A survey of over 32,000 Consumer Reports magazine subscribers in the United States ranked McDonald’s hamburgers as the worst of 96,200 dining experiences at 65 national and regional fast and casual restaurant chains serving hamburgers, Asian, pizza, sandwich, chicken and Mexican foods.
The most important finding of the study for these restaurant chains is that they’re missing the key to fully satisfying customers today, particularly the millennial audience segment. According to the survey findings, only 20% of consumers consider whether or not a restaurant has healthy menu options when they eat out, and only 19% ordered a healthy menu item the last time they ate out.
Fast and casual restaurant chains are adding to their healthy menus, but that isn’t the top priority for consumers. The survey found that consumers are not concerned about dieting when they eat out. They’re concerned with quality and taste.
Of course, the convenience and affordability of fast and casual restaurants keep consumers coming back again and again, but recent brand strategies seem to be heading in the wrong direction. As sales for fast and casual restaurants decline, it appears to be time to re-strategize and shift priorities for these brands.
Given these important findings, let’s take a look at how the top players in the fast and casual restaurant industry fared in the Consumer Reports survey.
1st Place: The Habitat Grill
2nd Place: In-n-Out Burger
3rd Place: Five Guys Burgers and Fries
Last Place: McDonald’s
1st Place: Chick-fil-A
2nd Place: Boston Market
3rd Place: El Pollo Loco
Last Place: KFC
1st Place: Rubio’s Fresh Mexican Grill
2nd Place: Chipotle Mexican Grill
3rd Place: Qdoba Mexican Grill
Last Place: Taco Bell
In a press release, Consumer Reports senior projects editor Tod Marks called for large fast and casual restaurant chains to take notice of shifting consumer demands saying, “Strong regional players and slightly more upscale fast-casual chains like Chipotle are giving the heavy-hitters in the fast-food business a wake-up call. And our survey clearly shows the big guys need to respond.”
It’s important to remember that many of the restaurant brands that ranked high in this survey don’t necessarily offer healthier menu choices overall. Again, consumers have made it clear that they want quality and taste when they eat out. The opportunity is wide open for these smaller brands to steal market share from the heavy hitters.
What do you think? Do you consider diet and health when choosing a restaurant? Is it the most important consideration or is quality and taste more important?
McDonald’s and similar restaurant brands have experienced negative publicity due to their unhealthy menu options, but based on this study, it appears that the problems these brands face are actually quite different from calorie counting.
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