When it comes to familiarity, product quality, and intent to purchase, consumers rank Subway higher than any other quick-service brand, according to a new study.

Dairy Queen, Wendy’s, Five Guys, and Chick-fil-A round out the top five of the Harris Poll EquiTrend Study, which measures and compares brand health for more than 1,500 brands. More than 20,000 members of the general population participate in the study.

Subway earned a score of 73.07 in the study, about 11 points above the quick-service category average of 61.67.

“When you look at companies like Subway, like Einstein Bagels, like Panera, you see that quality of product is huge in the decision-making process,” says Mary Bouchard, vice president of consumer goods, retail, and restaurant research at Harris Interactive. “The more these restaurants have been leaning toward higher quality, the more their ratings start going up.”

In the pizza category, Papa John’s unseated Pizza Hut for the first time. This is the first time in Harris Poll’s eight-year history that Pizza Hut has not earned top marks as the pizza chain brand of the year.

Harris also debuted a new category with its 2012 poll to survey the coffee category. Consumers ranked Einstein Bros. Bagels as the No. 1 quick-service coffee company, followed by Dunkin’ Donuts.

Bouchard points to McDonald’s debut of its McCafé service as changing the face of the coffee industry by suggesting quality coffee drinks can exist at reasonable prices outside fancy coffeehouses.

“I would say that Einstein has done a terrific job of combining the new positioning of coffeehouses with bringing in the trend of healthy, reasonably priced foods to go with it,” Bouchard says. “They have really started to pick up on that trend of delivering food with coffee, and then actually serving food that is considered much healthier for you. It’s the same kind of food, if you think about it, that you see being sold in Subway.”

The most important aspect when considering the poll, Bouchard says, is not a brand’s score for a particular year, but its trend over time.

Georgetown University, for example, analyzed the EquiTrend study to track whether a real relationship exists between perception of a company and its stock or financial performance. Georgetown reported that brand equity, built on a brand’s relevance, quality, consumer connection, and buzz, can be an actual predictor of stock performance in financially difficult times.

By Sonya Chudgar

Consumer Trends, Menu Innovations, News, Operations, Sandwiches, Chick-fil-A, Dairy Queen, Dunkin' Donuts, Einstein Bros. Bagels, Five Guys, McDonald's, Papa Johns, Pizza Hut, Subway, Wendy's