Restaurant Chains With the Happiest Customers

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Restaurant chains of all kinds — from coffee and doughnut shops to upscale steakhouses — value customer loyalty. Regular customers provide a steady revenue stream and are said to generally outspend newer patrons, according to Upserve Restaurant Insider, a trade publication. Upserve also estimates that a 5% increase in customer loyalty can produce as much as a 100% increase in annual profits.

Earlier this year, Newsweek, partnering with the global research firm Statista, published a study ranking different types of retail chains by their customer service. The top retailers are those with the happiest, most consistently satisfied customer base. The study covered some 141 categories, 10 of which grouped under food service, ranging from doughnut chops and coffeehouse chains to fast-casual and upscale restaurants.

The businesses Newsweek and Statista studied were scored on a 10-point scale, with half the score determined by the chain’s Net Promoter Score, a measure of customer willingness to recommend a chain to others, and half determined by a combination of five other criteria: quality of communication (friendliness or politeness of contact, face-to-face and otherwise), technical competence (staff ability to answer questions), range of services (the extent to which the customer’s expectations were fulfilled), customer focus (how personal concerns were dealt with), and accessibility (the availability of customer service).

Some famous brands scored highly. Cracker Barrel aced the casual dining rankings; Starbucks was the clear winner among coffeehouse chains; Krispy Kreme won the doughnut wars; and Chick-fil-A, a regular winner in such rankings, got the highest score of any restaurant chain on the list.

Lesser-known companies like Corner Bakery in the bagel and sandwich category, Sirloin Stockade in the buffet restaurant grouping, and Duck Donuts in the doughnut division all made respectable third-place showings.

Many of these chains have customer rewards programs, and some have introduced new employee training measures in an effort to improve the interface with patrons. Others have been responsive to changing customer tastes, or they introduced initiatives permitting greater customization by diners. Whatever they’re doing to keep their customers happy, it seems to be working.

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