While the restaurant sector is projected to make $799 billion in annual sales, major restaurant chains are facing challenges from smaller, independent operators as well as grocery stores that now offer prepared foods.
As a result, restaurants are using methods like new menus and technology to promote customer satisfaction and drive more customer traffic, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) Restaurant Report 2018.
Customer satisfaction in the foodservice sector overall rose 1.8% year-over-year to a score of 79.4 on a 100-point scale. Specifically, full-service restaurants jumped 3.8% to a score of 81, while fast food establishments gained 1.3% for a score of 80.
Texas Roudhouse was the top full-service restaurant, with a 1% rise to 83, while Cracker Barrel and LongHorn Steakhouse tied for second place at 81. LongHorn reduced menu options while increasing steak size, which seems to have paid off in guest satisfaction. Third place was Olive Garden, which scored 80.
Other restaurants made gains with improvements in beverage quality and variety, food quality, staff courtesy and service speed.
Full-service restaurants improved across nearly all aspects of the customer experience. Food order accuracy remains a strong point with a score of 89, up 2% from a year ago, and restaurant staff are more courteous and helpful, up 2% to 87.
The only area that saw a decrease for the category is website satisfaction, which got a score of 83.
While full-service restaurants bounced back with improvements across the customer experience in 2018, last year the fast food sector, which has about $200 billion in annual sales, surpassed sit-down dining in customer satisfaction for the first time, ACSI noted.
In 2018, fast food establishments are still ranking high among customers, with satisfaction just one point below the full-service restaurant category. Most large fast food chains were stable or showed only minor changes of plus or minus 1%.
Chick-fil-A continues to stand out for its customer satisfaction, scoring 87 for the third year in a row. Its food quality continues to rate higher than the competition. The group of all other smaller fast food chains took second place, with a score of 82, just ahead of third-place restaurant Panera Bread at 81. Like Chick-fil-A, the fast-casual chain has consistently performed well, with guest satisfaction in the 80s for four years.
Fast food pizza competitors Papa John’s and Pizza Hut tied at 80. Pizza Hut, which increased customer satisfaction by 5%, was the biggest ACSI gain in the category, showing that Yum! Brands’ $130 million investment in a new rewards program for the chain and improvements in equipment and technology appears to be working.
Meanwhile, Chipotle Mexican Grill stood steady at 79, while Taco Bell scored a 74 in customer satisfaction.
For the full story, go to this week’s Food Institute Report.