These restaurant chains rule in customer satisfaction

A new study finds full-service restaurants like LongHorn and Texas Roadhouse lead in customer satisfaction over fast food, despite rising prices - UnSplash +

What’s going on at IHOP?

Anyone who’s eaten out – either at a sit-down restaurant or picked up a quick meal up at a fast food drive-thru – knows how high prices have gotten. McDonald’s certainly got the message. So did Sonic, Taco Bell, and Burger King.

But the low-price promotions those chains are running are basically here and gone, leaving consumers to hit reset and set out to find more deals elsewhere.

A new American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) study found that the real difference maker is not price, however. It’s quality and value – factors that consumers are finding at full-service restaurants, not fast food places. 

Full-service restaurants increased their scores four times more than fast food restaurants. The winners in this category are LongHorn Steakhouse and Texas Roadhouse – both in a tie for the top spot among full-service places. Their scores of 85 were a couple points higher than Chick-fil-A’s 83, the leader in fast food satisfaction.

“LongHorn is credited with providing large portions and maintaining a culture dedicated to quality, a characteristic shared by all of its fellow Darden brands. Texas Roadhouse has held relatively steady on pricing, meanwhile, while also investing heavily in staffing and adding new technologies such as pay-at-the-table,” Alicia Kelso of National Restaurant News (NRN), said.

“Both have far outpaced their casual dining peers in sales throughout the past several quarters.”

Outback falls from grace while others pick up steam

Last year’s number one full-service satisfaction winner, Outback, fell out of first place, declining by 4% to 80. However, two other sit-down brands made impressive progress.

Kelso said that Olive Garden has found traction in the value conversation with its Never-Ending Pasta Bowl offering, while Chili’s has done the same with its “3 for Me” menu. She notes that IHOP’s menu refresh helped it grow by eight points. 

“Perhaps the biggest takeaway from the full-service category’s performance this year is that chains’ efforts to improve staffing and retention levels seem to be paying off across the board. Customers indicate better performance across most aspects of the full-service experience, with food order accuracy (92) and waitstaff courtesy and helpfulness (90) leading the way.”

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