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The latest American customer Satisfaction table of contents restaurant report is out and also the height restaurant brand because that 2019-20 is Chick-fil-A.

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This marks the 6th straight year the Chick-fil-A has been No. 1 in the industry, a ranking determined by about fifty percent a million consumer tasked with analyzing indicators prefer order accuracy, food quality, speed of service and mobile app reliability.

The chicken chain has set a quite high bar, scoring 84 (out of 100) ~ above the ACSI Index, four points an ext than No. 2 Chipotle and also six points much more than the limited-service segment average. Chick-fil-A also outscores the height full-service restaurant, LongHorn Steakhouse, by 3 points.

Considering Chick-fil’A’s trajectory transparent the past few years, it’s difficult to argue that there isn’t a correlation in between customer satisfaction and also customer spending. In late 2018, the chain surpassed Taco Bell and also Subway to become the third-largest chain by sales, in spite of having a considerably smaller footprint and also a much shorter week in operation.

Chick-fil-A’s sales in 2019 were approximated to be around $11.3 billion,according come Restaurant Business, a 13% rise year-over-year. Because that context, Taco Bell generated just under $11.3 billion, but with around 4,300 much more units and also business on Sundays.

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Perhaps additional proof the this correlation, Chick-fil-A’s per-unit sales room over 50% greater than McDonald’s MCD , the bottom feeder ~ above the list with a score of 70.

To it is in fair, McDonald’s is one of just 3 limited-service brands through a greater ACSI score this year versus critical year (the golden Arches are up one point) and also the chain chin isn’t exactly hurting. In 2019, comp sales were up by 5% as McDonald’s leaned into its “Experience that the Future” restaurant design, included personalized technology at the drive-thru courtesy that its Dynamic productivity acquisition, expanded its distribution footprint with added partnerships past Uber Eats, and also honed in ~ above its well-known breakfast menu with brand-new promotions like donut sticks. Also, McDonald’s has actually trimmed that menu during the coronavirus crisis, which has improved speed of business at the drive-thru. Client satisfaction scores have actually improved “significantly” as a result, Restaurant organization reports.

Dunkin’ and also KFC to be the other two limited-service brands that increased their scores this year.

Dunkin’–up one point to 79–spent much of 2019 promoting its brand-new “Espresso Experience,” component of a $100 million brand refresh meant to pivot the brand toward coffee and also away native donuts (including dropping the surname “Donuts” indigenous its moniker). As part of this shift, Dunkin’ poured significant investments into new espresso equipment and also digital an innovation like cell phone ordering and pickup. The last should aid somewhat safeguard Dunkin’ with the pandemic as consumers crave safe, contactless choices and together dining rooms remain closed or re-close in part areas.

Meanwhile, KFC inched up a suggest for the second year in a row, additionally finishing v a score that 79. The chain preserved its normal quirky marketing valuation in 2019 while likewise bringing forth brand-new menu items favor mac and also cheese bowls and also chicken & donuts. Notably, KFC is, therefore far, the just brand to adopt plant-based chicken through a beyond Meat partnership–a relocate that generated billions the media impressions and also quick offer outs. Favor Dunkin’, KFC has also been fairly well-positioned throughout the pandemic through a drive-thru/delivery/pickup-heavy organization and suitable menu for team orders.

If over there is, indeed, a correlation between customer satisfaction and also sales, one major outlier this year is Popeyes. The chain has actually been a situation study for quick food industry sales, outpacing various other brands by double-digit sales comps many thanks to that buzz worthy sandwich. To gain an idea of simply how systematic its sandwich has actually been because that the brand, take into consideration Popeyes’ system-wide sales thrived by end 42% in Q4 2019. That growth yielded a lining $1.3 billion in sales because that the quarter, contrasted to $934 million in Q4 during the vault year.

But the chain’s ACSI score of 74 ranks it amongst the bottom 5 in the segment, over just Sonic, Taco Bell, Jack in the Box and McDonald’s. Notably, this point out Popeyes’ first year ~ above the index, so development is absolutely attainable.

The segment is struggling to fulfill customers

It’s worth stating that in the limited-service category, 11 the end of 18 brands skilled a decline in customer satisfaction, consisting of perennial favorite Chick-fil-A–down by two points. The segment is down by an mean of 1.3%. Full-service restaurants, which have felt the brunt of the pandemic v dining room closures, dropped 2.5% this year.

Though the index barely scratches the surface ar of COVID-19’s effects because of the survey’s timing (April 2019 v March 2020), we may be beginning to check out some glimpses of consumer distrust in dining out.

The ACSI plans to relax a unique report later on this year with a clearer post-COVID-19 picture, and also fast food is intended to be better positioned because of its heavy off-premise organization model.

However, v scores down prior to the pandemic, there is lot of of reason for concern. As the ACSI report notes, chains through low or even decreasing scores will likely have actually a harder time recovering native the crisis.

“ACSI data consistently display that the an ext satisfied customers are, the much more willing they are to boost their restaurant safety in the future,” the report notes.

Very few brands have been immune come sales decreases from shelter-at-home orders and also the general uncertainty of the pandemic. Together a variety of executives detailed during the critical round of revenue calls, the situation expedited some trends–mobile ordering and pickup, curbside, delivery and value, because that example.

These will be the signs to watch for in the report expected later this year, and also in next year’s report. The “variety of food and also beverages” metric may be less necessary to a weary consumer collection that has become more accepting the slimmer menus, if “restaurant cleanliness” and also “reliability of mobile app” will certainly no doubt be higher priority item in a post-pandemic environment.

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I have actually covered the restaurant industry because 2010 as soon as I was called editor of QSRweb. I later included fast casual and pizza win to my portfolio as editorial manager of foodservice media. This coverage covered the gamut of object that make up the foodservice space, indigenous marketing and also customer service, come the it is provided chain and also display technology. Mine work has actually been featured in publications around the world, consisting of NPR, Bloomberg, The Seattle Times, Crain’s Chicago, good Morning America and Franchise Asia Magazine. I continue to serve as a contributor for many publications, consisting of QSRweb, Food Dive, creation Leader and also the Digital Signage Federation.