Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Why Everyone Loves Chick-Fil-A

Why Everyone Loves Chick-Fil-A
The American Consumer Satisfaction Index Restaurant Report was released last week and, once again, Captain Obvious made the announcement: everybody loves Chick-Fil-A. The quick chicken and waffle fries chain took the top spot on the list with a wide margin, scoring 87 out of 100. The next highest score won by pizza chain Papa John’s was five points lower.

With locations in 43 states and Washington D.C., Chick-Fil-A has achieved near state saturation in the U.S. and amassed more than $6 billion in sales last year. As its competitors try everything to get people through the door – salads, ‘ribwiches’, breakfast at the taco joint and tacos at the burger joint – Chick-Fil-A just keeps churning out chicken three ways: sandwich, salad, and nuggets (or strips).

So, you can get it on a bun, on greens or free to dip, but you’re getting chicken…and people love them for it. The secret of their success? Doing what they do well, very well…and treating customers to a better fast food experience than they can get other places.

Service is quick, even with the massive volume. Restaurants are clean, and the staff is pleasant. It’s a model some fast food chains are beginning to imitate, but they’re late to the party in a consumer PR world largely shifted to the immediate customer experience. People love eating at Chick-Fil-A, and they love talking about eating at Chick-Fil-A. Even very high profile sociopolitical troubles in recent years have not slowed the restaurant’s popularity. Two other winners showed strong gains. Both Little Caesar’s and Arby’s saw their scores jump, nearly by double digits. Like Chick-Fil-A, these places have simple menus based around specific core items. Other places scoring at least 8 out of 10 include Panera, Dunkin’ Donuts, and Subway. Once again, these places offer a specific menu focus.

Customers know what they’re getting and go there for those items. Of course, strong customer satisfaction doesn’t always lead to top sales. Some restaurants that do well at the register don’t score so hot when consumers are asked about their experience. McDonald’s, which has been experiencing a downturn, scored relatively poorly, dead last at 60 out of 100. But the Golden Arches remains wildly popular, even though consumer tastes have their sales lagging. Head-to-head, a slowdown at McDonald’s might be considered an improvement for other brands.

Taco Bell and Starbucks both topped out at 75, a rating that puts them in the bottom ten. While both chains have their rabid fans, they apparently overlook “satisfaction” for other deliverables. While this has been “enough” in recent years, that trend is changing. Chick-Fil-A is driving the bus and setting the trend. Expect others to follow, or be left further behind.

Ronn Torossian is the Founder and CEO of the New York based public relations firm 5WPR: one of the 20 largest PR Firms in the United States.

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