Consumers’ most loved chains aren’t just focused on one aspect of their restaurants—they are winning in service, ambiance and convenience, along with the food. One category to noticeably receive lower points than the rest of the categories: value. While about half of consumers rate each of the top 10 brands as a good value, they all have a higher overall score than the contributing value percentage.
Overall Score: 62.9%
There’s no denying that Chick-fil-A is keeping up with the times to stay top of mind for modern consumers. Through a range of initiatives, the Atlanta-based chicken chain is assuring it can get its food to guests no matter where they are. Most recently, the chain went nationwide with delivery, expanding its partnership with DoorDash in November to 1,100 locations. “So many of our guests’ busy lives and family commitments have them strapped for time,” said Jon Bridges, Chick-fil-A’s chief marketing officer, in a statement. “If they’re unable to come to us, we’ll come to them.”
Adding weight to its interest in delivery, the chain also opened a pair of delivery-only locations, in Nashville and Louisville, Ky., in October. The units, which won’t have dining rooms or drive-thrus, will serve as hubs for catering and delivery orders and will not accept cash. Both are large (5,800 and 4,800 square feet, respectively), with the majority of the space dedicated to the kitchen. The Nashville unit is strategically located in a busy area near major businesses, hospitals and universities with access to a highway.
Knowing that consumers don’t always want restaurant meals, the chain also started testing a meal kit brand, Mealtime Kits, late this summer, making it the first major quick-service chain to dip into the meal kit trend. Unlike most meal kits, though, the nonsubscription service features five two-person meals with premeasured ingredients that guests can pick up in the drive-thru or at the front counter.
These initiatives have led to high convenience scores for Chick-fil-A, but it’s also winning for its service and hospitality. Other brands within the top 10, too, see high scores in both the convenience and service categories, showing that full-service chains aren’t the only ones doing hospitality well. And, at the same time, even steakhouses need to think about how convenience and takeout translate to their brands.
2. Newk's Eatery
Overall Score: 60.8%
Newk’s isn’t resting on its lunch traffic. In a move to boost its dinner business and gain the favor of busy consumers—especially parents—the fast casual launched large-batch takeout meals last year. Structured similarly to fresh-food options in grocery stores, the Express Market offers family-size portions of grilled proteins and sides, which can be used to build a meal on their own or combined with consumers’ at-home staples. “Guests coming in for lunch also want high-quality dinners at home, so we’re making it easy for them to pick up the center of the plate for dinner by offering premium flame-grilled proteins ready to take home,” said Stewart Slocum, Newk’s CMO, in a statement.
That convenience factor is one of the reasons Newk’s was named the top fast-casual chain by consumers: Seven in 10 rate that chain as very good in the convenience and takeout category. The chain is consistently named one of the chains that has mastered delivery when it comes to consumer satisfaction.
5. Maggiano's Little Italy
Overall Score: 59.5%
The top upscale-casual chains stand out from the pack due to their emphasis on high-quality food. More than half of consumers rate Maggiano’s, in particular, high for both its menu and value. While the chain emphasizes its made-from-scratch dishes, its recently expanded Today & Tomorrow pasta menu—which allows guests to choose a specialty or classic pasta and take home a second classic pasta for free—adds to the value factor.
6. The Capital Grille
Overall Score: 59.2%
Even steakhouses are tapping into consumers’ interest in going more casual, including when it comes to upscale dining. Early in 2018, The Capital Grille parent Darden decided to capitalize on the popularity of the steakhouse chain’s burger. It launched a spinoff, The Capital Burger, in Washington, D.C. To keep that high-end vibe, though, the concept bills itself as selling “luxury burgers and spiked milkshakes,” touting luxury touches such as a wine program and a signature beef blend from a well-known purveyor.
The Technomic Ignite: Consumer program is an ongoing study that tracks the performance of leading chains by measuring the consumer experience. This report includes the top chains in the U.S. by sales, plus 53 additional chains to round out categories or capture regional data. The data represents responses from over 100,000 consumers, collected from Q4 2017 to Q3 2018. Scores represent the percentage of respondents who strongly agree with the statements, on a scale of 1 to 5.