- Customer satisfaction in the restaurant industry dropped by 0.6%, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index Restaurant Report 2018-2019. The report, which was emailed to Restaurant Dive, shows mixed results, with the full-service industry maintaining a satisfaction score of 81, while limited-service scores dropped by 1.3% to 79.
- Limited-service restaurants declined in every area of customer experience, including store layout and cleanliness, food order accuracy, service speed and beverage and food quality.
- Segment leaders are Texas Roadhouse for full-service, with a score of 83, and Chick-fil-A for limited-service, with a score of 86. This marks Chick-fil-A's fourth year in a row atop of the overall rankings.
These results illustrate an interesting narrative happening in limited-service. Chains continue to jockey for value positioning in an attempt to generate more traffic, but instead have found themselves with lower customer satisfaction scores — likely because such a heavy focus on value compromises perception. Taco Bell, McDonald's and KFC have all sharpened their focus on value in the past few months, which has helped with sales, but not so much with traffic.
David VanAmburg, managing director at the ACSI, said in the press release that foot traffic continues to decline overall mostly due to increased competition.
Still, there are signs of optimism throughout the space. As foot traffic slows, off-premise business is increasingly playing an important role and is projected to account for 37% of restaurant industry sales in 2018, according to the report. This perhaps justifies the increased focus on delivery, carryout and catering channels — a focus that has paid off at many full-service concepts and could very well do the same in QSR sooner than later. In April, 72% of casual dining operators reported delivery growth, while 49% of QSR operators reported the same. Meanwhile, catering grew 50% faster than the restaurant industry in 2018. Off-premise fits growing diner demands to consume their meals whenever and wherever they want. By meeting those demands, customer satisfaction scores will likely get a bump.
The report also indicates that QSRs have some more work to do in the categories of order accuracy and speed of service, both of which were down 2% this year. This downward trajectory comes as a bit of a surprise as a number of QSRs invest more money in consumer-facing technologies specifically to enhance these two attributes. Order accuracy issues could be affected by the growth in third-party delivery business, which can add a significant amount of pressure on kitchen operations and an influx of orders into a restaurant’s point-of-sale system. With so much tech implementation in the works, it could just be another year before customer satisfaction rises in the QSR segment. Full-service restaurants, for example, experienced a 3.8% boost in satisfaction a year ago after chains responded to changing customer preferences.
Speed of service has been affected by larger, sometimes complex menus. Some chains are working out these kinks, however. Checkers and Rally's, for example, fully integrated its five delivery partners into its POS system to ensure orders went straight to the kitchen for better accuracy. McDonald's knocked a number of items off of its menu in an attempt to speed up service and has also invested in a mobile app developer and bought Dynamic Yield, a technology company focused on personalization and decision logic at the drive-thru.
Although the results between QSR and full-service tell two different tales this year, it's important to note the expectations between the two segments are different. Customers are likely seeking speed, convenience and value when choosing a limited-service experience. Actual customer service is much more in play in the full-service segment with a waitstaff. That said, a 2-point difference between the two segments might seem less substantial.