McDonald's Gets Worst Rating Among Restaurant Chains

Douglas A. McIntyre

McDonald’s Corp. (NYSE: MCD) may dominate fast-food sales in the United States based on revenue, and also as one of the largest in terms of locations, but its customer service rates last in its class. This is one of the conclusions of the new American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) study of restaurant chains. It may be that, in the fast-food sector, service does not matter as much as brand awareness and location convenience.

One a rating scale, the highest possible score of which is 100, ACSI reported an 82 among full-service restaurants and an 80 for fast-food companies. In its statement about the results, the research group’s management reported:

Among the biggest companies, pizza dominates, with all four of the largest pizza chains topping the category. Papa John’s (unchanged) and Pizza Hut (+3%) share the lead at 82, with Little Caesar (-2%) and Domino’s Pizza (-1%) not far behind at 80.

Subway falls out of the top spot (-6% to 78) to tie with Wendy’s, and Burger King is unchanged at 76. Starbucks is down 5 percent to 76, followed closely by coffee rival Dunkin’ Donuts at 75 (-6%). KFC declines the most, dropping 9 percent to 74. Fellow Yum! Brands chain Taco Bell is also down (-3% to 72). At the bottom of the category, McDonald’s dips 3 percent to 71.

McDonald’s is the largest public corporation among the group. However, privately held Subway has gained on it, and recently passed it in terms of number of locations. Subway markets itself as the “healthy” alternative to McDonald’s and other chains that sell high-calorie, high-sugar content food and drink.

Starbucks Corp. (NASDAQ: SBUX) should have some anxiety about its rating because it caters to the high end of the fast-food demography. The fact that it barely rates ahead of Dunkin’ Brands Group Inc. (NASDAQ: DNKN) is a slap at its quality control.

As is the case with many customer satisfaction surveys, it does not appear that low scores keep customers away. Small chains would almost certainly trade their high rating for the McDonald’s customer base.

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Methodology: The American Customer Satisfaction Index is a national economic indicator of customer evaluations of the quality of products and services available to household consumers in the United States. The ACSI uses data from interviews with roughly 70,000 customers annually as inputs to an econometric model for analyzing customer satisfaction with more than 230 companies in 43 industries and 10 economic sectors, as well as more than 100 services, programs and websites of federal government agencies.