Market Force Survey: Five Guys is Favorite Quick-Service/Fast Casual Restaurant

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Restaurant study by customer intelligence firm ranks restaurants and reveals market trends

"Surprisingly, less than 5% reported trying a new QSR because of an advertisement," said Market Force's Janet Eden-Harris.

Five Guys Burgers and Fries is consumers’ favorite quick-service restaurant (QSR)/fast casual restaurant, according to a new survey conducted by Market Force Information, a worldwide leader in customer intelligence and customer experience management solutions. Panera Bread ranked as the second favorite, followed by Chick-fil-A and then Chipotle.

The survey examined which restaurants consumers prefer and why, and what’s in store for the restaurant industry. It was conducted last month among Market Force’s network of 300,000 independent mystery shoppers and merchandisers – consumers across the country dubbed The Force™. More than 5,000 consumers responded.

Panera netted most votes, but Five Guys No. 1 when number of restaurants was considered
When the consumers were shown a list of the country’s 52 top franchise QSRs* and asked to select their single favorite, Panera received the highest response, earning 10% of the vote. Subway and Chick-fil-A tied for second place with 8%, McDonald’s was third with 7%, and Five Guys received 6% to come in fourth. See Graph 1. This was a marked shift from six months ago when Chick-fil-A and McDonald’s tied for favorite QSR/fast casual restaurant.

However, these results only told part of the story. While Panera has more than 1,300 locations in the United States, Five Guys has less than half that number. Since consumers are only likely to vote for restaurants they visit, Market Force indexed the results to account for the number of restaurants to see which chains would dominate. When this component was factored in, Five Guys was a clear leader with 22% of the votes, Panera dropped to second with 15% and Chick-fil-A received 11% to rank third. See Graph 2.

It was not difficult to understand why Five Guys fared so well with consumers. When the respondents were asked to score these same restaurant chains for characteristics they appreciate most, Five Guys scored highest in 8 out of 10 categories, including quality of food, friendly service and cleanliness. Panera bested Five Guys in the healthy choices and green/sustainable categories.

Which Restaurant Won on New Trials?
With 60% of respondents reporting that they eat at a QSR or fast casual restaurant five or more times per month, there is a lot of opportunity to capture wallet share. Consumers are experimenting with new restaurants too. Three in 10 had tried a QSR/fast casual restaurant in the last 30 days, and Five Guys was the most trialed restaurant. Sonic received the next highest number of mentions and Chipotle, Smashburger and Panda Express tied for third. See Graph 3. But, those who tried new places were not entirely satisfied. Only 64% said their experience was great, while a third said it was just okay or bad.

“With consumers trying new options with some frequency, quick-service and fast casual restaurants can’t afford to make operational missteps that taint the customer experience,” said Janet Eden-Harris, chief marketing officer for Market Force. “There’s a direct correlation between how satisfied a customer is and how much they spend, so delighting the customer can go all the way to the bottom line.”

Advertising was not the main reason behind the experimentation. In fact, less than 5% said they tried a new restaurant because of an advertisement. Most – approximately 30% - were prompted to try a new place by a friend’s recommendation. Around 28% said they drove by a restaurant and decided to try it.

The survey was conducted in May and June 2010 among the Market Force network of more than 300,000 consumers. The pool of 5,000 respondents ranged in age from 18 to 72 and reflected a broad spectrum of income levels, with 60 percent reporting incomes of more than $50,000 a year. Seventy six percent were women, the primary household consumer purchasers. Half of the participants said they have children at home.

These survey insights and others will be presented during a restaurant industry webinar today at 1:00 p.m. EDT. To join the free webinar, visit:

About Market Force Information
Market Force Information, Inc. is the leading global customer intelligence solutions company for multi-location businesses including major retailers, restaurants, grocery and convenience stores, financial institutions, entertainment studios and consumer packaged goods companies. With more than 120 years of combined industry experience, Market Force Information has pioneered the industry with a suite of customer intelligence solutions – from 300,000 field associates, to real customer surveys, to proprietary decision support tools – that provides a holistic view of the customer’s on-site experience and identifies the actions required at the store level to increase customer loyalty and improve financial performance. For more information, please visit: and follow us on Twitter @MarketForce.

*List of 52 obtained from QSR Magazine; included all with 4% or more responses


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Rebecca Scanlan
GroundFloor Media for Market Force
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