Here are the chain restaurants customers say have slipped the most over the past year. The data, which measures eight categories including service and hospitality, convenience and takeout, value, and brand image, comes from the Ignite: Consumer platform, a data service of Restaurant Business sister company Technomic.
Standout stat: 6.1-point drop in perceived value
Quick-service pizza buffet chain Cicis ranked in the bottom 10 in six guest-satisfaction categories, more than any other restaurant brand surveyed by Technomic. The chain saw its overall consumer satisfaction decline by 6.7 points year over year. Cicis recorded the largest drops in perceived value (6.1 points), unit appearance and ambiance (5.6 points), food and beverage quality (5.5 points) and service and hospitality (5.3 points). The chain recently added a new chief operating officer to oversee day-to-day operations and supervise training at all 430 units. Cicis also has a fairly new CEO, Bill Mitchell, who previously served as president of Dunkin’ Brands’ 8,500-store international operation.
Standout stat: Bottom 10 in four guest happiness categories
Scandal-rocked pizza chain Papa John’s found itself in the bottom 10 in four consumer satisfaction metrics, with its overall rating plummeting 8.6 points—more than any other chain surveyed. The company saw its biggest declines in service and hospitality (5.8 points) and, perhaps unsurprisingly, brand image (5.5 points). The brand spent the second half of the year trying to recover from John Schnatter, the company’s founder and spokesman, using a racial slur during a conference call in May. Papa John’s and Schnatter have been at war ever since, and the chain has shuttered units amid declining sales. A number of private-equity firms have been rumored to be interested in buying the brand.
Standout stat: 6.4-point drop in guest satisfaction
Consumers also appear to be less satisfied with fast-casual burger chain Smashburger, according to Technomic. The brand garnered four bottom 10 mentions and saw its overall consumer satisfaction decline 6.4 points year over year. Smashburger recorded its steepest declines in customer satisfaction in the areas of food and beverage and convenience and takeout, both of which dropped 4.6 points. The chain’s service and hospitality scores also declined 4.4 points. Despite drops in satisfaction metrics, Smashburger is slated for global expansion. In February 2018, Filipino foodservice giant Jollibee Foods Corp. acquired a majority stake in Smashburger, boosting its ownership share to 85%, with plans to grow the brand.
Standout stat: 5.2-point drop in perceived value
Diners are less happy this year with their experiences at Which Wich than last year. The fast-casual sandwich chain ranked in the bottom 10 in four categories and had its overall guest-satisfaction rating drop 4.6 points. Consumers said they were less satisfied with the brand’s value, image, unit appearance and ambiance, and food and beverage, among other qualities. In August, the Dallas-based parent company of Which Wich acquired the 32-unit Paciugo Gelato chain. The move expands the daypart offerings of parent company Sinelli Concepts International, which is also developing a coffee concept and a Mexican burger chain.
Checkers Drive-In Restaurants
Standout stat: Dropped 6.1 points in unit appearance and ambiance
Also losing favor this year with consumers is Checkers Drive-In Restaurants, which placed in the bottom 10 in three consumer satisfaction categories. The quick-service burger brand lost more ground than any other chain in the survey in unit appearance and ambiance, falling 6.1 points year over year. It also saw sharp declines in food and beverage satisfaction and consumer happiness with technology, dropping 4.9 points in each category. Checkers and sister brand, Rally’s, were acquired in 2017 by Oak Hill Capital Partners. The chains have seen significant declines in same-store sales in recent months, and many company-owned stores have been sold to franchisees.
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.