Restaurants Chains With the Happiest Customers

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Like virtually any business that depends on direct interaction with the public, the food service industry greatly values customer loyalty. That loyalty is engendered primarily by satisfying patrons — keeping them happy in various ways. 

According to an article on building customer loyalty in restaurants appearing in Upserve, a restaurant trade publication, regular customers spend 67% more at restaurants than newcomers do. An increase of just 5% in customer loyalty, says the site, can boost annual profits by as much as 100%. 

Chains try to build loyalty — to establish and maintain a base of happy customers — through such measures as marketing campaigns, rewards programs, and the introduction of new menu items, such as new plant-based meat substitutes. As an example, these are 18 fast-food restaurants serving vegan burgers.

The American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), which bills itself as “the only national cross-industry measure of customer satisfaction in the United States,” ranks customer satisfaction every year across 46 industries, food service included. For its most recent report on the restaurant industry, ACSI surveyed some 23,468 customers, chosen at random, between mid-2018 and mid-2019.

The ACSI restaurant index is divided into two parts, one covering full-service restaurants, the other focused on limited-service — i.e., fast-food — operations. Both are judged according to 11 criteria, including speed of service, reliability of mobile app, and of course food variety and quality. (These are the best-selling chain restaurant foods of 2019.)

Overall, says ACSI, full-service restaurants maintained a high and stable customer satisfaction score averaging 81 points across the category. Limited-service chains fared less well, declining 1.3% from the previous year for an average score of 79.

Though large restaurant chains — as opposed to more vulnerable independents — will likely survive the coronavirus pandemic, the next round of ACSI customer satisfaction rankings will doubtless reflect the success with which these chains have addressed the crisis.