Market Force’s New Study Reveals America’s Favorite Quick-Service Restaurants

America's Favorite Quick-Service Restaurants

Papa Murphy’s is again top pizza chain, Chick-fil-A ranks first for chicken

Louisville, CO  (  A new nationwide study by Market Force Information, a worldwide leader in customer intelligence solutions, reveals consumers’ favorite quick-service restaurant (QSR) chains in four popular food categories: pizza, Mexican fare, chicken and sandwiches. Papa Murphy’s topped the pizza category for the second consecutive year, Chipotle and Qdoba tied in the Mexican category, Chick-fil-A led for chicken and Jason’s Deli ranked first for sandwiches.

For the rankings, Market Force polled more than 12,700 consumers who were asked to rate their satisfaction with their last experience at a given restaurant and their likelihood to recommend it to others. That data was averaged to rate each restaurant brand on a Composite Loyalty Index. The Market Force study also looked at the attributes that drive these preferences, analyzing factors such as service, food quality and value, as well as the latest industry trends involving social media and mobile technology.

Papa Murphy’s Is Big Cheese Among Pizza Chains

For the second year running, Papa Murphy’s was voted favorite pizza chain, based on customer satisfaction. The Washington-based company differentiates from other pizza restaurants by making pizzas for customers to take home and bake themselves. It edged out Pizza Ranch, which ranked second, followed by Papa John’s, Domino’s and CiCi’s Pizza. [See Graph 1].

America's Favorite Quick-Service Restaurants

Papa Murphy’s Tops for Food, Pizza Ranch Aces Atmosphere

Market Force also asked consumers to rank the top-rated pizza chains on various attributes, such as food, service, atmosphere and value. Papa Murphy’s was a clear winner in the food-related categories and many of the operations-oriented categories, ranking No. 1 for food quality and healthiness, as well as speedy service and cleanliness. Pizza Ranch was recognized for its welcoming atmosphere and friendly staff, and performed well in most other areas. Carry-out chain Little Caesars tied with Papa Murphy’s for value. CiCi’s Pizza also fared well, ranking in the top three for many of the attributes studied. [See Graph 2].

America's Favorite Quick-Service Restaurants

Other Pizza Category Highlights

  • 30% had visited a pizza chain at least five times in the previous 90 days, a fairly low rate compared to visitation rates reported in the other restaurant categories.
  • 23% brought along children on their most recent visit.
  • Pizza Ranch and Little Caesars had the highest stomach share (average number of visits per month) among the chains studied.
  • Pizza Ranch had the highest loyalty card awareness (99%) and participation rate (95%).
  • Domino’s had the greatest customer awareness for its mobile app – 61% were aware of it.
  • With 55%, Papa John’s had the highest mobile app adoption rate.

Chipotle and Qdoba Vie for Mexican Fare Supremacy

In the battle of the burritos, Chipotle and Qdoba Mexican Grill tied for first place. Both Colo.-based restaurant chains have put a unique stamp on their approach to food – Chipotle focuses on the use of natural ingredients, and Qdoba on a varied list of menu items such as specialty burritos, soup and three-cheese queso sauce. El Pollo Loco moved up several spots in this year’s study to land in second place, and was followed by rapidly growing Moe’s Southwest Grill and Del Taco. [See Graph 3].

America's Favorite Quick-Service Restaurants

Chipotle, Qdoba and Moe’s Reign Supreme in Attributes

Not surprisingly, Market Force saw a fairly even split between Chipotle and Qdoba when it asked consumers to rate the chains based on food, service and operational attributes. Chipotle’s food seemed to appeal most to diners, who ranked it first for food quality and healthy food options. Qdoba, meanwhile, was recognized for its friendly staff, fast service and atmosphere. As it did in Market Force’s 2014 QSR study, Del Taco emerged as the price-leader, and was trailed by Chipotle and Taco Bell. Moe’s Southwest Grill scored well in nearly every area, especially friendly staff and healthy food. [See Graph 4].

America's Favorite Quick-Service Restaurants

Other Mexican Food Category Highlights

  • 38% had visited a Mexican chain at least five times in the previous 90 days.
  • 22% brought along children on their most recent visit.
  • Del Taco has highest stomach share, followed by El Pollo Loco.
  • Qdoba had the highest loyalty card awareness (90%), but Del Taco boasted the highest participation rate (100%).
  • Chipotle has the greatest customer awareness for its mobile app (24%), but just barely, with Moe’s Southwest Grill and Taco Bell close behind.
  • 57% said they had downloaded Chipotle’s mobile app; 56% had downloaded Taco John’s app.

Chick-fil-A and Raising Cane’s Neck-in-Neck in Chicken Category

As consumers’ appetite for chicken continues to grow, so does the contest for favorite chicken chain. Chick-fil-A snagged the top spot in Market Force’s 2015 QSR study with 74%, just edging out Raising Cane’s, which earned 73% on the Composite Loyalty Index. In the 2014 study, the tables were turned with Raising Cane’s ranking first and Chick-fil-A a close second. Raising Cane’s is a regional chain focused in the Louisiana area and known for its chicken fingers, which are growing in popularity among adults and children alike. It has undergone rapid growth in the past few years and has plans to expand to other parts of the country. Zaxby’s and Wingstop came in third and fourth, respectively, as they did in 2014. [See Graph 5].

America's Favorite Quick-Service Restaurants

Chick-fil-A and Raising Cane’s Trump Others in Key Categories

The top-three-ranked chicken chains also consistently scored in the top three of the attributes evaluated in the study. Raising Cane’s was the food favorite, and also lauded for its speed of service. Chick-fil-A dominated in the staff friendliness, value and atmosphere categories. It was recognized for offering the healthiest food options, as were El Pollo Loco, Zaxby’s and Boston Market. [See Graph 6].

America's Favorite Quick-Service Restaurants
Chicken Chains by Attributes

Other Chicken Category Highlights

  • 38% had visited a chicken chain at least five times in the previous 90 days.
  • 24% brought along children on their most recent visit.
  • Raising Cane’s has highest stomach share, followed by El Pollo Loco.
  • Raising Cane’s had the highest loyalty card awareness (55%), but Wingstop prevailed with the highest participation rate (100%).
  • Wingstop also has the greatest customer awareness for its mobile app (24%), and the highest download rate (61%).

Jason’s Deli and Firehouse Subs Rise to Top

Sandwiches continue to be a growing quick-service and fast-casual restaurant sector, excelling even when the economy was in a downturn. Within the sector, Jason’s Deli has evidently found the secret to consumers’ stomachs, beating out incumbent Firehouse Subs to be named favorite sandwich chain in this year’s study. Family-owned Jason’s Deli has grown to more than 250 locations in nearly 30 states, differentiating itself with a salad bar and a menu focused on healthier food. McAlister’s Deli, Jersey Mike’s and Panera Bread also fared well on the list. [See Graph 7].

America's Favorite Quick-Service Restaurants

Market Force also included three convenience store brands in the sandwich category this year, given that convenience stores are increasingly putting the squeeze on QSRs by offering customized and fresh food options. Of them, Wawa was the strongest performer, scoring nearly as well as traditional sandwich brands such as Jimmy John’s and McCalister’s Deli—and clearly outperforming Subway.

Jason’s Deli Has Best Food, Jimmy John’s is Fastest

Among sandwich lovers, Jason’s Deli has not only the best food, but also the best value, atmosphere and friendliest staff. The only area where Jason’s Deli was outdone is speed of service, which went to Jimmy John’s. Firehouse Subs, which claimed the sandwich chain title in 2014, also had a strong showing in food quality, service and value. When it comes to offering healthful food, consumers believe Jason’s Deli, Panera and McAlister’s Deli deliver better than the competition. [See Graph 8].

America's Favorite Quick-Service Restaurants

Other Sandwich Category Highlights

  • 52% – higher than any other category – had visited a sandwich chain at least five times in the previous 90 days.
  • 16% – the lowest of any other category – brought along children on their most recent visit.
  • Wawa has highest share of stomach, followed by McAlister’s Deli and Subway.
  • Panera had the highest loyalty card awareness (93%) and participation rate (91%).
  • Panera also has the greatest customer awareness for its mobile app (27%), but Wawa boasted the highest download rate (65%).

Kiosks, Apps and Tablets – Oh Yes!

Market Force’s study shows the use of technology to place orders and pay for them at QSRs and fast-casual restaurants is taking off. In fact, approximately half of consumers said they had used some form of technology to place their food orders within the previous 90 days – 20% used a smartphone app, 16% used a tablet at the table and 13% used a kiosk in the restaurant. What’s more, one in five (19%) diners noted that they had paid for their food using either a mobile app or digital wallet within the previous 90 days.

“Most restaurant brands are focusing on service as their competitive differentiator today, but that may not be the case tomorrow as technology for ordering and paying continues to attract attention,” said Cheryl Flink, chief strategy officer for Market Force. “Our study found that nearly one in three consumers prefer using tabletop technology or apps to place their orders and pay. That’s a surprising shift, and speaks to consumers’ growing thirst for convenience, speed and accuracy.”

Survey Demographics

The survey was conducted online in January 2015 across the United States. The pool of 12,755 respondents represented a cross-section of the four U.S. census regions, and reflected a broad spectrum of income levels, with 50% reporting household incomes of more than $50,000 a year. Respondents’ ages ranged from 18 to over 65. Approximately 67% were women and 33% were men.

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About Market Force Information

Market Force is the leading global customer intelligence solutions company for multi-location businesses, including major retailers, restaurants, grocery and convenience stores, financial institutions, entertainment studios and consumer packaged goods companies. Market Force has pioneered the industry with a suite of customer intelligence solutions that enable multi-location business to manage operational excellence and customer loyalty. Proprietary decision-support tools comprise a platform of data collection techniques including mystery shopping, customer surveys and contact center; analytics algorithms for predicting growth in loyalty and financial metrics; and a technology platform for integrating multiple data streams. Market Force solutions enable brands to identify the actions required at the store level to increase customer loyalty and improve financial performance. For more information, visit