Customer satisfaction has been a confounding metric to track across 2022. Yelp’s recent State of the Restaurant Industry Report showed a 23 percent bump in guests lamenting long wait times. More notably—yet also intertwined—there was a 229 percent increase in reviews that mentioned short staffing compared to the same time last year.

Is the leeway guests offered restaurants out of the pandemic’s early dives starting to wane?

The American Customer Satisfaction Index’s restaurant study for 2021–2022 interviewed more than 20,100 diners. They were asked to evaluate recent experiences across both sectors in an effort to see where customers are giving credit at this stage of the recovery, and where pain points remain.

Broadly, respondents appeared more satisfied with full-service brands. The category turned in a score of 80 (on a scale to 100), stable from the previous calendar, while fast food slipped 2.6 percent, year-over-year, to 76.


In some respects, this mirrors other Yelp data, which said more consumers are seeking out higher-priced experiences. The idea of fewer trips, but getting your money’s worth. Generally, that’s one side of the token when prices hike and spending tightens. The other is trade-down activity.

READ MORE: Is a recession coming for restaurants?

Yelp, for instance, saw reservations in Q1 hike 107 percent, year-over-year. Per The NPD Group, dine-in visits to open the year increased 38 percent versus a 45 percent decline in Q1 2021. Off-premises at sit-down chains fell 24 percent over a 63 percent rise a year ago.

Simply, dine-in is back in the fold.

For quick-serves, there wasn’t a lot of movement in terms of industry trends with customer satisfaction.


And the brand at the top didn’t budge, either. Chick-fil-A has led ACSI’s list for eight straight years. Sales are reflecting sentiment, too, as evident in this piece.


From this below chart, it’s clear the full-service field has closed the gap with mobile app proliferation and technology adoption. Yet with more choices, across both sides, guests dinged full-service chains on quality. Quick-service brands turned in an 83 versus 78.

American Customer Satisfaction Index

Comparing the charts, sit-down spots were ahead on accuracy (87 to 83), layout and cleanliness (84 to 81), food quality (86 to 81), and food variety (84 to 79).

Staff were more courteous and helpful (84 to 82) at full-service restaurants and offered a wider variety of beverages (83 to 77), as well as beverage quality (84 to 81).

Here’s how the full-service brands ranked. The group of “smaller restaurants” held the lead last year but declined 1 percentage point to 80, which placed it in a three-way tie with LongHorn and Texas Roadhouse.

American Customer Satisfaction Index.

Consumer Trends, Fast Food, Finance, Story, Chick-fil-A