Recognized for the first time, Zaxby’s has been ranked No. 7 in the Top 10 Excellent Large Fast-Food Chains with 500 or more U.S. units in the recently published Quick-Track study conducted by Sandelman & Associates in 2011. Ranked alongside chains like Starbucks and Panera Bread, 51 percent of Zaxby’s guests rated their overall experience a five, or “excellent,” on a five-point scale, showing the company’s distinction in customer satisfaction in the restaurant industry.

“Zaxby’s is rooted in keeping the guest at the center of everything we do,” says CEO and cofounder Zach McLeroy. “This guest-focused mentality has allowed us to grow and improve excellence, and is the link to our success.”

Awards of Excellence are given for overall satisfaction and performance based on 16 attributes of the guests’ dining experience, including “friendliness/courtesy,” “quality of ingredients,” “taste or flavor of food,” and “value for the money.” More than 107,400 fast-casual restaurant diners were surveyed in 2011 by Quick-Track in a total of 87 U.S. media markets. 2011 marks the first year Sandelman & Associates has specifically recognized chains with 500 or more U.S. units in a separate ranking.

“It is much more challenging for a chain to operate in multiple markets with hundreds of units and still sustain the quality environment, food, and service that consumers expect from a restaurant,” says vice president Paul Clarke. “To make the top ten means that diners rate you as one of the best in the country.”

Known for its chicken, Zaxby’s is one of only two regional chains to be ranked in the top 10. One of Zaxby’s core values, developed by its founders, is based on operational excellence: “We strive to achieve the highest quality possible in everything that we do.” This simple operating philosophy is one of the many driving forces behind the company’s steady growth.

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