What does it take to be the most loved chain in America? Top-notch service, for starters. Couple that with high marks for convenience, ambiance and food, and there are the makings of a winner. (Scroll down to see the list of this year's top 10 chains.)
Few chains embody the blend of service and convenience reflected in this year’s consumer favorite: Chick-fil-A. The Atlanta-based chicken giant continues to innovate to remain relevant for today’s consumers.
Last fall, the 2,500-unit chain added dine-in mobile ordering, allowing guests to order through the Chick-fil-A app and choose to have food delivered to their table. The convenience was targeted toward parents, the chain said, offering them the bonus of not having to wait in line with fussy, hungry kids.
Building on the delivery-only kitchens it opened last year, Chick-fil-A continues to add its own ghost kitchens as well as partner with ghost-kitchen provider Kitchen United. The move allows the chain to effectively add locations with minimal real estate cost. And, because it’s such a well-known brand, consumers don’t appear to have qualms about patronizing a delivery-only unit instead of a physical location.
In addition to these operational changes, the chain continues to improve its menu. Several years ago, Chick-fil-A set a goal of eliminating antibiotics from its chicken supply, a practice that has been shown to be especially important to millennial and Gen Z consumers. The company met that goal earlier than planned and has added the antibiotic-free designation to its packaging.
And in another move designed to resonate especially with millennials (and their children), the chain added mac and cheese as a side, snack and catering option following testing of the item in five markets. It’s the brand’s first permanent menu addition in three years.
|Chain||Service & Hospitality||Appearance & Ambiance||Food & Beverage||Convenience & Takeout||Value||Overall Score|
|2||Fleming's Prime Steakhouse||72.2%||67.0%||61.1%||59.6%||50.5%||62.0%|
|3||Ruth's Chris Steak House||75.1%||65.9%||60.4%||58.7%||46.5%||61.1%|
|6||Papa Murphy's Pizza||71.6%||49.2%||57.2%||72.6%||54.4%||59.1%|
|8||Cracker Barrel Old Country Store||66.3%||59.8%||57.9%||57.1%||50.3%||58.1%|
|9||Tropical Smoothie Cafe||63.2%||51.7%||62.6%||61.4%||47.2%||57.8%|
Source: Technomic Ignite consumer data; scores represent the percentage of respondents who strongly agree with the statements, on a scale of 1 to 5.