Chick-fil-A, 2 Darden Concepts Earn Top Spots in ACSI Report

Cumulative customer satisfaction increased at both full-service and fast-food restaurants, but quality and value remain paramount, says the ACSI.

Champaign Circa June 2023: LongHorn Steakhouse casual dining restaurant. LongHorn Steakhouse is owned and operated by Darden Restaurants.
LongHorn Steakhouse led all chains in customer satisfaction in 2024, with a score of 85 out of 100.

The American Customer Satisfaction Index Restaurant and Food Delivery Study 2024 was released today, June 25, offering a glimpse into specific chains’ satisfaction rates, plus the impact of inflation.

The study consisted of 14,604 customer surveys, completed between April 2023 and March 2024. Overall, it found that customer satisfaction went up for both full-service and fast-food restaurants—to the tune of 1% year-over-year for the latter category, at 79, and up 4% for full-service restaurants, at 84.

According to the metrics, some of the highest-rated chains include:

• LongHorn Steakhouse and Texas Roadhouse: These two each earned the best customer satisfaction scores at 85 out of 100. According the ACSI, “despite inflation, Texas Roadhouse is keen on keeping prices low and investing heavily in staffing.”
• Olive Garden: The sister brand to LongHorn, under the Darden Restaurants umbrella, trailed just behind the category leaders with an 83, followed by Cracker Barrel at 82.
• Chick-fil-A: On the fast-food side, Chick-fil-A led for the tenth consecutive year, despite dropping 2% to an 83. “This long-term success is reflected in revenue, as the chain’s non-mall locations averaged $9.4 million in revenue in 2023 (more than double that of McDonald’s while being open one day less per week),” says the ACSI.
• KFC: The Yum Brands chain again trailed just behind Chick-fil-A with a score of 81, staying consistent with its 2023 score.
• Arby’s, Culver’s, Panera Bread and Starbucks: This quartet was in a tie for third among fast-food chains, with each earning an index score of 80.

Also of note were two brands’ performance changes:

• Outback Steakhouse: The full-service chain, which led the category in 2023, slipped by 4% to 80. ACSI remarks that Outback “appears to be challenged by a slowdown in spending by lower-income consumers, consistent with ACSI findings regarding their customers’ price sensitivity.”
• Sonic: Though No. 15 on the list, Sonic made the biggest leap among fast-food eateries with a 6% increase to 76. On the full-service side, IHOP jumped 8% to 78.

Finding the Common Ground

The ACSI says consumers are increasingly viewing dining out as a luxury, with households earning less than $75,000 a year reducing their restaurant visits because of rising prices. In step, brands including Panera, Olive Garden, Chili’s and Arby’s are focusing on value propositions, notes the ACSI.

“Both full-service and fast-food restaurant customers are skewing a bit more toward higher income levels and college graduates,” says Forrest Morgeson, director of research emeritus at the ACSI, in a release. “Customers are being forced to make decisions between groceries and restaurants, with full-service restaurant inflation about two times that of groceries in the past year and fast food and fast casual restaurants prices up three times the rate of groceries. With customers seemingly viewing dining out a luxury, restaurants that can differentiate themselves in terms of quality and value will have a competitive advantage.”

To view the full ACSI 2024 report, which also delves into customer satisfaction with the food delivery platforms Uber Eats, DoorDash and Grubhub, click here.

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