Survey: Chick-fil-A again leads restaurant industry in a key measure

Employees direct traffic and take orders outside the  Chick-fil-A on Northside Dr. in April. The Atlanta-based chain did well in newly released consumer national survey results. STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION
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Employees direct traffic and take orders outside the Chick-fil-A on Northside Dr. in April. The Atlanta-based chain did well in newly released consumer national survey results. STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Chick-fil-A, which relied nearly completely on drive-thrus during much of the pandemic, still leads the U.S. restaurant industry in an important metric, according to a new survey.

For the seventh year in a row, the Atlanta-based fast-food chain has the highest rating for customer satisfaction among large full- and limited-service restaurants, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index. ACSI said its survey included interviews with more than 19,000 consumers about recent restaurant experiences from April 1, 2020 through most of this past March.

Chick-fil-A’s rating — 83 out of 100 — dipped slightly compared to a year earlier, even as the overall scores for limited-service restaurants stayed the same, according to ACSI.

Among 36 major full- and limited-service restaurant chains, McDonald’s landed the lowest customer satisfaction score: 70 out of 100, according to ACSI. Some chains owned by Sandy Springs-based Inspire Brands fared in the mid to low range of customer ratings, ACSI found. Those included Arby’s (77), Dunkin’ (77), Buffalo Wild Wings (76) and Sonic (73). Papa John’s, which is slated to move its headquarters to metro Atlanta later this year, had a 77 rating.

The pandemic financially hammered many restaurant chains last year and forced them to reshape their operations. Industry sales fell as people turned to buying more groceries or shifted from dining inside restaurants to having food delivered or picking it up.

Chick-fil-A, the third largest U.S. restaurant chain by sales, was an exception. Its systemwide sales grew. So did profits for the brand’s owner.

ACSI managing director David VanAmburg said in a press release that “restaurants need to continue to give customers all the options they’ve become accustomed to over the last year and a half. If not, they might grab a bite somewhere else.”

Ratings for full-service restaurants overall rose slightly over the last year, ACSI found, as consumers awarded higher scores for food quality, speed of food orders from tables, layout and cleanliness, and courtesy of wait staff.

Limited-service restaurants, meanwhile, were dinged for food quality, order accuracy, layout and cleanliness, and courtesy and helpfulness of staff. But scores improved for the quality and reliability of mobile apps, according to ACSI.

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