Burger Chains 'Most Visited'; Sandwich Chains 'Most Satisfying'

Empathica study also finds gender, age patterns that indicate QSR opportunities

TORONTO-- Like a bun, the burger category topped--and bottomed--Empathica Inc.'s 2013 Quick Service Restaurant (QSR) Benchmark Study, which surveyed 10,000 U.S. consumers on the 62 top QSR brands, measuring food, order accuracy, speed of service, menu, restaurant atmosphere and cleanliness, staff and value.

These results determined QSR category rankings, as well as the drivers behind customer loyalty for each genre of QSR.

Based on the number of customer visits to the top 62 QSR brands reported in the past 30 days, the early-August study ranked QSRs by category. Rankings by the number of visits do not reflect customer satisfaction. In fact, while burger chains attracted the highest number of visitors--likely due to the high number of burger chain locations that exist--the burger category lacked in key customer satisfaction areas.

Only 42% of consumers strongly agree that they are satisfied overall with burger chains compared to other QSR categories, and the smallest percentage of customers (38%) are likely to recommend these chains to others. Sandwich chain visitors, on the other hand, left most satisfied after their experience (52%) and, therefore, these visitors were most likely to recommend the establishment to a friend or family member (45% strongly agreed that they would recommend these establishments).

"Overall satisfaction and the likelihood of a recommendation are key to customer loyalty, which is also the key to long term QSR success," said Dr. Gary Edwards, chief customer officer for Empathica. "It is great to get a customer to visit your restaurant, but the ultimate goal should be to provide that customer with a satisfying experience that motivates him or her: and his or her friends: to keep coming back through your doors."

Both genders and all income levels cited burger chains as the top QSR visited in the past 30 days, males (62%) made more visits than females (58%) and individuals with lower incomes (63%) made more visits than those with higher incomes (59%); however, women have a stronger preference for pizza/pasta and snack/coffee than men do.

To close this gender gap, burger chains specifically should strengthen their marketing and advertising toward women.

The study found a significant age difference in preference for pizza and pasta restaurants. While 42% of 18-to-24-year olds visited pizza and pasta QSRs in the past 30 days, only 28% of 55-to-64-year olds reported a visit. According to the data, visits to pizza/pasta establishments are less frequent as age increases. This gap shows which markets pizza and pasta restaurants should target for customer loyalty, as well as what groups could use a push from marketing and advertising efforts.

Empathica launched the Quick Service Restaurant Benchmark Study in March 2013. Along with the main criteria, the survey also gathered the drivers behind loyalty for a QSR and for social media advocacy. And it weighted the study to reflect latest U.S. Census distributions, including region, gender, age and income.

Toronto-based Empathica is a leading provider of social customer experience management (CEM) programs to multi-unit brands in the retail, foodservice, automotive and hospitality sectors.

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