McDonald's Is America's Least Favorite Restaurant

A new survey of Americans’ favorite restaurants has once again given its lowest score to one of the country’s (and the world’s) largest eateries. McDonald’s received a score of 70 (out of a possible 100) on the latest American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) Restaurant Study.

The survey included customers’ views on both full-service and limited-service (aka, quick-service or fast-food) restaurants. The fast-food industry maintained its overall score while full-service restaurants boosted the scores by one index point.

Among full-service restaurants, IHOP (74) was the least favorite. Red Lobster’s index score dropped 3% to 77 this year, the biggest drop in the full-service group. In the limited-service group, Subway’s index score dropped by 5% to 75, while both Chipotle Mexican Grill and Wendy’s saw drops of 4% to 77 and 73, respectively.

David VanAmburg, managing director at the ACSI, commented: “During the pandemic, folks got a taste for what it’s like to have food from their favorite restaurants delivered right to their door. And now that they’ve gotten used to this service, there’s no going back.”

Dining in at U.S. restaurants practically did not exist in 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic and stay-at-home orders and recommendations kept customers away and restaurants were forced to reconsider how to conduct business or risk extinction.

Americans have gotten so used to food deliveries and drive-thru dining that McDonald’s earlier this month rolled out nationally a loyalty program in which customers get points for certain purchases. The points can then be redeemed for some menu items.

McDonald’s CEO Chris Kempczinski said at a CNBC conference last week he expects his company’s dine-in numbers to bounce back: “I think in the U.S., we may see dine-in take longer to recover, but we know and we’re certainly expecting that dine-in is also going to be an important part of the McDonald’s experience.” In 2019, dine-in customers accounted for about one-quarter of all U.S. sales.

The ACSI Restaurant Study 2020-2021 is based on interviews with 19,423 customers, chosen at random and contacted via email between April 1, 2020, and March 29, 2021.

Here are the survey results for fast-food restaurants:

  • Chick-fil-A: 83
  • Domino’s: 80
  • KFC (Yum! Brands): 79
  • Starbucks: 79
  • Five Guys: 78
  • Panera Bread: 78
  • Pizza Hut (Yum! Brands): 78
  • Arby’s (Inspire Brands): 77
  • Chipotle Mexican Grill: 77
  • Dunkin’ (Inspire Brands): 77
  • Papa John’s: 77
  • Burger King (RBI): 76
  • Little Caesars: 76
  • Panda Express: 76
  • Subway: 75
  • Dairy Queen: 74
  • Taco Bell (Yum! Brands): 74
  • Jack in the Box: 73
  • Popeyes (RBI): 73
  • Sonic (Inspire Brands): 73
  • Wendy’s: 73
  • McDonald’s: 70

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