDonald’s. The former slumps 1% to 71, while the Golden Arches, despite improving 1%, continues to be last with an ACSI score of 69. Outback Steakhouse moves into the top spot in the full-service restaurant category after surging 8% to an ACSI score of 83.

“It appears the rollout of handheld ordering tablets and new ovens and grills are already paying dividends as evidenced by improvements in order accuracy, food quality and food menu variety,” writes ACSI.

Two additional steakhouses—LongHorn Steakhouse and Texas Roadhouse—each climb 3% to meet Cracker Barrel (up 5%) in second place at 82 apiece. The latter introduced a new breakfast menu last summer, while also reaffirming its commitment to digital transformation with a new app.

Restaurant prices are up 8.8% over the last year, making it the first time since mid-2021 that eating out costs consumers more than eating in.

And yet, perceived value is improved. Perceived value with full-service restaurants is up 3% overall, while quality gains 4%. ACSI points to Olive Garden, which has made it a point to keep menu price increases below the inflation rate. Perceived value and quality with the restaurant each improved 5% as it inches closer to the industry averages in both metrics.

Applebee’s, which actually raised menu prices, gains 7% in quality and 5% in value. The company’s value-based promotions and all-you-can-eat deals are particularly attractive to clientele who are “trading down” due to inflation but still looking for full-service experiences, according to ACSI.

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