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STUDY: U.S. Diners Favorite Quick-Service Restaurants

Market Force Information's nationwide study reveals consumers’ favorite QSRs based on satisfaction.
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The COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed the world as we know it. For the QSR industry, the most powerful success metric has changed. Why guests chose one restaurant over another has transformed into a dynamic scenario defined by visit satisfaction, and brand trust, each playing off the other across the lifetime of the consumer’s engagement. The competitive benchmark study examines these changes surveying why customers prefer one brand over another, looking at factors such as service, trust, food quality, value, and technology. There are clear winners and losers in each category highlighted in the findings below.

In-N-Out is a Fan Favorite

In-N-Out fans are known for their fierce loyalty and – in many cases – their pleas for this regional burger chain to bring a location to their town. The noted California-based chain ranked No. 1 with 71%.3, followed by Five Guys Burgers and Fries, and Culvers. On the flip side, Carl’s Jr., Burger King, and McDonald’s received the lowest scores among the 11 chains studied. The study found Five Guys Burgers and Fries rated highest on food quality with 73.6% demonstrating their strong focus on execution in each restaurant.

The battle between quick-service restaurants for chicken sandwich sales has yet to lose any steam entering 2021. Chick-fil-A snagged the top spot in Market Force’s 2021 QSR study with 76%, just slightly higher than Raising Cane’s, which earned 72%. Category-leader Chick-fil-A received the highest scores in every category. Raising Cane’s was the leader in overall satisfaction. Recognized with a 2021 Glassdoor Employees’ Choice Award, Raising Cane’s received strong scores in staff friendliness and helpfulness.

Little Caesars Takes the Pie

The ease and affordability of pizza made it a pandemic staple for many families and a rare bright spot for the QSR industry as a whole. Little Caesars, with its Reserve-N-Ready pizza, is leading in food quality for consumers, earning it the No. 1 spot with 54%. “Reserve-N-Ready,” allows customers to order directly from the mobile app or website and when the order is ready, guests receive a notification, swing by the store, and pick up the pizza without any direct contact. Little Caesars' innovation received the 2019 MURTEC Breakthrough Award. Consumers ranked Papa John’s a favorite for overall service (55%), while Pizza Hut’s staff came out on top as the most friendly (52%) in this highly competitive category.

In the great Mexican grill showdown, Chipotle, known for its highly customizable burritos and bowls, takes the title of consumer favorite for overall satisfaction. With Del Taco and El Pollo Loco, the fire grilled chicken restaurant chain, following close behind. El Pollo Loco’s menu offerings were a standout with diners, who ranked it first in the food quality category. Notably El Pollo Loco has also increased accessibility to better-for-you food options. Del Taco, the nation’s second-largest Mexican quick-service restaurant chain, led the pack for fast and friendly service.

Consumers Favor Jersey Mike’s 

The sandwich wars continued with top brands competing intensely for the overall share of stomachs. Jersey Mike’s and Firehouse Subs are far-and-away the nation’s preferred sandwich chains, according to Market Force’s study. Guests can place takeout orders in-store or for pickup through the website or the Jersey Mike’s app making it a convenient choice for its digital experience. Both brands ranked 80% on overall satisfaction. Jimmy John’s and Panera also ranked high on the list.

To see the entire study results along with additional categories download the competitive benchmark study at

Survey Demographics

The survey was conducted online in Q1 2021 across the United States. The pool of 9,555 respondents represented a cross-section of the four U.S. census regions, and reflected a broad spectrum of income levels, with 67% reporting household incomes of more than $50,000 a year. Respondents’ ages ranged from 18 to over 65. Approximately 71% were women and 28% were men.

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