When it comes to consumer satisfaction, Krystal Company has seen the greatest declines of any of the top-grossing restaurant chains, according to newly available data. The burger chain’s overall guest satisfaction ratings declined 10.4 percentage points—from 47.1% to 36.7%—over the past year versus the same period the previous year, finds Consumer Brand Metrics data from Restaurant Business’ sister company Technomic.
Krystal wasn’t the only chain to see its consumer ratings fall. Here are the chains that declined the most in service and hospitality, unit appearance and ambiance, food and beverage, technology, value and more.
The casual-dining chain showed an overall guest-satisfaction decline of 7 percentage points year-over-year, including a 6.8 percentage point drop (from 43.3% to 36.5%) in perceived value by customers. Consumers also ranked the chain 6.4 percentage points lower in food and beverage quality, 2.6 points lower in service and hospitality, and 4 percentage points lower in unit appearance and ambiance. “Usually the food is better and fresher,” one survey respondent said of Applebee’s. “The salad was brown. I had to send my steak back and my friend’s salmon was dry and overcooked.”
Consumers rated their guest satisfaction with Waffle House 7.1 percentage points lower than the same period last year, from 47.4% to 40.3%. The family-dining chain’s steepest declines came in service and hospitality (-7.5 percentage points), food and beverage (-6.4 percentage points), value (-6.3 percentage points), unit appearance and ambiance (-5.9 percentage points), and convenience and takeout (-5.2 percentage points). Said one survey respondent: “The place was dirty. The staff was standing around like they did not know what to do. The place was packed. It took over an hour to get our food and it was not right and (we) still did not receive some of our items.”
Fast-casual chicken wing concept Zaxby’s had an overall guest-satisfaction drop of 8.4 percentage points, from 57.4% to 49.1%. That included a 6.1 point decrease in satisfaction with convenience and takeout, a 6 point drop in value, a 4.6 percentage point decline in food and beverage quality and a 3.5 point dip in technology. One customer noted inconsistencies in quality across the brand on the Technomic survey, saying, “When I usually visit this establishment in my home state, they are usually very good and the food is fresh. When I visited recently in the state in which I live now, the food is not so hot and juicy. It's very bland.”
Consumers rated Godfather’s Pizza 8.6 percentage points lower (from 59.9% to 51.3%) on a variety of guest-satisfaction metrics compared to a year ago. The quick-service pizza chain posted a 6.7 point drop in perceived value, as well as a 4.7 percentage point decrease in unit appearance and ambiance, a 4.6 point decline in food and beverage quality, a 4.6 point drop in satisfaction with technology, and a 4.1 percentage point decline in overall perception of the brand’s image. “They keep changing the recipe of the pizza and now I don’t like it at all,” one respondent said.
In addition to Krystal Company’s 10.4 percentage point overall decline in guest satisfaction, consumers rated the chain lower than the previous year on a variety of metrics: Customers said Krystal’s food and beverage quality, as well as perceived value, dropped 5 percentage points, while convenience and takeout satisfaction declined 4.1 points. Said one respondent, “The wait was far longer than usual, and they got the order wrong.”
Other sharp declines in customer satisfaction
Some brands managed to keep their overall ratings up but saw dips in specific metrics. For example, consumers rated Smashburger 8.2 percentage points lower on brand fit and loyalty compared to a year ago.
Domino’s, which frequently makes headlines for its ordering and delivery innovation, was rated 6.1 points lower in technology than the previous year. Consumers, it appears, may not be finding the technology so user-friendly. Said one respondent: "Taste good but forces me to order online and not by phone."
First Watch saw a 7.5 point decline in unit appearance and ambiance.