STUDY: Burger Chains Dominate In Quick Service Restaurant Industry

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Empathica’s QSR Benchmark Study finds gender and age patterns that indicate market opportunities for burger and other quick service restaurants.

Most Popular QSRs by Visitors

Empathica Inc., a leading global provider of Customer Experience Management (CEM) solutions to the world’s most respected multi-unit enterprises, releases today a second round of results from its 2013 Quick Service Restaurant (QSR) Benchmark Study, which surveyed 10,000 US consumers on the 62 top QSR brands (1)(2) , measuring food, order accuracy, speed of service, menu, restaurant atmosphere and cleanliness, staff, and value. These results determined QSR category rankings, as well as the drivers behind customer loyalty for each genre of quick service restaurant.

Number of Visits Doesn’t Indicate Satisfaction

Based on the number of customer visits to the top 62 QSR brands reported in the past 30 days, the study ranked QSRs by category. Rankings by the number of visits do not reflect customer satisfaction. In fact, while burger chains attracted the highest number of visitors – likely due to the high number of burger chain locations that exist – the burger category lacked in key customer satisfaction areas.

Most visited QSR categories:            
1. Burgers – 60%
2. Sandwich – 41%
3. Pizza/Pasta – 33%
4. Chicken – 30%
5. Snack/Coffee – 26%
6. Mexican – 24%
7. Asian/Seafood – 12%

Overall, customers were satisfied with their visit:
1. Sandwich – 52%
2. Snacks/Coffee – 51%
3. Mexican – 49%
4. Chicken – 48%
5. Pizza/Pasta – 48%
6. Asian/Seafood – 43%
7. Burger – 42%

Only 42 percent of consumers strongly agree that they are satisfied overall with burger chains compared to other QSR categories, and the smallest percentage of customers (38%) are likely to recommend these chains to others. Sandwich chain visitors, on the other hand, left most satisfied after their experience (52%) and, therefore, these visitors were most likely to recommend the establishment to a friend or family member (45% strongly agreed that they would recommend these establishments).

“Overall satisfaction and the likelihood of a recommendation are key to customer loyalty, which is also the key to long term QSR success,” said Dr. Gary Edwards, chief customer officer, Empathica. “It is great to get a customer to visit your restaurant, but the ultimate goal should be to provide that customer with a satisfying experience that motivates him or her – and his or her friends – to keep coming back through your doors.”

Demographic Findings Show Gaps in Marketing and Customer Loyalty

Both genders and all income levels cited burger chains as the top QSR visited in the past 30 days, males (62%) made more visits than females (58%) and individuals with lower incomes (63%) made more visits than those with higher incomes (59%). However, women have a stronger preference for pizza/pasta and snack/coffee than men do. To close this gender gap, burger chains specifically should strengthen their marketing and advertising toward women.

A significant age difference is also found in preference for pizza and pasta restaurants. While 42 percent of 18-24 year olds visited pizza and pasta QSRs in the past 30 days, only 28 percent of 55-64 year olds reported a visit. According to the data, visits to pizza/pasta establishments are less frequent as age increases. This gap shows which markets pizza and pasta restaurants should target for customer loyalty, as well as what groups could use a push from marketing and advertising efforts.

“Different age groups prefer certain establishments, and knowing which markets are most and least likely to visit your QSR is valuable information for a restaurant. There are specific groups that a restaurant can rely on to drive traffic to their restaurant, and there are other groups that could be strategically targeted to maximize guest reach,” Edwards said. “Overall, the results from this QSR Benchmark show strong consumer patterns that provide insight into the performance of quick service restaurants. If taken advantage of, these insights can be used to improve the customer experience and the success of QSRs across the United States.”

To receive upcoming 2013 Empathica Quick Service Restaurant Benchmark panel results and reports, subscribe to

About the 2013 Empathica Quick Service Restaurant Benchmark Study:
The Empathica Quick Service Restaurant Benchmark Study launched in March 2013 and surveyed 10,000 US consumers on the top 62 QSR brands. The Benchmark measured food, order accuracy, speed of service, staff, value, cleanliness, atmosphere and menu for QSRs that customers had visited in the past 30 days. The survey also gathered the drivers behind loyalty for a QSR and for social media advocacy. Results, led by Dr. Gary Edwards and Empathica’s research team, were published in July 2013. The Benchmark has been weighted to reflect latest Census distributions in the U.S., including region, gender, age and income.

About Empathica:
Empathica is the leading provider of social Customer Experience Management (CEM) programs to the world’s most respected multi-unit brands in the retail, food services, automotive and hospitality sectors. Its rich analysis of survey data using state-of-the-art surveying and dashboard reporting software allows for performance-improvement solutions, evidence-based marketing insights, and customer experience management consulting.

Annually, Empathica’s 30 million customer surveys in 25 languages reach more than 80,000 locations in over 50 countries. A privately-held organization, Empathica is headquartered in Toronto, Canada with executive consultant offices throughout the United States and a European office in Birmingham, England. For more information about deriving actionable insights that enhance a brand’s operational excellence, visit Empathica at


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Meghan Reilly
Walker Sands Communications
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Bruce Warren
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