Consumers' favorite chains 2016
Quality resonates with consumers, even in quick service. Their four favorite QSRs fit in the niche between traditional fast food and pricier fast casual, a segment that Technomic calls “QSR-plus.” At these chains, operators are stressing better ambiance and good value. Food is touted as being higher quality and more wholesome than at chains such as McDonald’s or Taco Bell, but at a price point below the double-digit average of the fast-casual market.
Parent: Chick-fil-A Inc.
Sticking to its Southern-hospitality roots doesn’t mean Chick-fil-A isn’t willing to adapt, especially as it grows. When it opened its first full-scale New York City unit last October, for example, the chain, known for taking its time with guests, modified service—placing orders via iPads—to accommodate busy customers. It’s also exploring which menu trends appeal to its diners. It tested a spicy Sriracha sauce, superfood salad with kale and a barbecue sandwich last year. Up next: new mobile-app technology and nutritious options on both the regular and kids’ meal menus, says SVP and CMO Jon Bridges.
Service and hospitality: 76.7%
Appearance and ambiance: 60.0%
Food and beverage: 59.7%
Convenience and takeout: 67.5%
#2 Papa Murphy's
It was a big year for the perennial favorite take-and-bake pizza chain, which hit 1,500 units and divested its stake in fast-casual Project Pie. Many of Papa Murphy’s consumer-driven developments centered on tech, including the debut of a nutrition tracker on its website and a new mobile-ordering app, launched in December.
#3 In-N-Out Burger
As usual, In-N-Out hasn’t changed much in the last year, yet its cultlike status remains intact. While many chains try to stay up on the latest trends, In-N-Out keeps its menu the same. It’s relatively quiet on social media, though it did go against the tide of partnering with delivery services, suing a third party for using its logo and delivering its food without permission.
Under the direction of the first non-family-member CEO, the QSR known for Butter Burgers continues to expand outside of its Midwestern roots. It’s also using LTOs to channel current trends—particularly the spicy craze popular among younger consumers—with ingredients such as four-pepper mayo, jalapenos and local Wisconsin pepper-Jack cheese.
While the fro-yo trend may have hit market saturation, Pinkberry (which was acquired by Kahala Brands in December) managed to keep its tart frozen yogurt popular with consumers. It’s stayed fresh by adding new flavors—including its first dairy-free option—rolling out a happy-hour deal this summer and testing delivery with third-party vendor Postmates.