Plus, Texas Roadhouse and Chick-fil-A top this year’s American Consumer Satisfaction Index.

By Mike Pomranz
June 25, 2019

Today, the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ASCI) released its annual Restaurant Report, looking at customer satisfaction at America’s largest full-service and fast food restaurant chains. “Stability is the pattern in both segments, with all chains either stable or moving by only 1 percent year over year,” the report states. But though the chains people prefer may be the same, one of ASCI’s most interesting findings is that diners might be happier if they didn’t go out to restaurants at all.

Of the 18 fast food brands (plus “all others”) that ASCI looked at, Chick-fil-A was once again far and away customers’ favorite. Despite losing a point, the chicken chain’s score still topped the list at 86. Next up was “all others” at 82, followed by Panera Bread at 81. Chick-fil-A’s five-point lead over Panera is as large as the spread of the next 15 restaurants: Arby’s, Chipotle, Papa John’s, Pizza Hut, Domino’s, Starbucks, Subway, Dunkin’, KFC, Little Caesars, Wendy’s, Burger King, Sonic Drive-In, Jack in the Box, and Taco Bell all finished (in that order) with scores ranging from 80 to 75. Finally, McDonald’s bottomed out the list with a dismal, though consistent from last year, 69.

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For sit-down joints, Texas Roadhouse topped the list for the second year in a row with a score of 83, holding steady above former #1, Cracker Barrel, which holds down the #2 spot with a score of 82. LongHorn Steakhouse, Olive Garden, Outback Steakhouse, Red Robin, Chili’s, Red Lobster, Ruby Tuesdays, TGI Fridays, Applebee’s, and Denny’s round out the list with scores ranging from 81 to 77.

Meanwhile, ASCI’s report digs into plenty of other details, but potentially the most telling also deals with one of the restaurant world’s biggest trends — delivery — and the realization that full-service restaurants might actually be getting in their own way. “As foot traffic slows, off-premise dining — projected to account for 37% of restaurant industry sales in 2018 — plays an important role,” the report states. “ACSI data show that for the full-service segment, diners who order food for delivery are far more satisfied (83) than those who dine in (79).” To put that another way, the top full-service restaurant on ACSI’s list, Texas Roadhouse, scored an 83, whereas if a restaurant scores a 79, that’s middle of the pack. So in one sense, people are saying ordering delivery is a top-flight experience while actually going out to eat is just averagely satisfying. For restaurant owners, that seems like a pretty unsettling development.

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