Five Guys and Chick-fil-A were selected as the No. 1 and No. 2 favorite quick-serve restaurants in a consumer survey conducted this month by Market Force Information Inc., a provider in customer intelligence solutions. This was one of the findings from a survey Market Force conducted among its network of 300,000 independent mystery shoppers and merchandisers—consumers across the country dubbed “The Force” by Market Force Information. More than 3,000 responded to a series of questions designed to hint at what’s in store for the quick-serve industry in 2010.
When the consumer group was shown a list of the country’s 52 top franchise quick serves and asked to select a favorite, Chick-fil-A and McDonald’s both received the highest number of votes from consumers across the country: 11 percent of the total for each.
But while McDonald’s has almost 14,000 locations in North America, Chick-fil-A has one-tenth that number, and Five Guys has just 3 percent of the McDonald’s chain reach. Since consumers are only likely to vote for restaurants they are familiar with, Market Force wanted to see which chains would win out when the number of restaurants was also considered. When this component was factored in, Five Guys emerged on top of the list with 14.4 percent, followed by Chick-fil-A in second with 12.5 percent. Chipotle and Panera Bread were third and fourth, respectively, with 7.7 percent and 7.3 percent.
When the respondents were asked to score these same restaurant chains for characteristics they appreciate most, Chick-fil-A scored highest in 3 out of 9 categories: friendliness, cleanliness, and accommodating children. Five Guys tied for highest in quality of food with Chipotle, and ranked second in friendliness and cleanliness.
When asked to predict their spending habits with quick serves in the first three months of 2010, slightly more than half of those surveyed said they expected to eat out about the same amount, and an additional 5 percent said they expected to eat out more at quick serves during the first quarter. But 44 percent said they planned to cut back their patronage.
The survey was conducted in early December 2009 among the Market Force network of more than 300,000 consumers. The pool of 3,000 respondents ranged in age from 19 to 72, and reflected a broad spectrum of income levels; approximately half had incomes of more than $50,000 a year. Approximately 75 percent were women, which are the primary household consumer purchasers. Half have children at home.