Everyone Still Loves Chick-Fil-A; Chipotle, Not So Much

Image courtesy of Josh Bassett

There’s good news out there for most of the big restaurant and fast-food chains: customers who like them, continue to like them, and overall find everything about their experiences to be entirely satisfactory.

Every year, the American Customer Satisfaction Index asks Americans how satisfied they are with the service they get, across a huge swath of industries. Cable and ISPs are always unpopular, but restaurants — both full-service and quick-service — perhaps because they face competition, tend to do better.

The ACSI’s latest report (DOC) is now out today, and while it’s good news for most of the eateries… it’s a rough year to be Chipotle, McDonald’s, or Chili’s.

Last year marked the debut in the survey for both Chick-Fil-A and Chipotle, which took the number one (86/100) and number two (83/100) slots, respectively, for “limited-service restaurants” (i.e. fast food) — well above the average of 77.

This year was good to Chick-Fil-A, which continued to hold the top slot, sliding up a point to nab a rating of 87/100. Over in burrito-land, though, a year marred by norovirus, E. Coli, and restaurant closures has not sat well with the general public. Chipotle took the biggest nosedive of any entry on the list and dropped straight to the middle of the pack, scoring a 78 of 100 — slightly below the industry average of 79.


Still, better to be Chipotle today than McDonald’s. For the 7th year in a row, McD’s came in at the very back of the pack, not even hitting C- territory, with a score of 69/100.

Overall, though, consumers reported increased satisfaction across the board — even with the lowest-ranking chains. Burger King, Wendy’s, Jack in the box, and McDonald’s all saw year-over-year increases as compared to 2015, as did Papa John’s, Little Caesars, Domino’s, and Pizza Hut.

When it comes to sit-down restaurants, everyone apparently likes some country cookin’. Cracker Barrel — of biscuit, crowded gift shop, and rocking-chair fame — came in at the top this year with a score of 83. That beat out last year’s champ of Texas Roadhouse, which this year tied for second place with LongHorn Steakhouse at 82.


Diner staple Denny’s has the dubious honor of filling out the other end of the rankings, coming in last with a 74. This is only Denny’s second year in the ratings; last year it debuted in the back of the pack but not at the bottom. But last year’s last-place finisher, Ruby Tuesday, has seen a big increase in customer satisfaction to come in at a 78, tied with TGI Friday’s and leaving Denny’s, Chili’s, and Outback Steakhouse in the dust.

When it comes to what is and isn’t working, restaurants are getting great marks for getting orders right, cleanliness, and quality of food. Even service — both in person and on websites — gets decent marks. But where customers are apparently least happy is with the variety of beverages on offer.

Fast food customers are in the same boat as their slower-service brethren. Accuracy of orders generally ranks very high, but the variety of beverages available to order ranks poorly. Americans, it seems, are decidedly bored with “Coke or Pepsi?”

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