STUDY: QSR Sandwich Brands Delivering Good Product but Need to Improve the Service Experience

While Empathica’s 2013 QSR Benchmark data reveals consumers rank taste, menu choice and location over price when choosing a QSR sandwich brand, value is still trailing

Toronto, Ontario, Canada – December 4, 2013 — Empathica Inc., a Mindshare Technologies company, releases today the sandwich brand findings from its 2013 Quick Service Restaurant (QSR) Benchmark Study. The study surveyed 10,000 U.S. consumers and found that brands in the QSR sandwich segment are performing well in food taste, preparation and order accuracy. The study also exposed areas where QSR sandwich brands have room to improve, including offering product recommendations and making customers feel valued, revealing that on average just 27 percent of consumers feel valued when visiting QSR sandwich brands.

“Consumers rank service over price, which provides an enormous opportunity for QSR sandwich locations to appeal to customers on service elements that they can control, while still growing sales,” said Dr. Gary Edwards, chief customer officer, Mindshare Technologies. “Our study reveals that brands are often missing the mark by failing to provide menu recommendations, an important tactic in good customer service and in increasing check size. In fact, an average of only 15 percent of consumers received recommendations when visiting QSR sandwich brands.”

Brand rankings

The top three brands ranked for overall staff attentiveness and friendliness were also ranked highest for overall customer satisfaction, listed in order: Firehouse Subs, Schlotzsky’s and Panera Bread.

For dine-in service, Firehouse Subs received the highest percentage of customers delighted at 59 percent, followed by Jimmy Johns (54 percent) and Schlotzsky’s (54 percent). Other QSR sandwich brands ranking at 50 percent or above are:

  • Moe’s Southwest Grill (53 percent)
  • Panera Bread (50 percent)
  • McAlister’s Deli (50 percent)

Firehouse Subs also ranked highest for percentage of consumers delighted with the carryout experience at 61 percent. Top scorers also included:

  • Panera Bread (53 percent)
  • Arby’s (51 percent)
  • Subway (49 percent)

Panera’s rankings were the most consistent across delivery channel, week part and day part satisfaction rates.

“Overall, guests are satisfied with the QSR sandwich brands, but cost is clearly still a concern as most brands were rated lower on value,” added Edwards. “Driving guests’ perception of value comes down to more than just price. The personal touch of the guest experience is also important to guests feeling that they are receiving good value for money. Little things like making helpful menu suggestions versus just pointing out the deal of the day, along with showing some genuine enthusiasm for the product choices that guests make can go a long way.”

Consumers are more satisfied with QSR sandwich brands’ speed of service and overall experience than they are with QSR burger brands. The study compared feedback from customers at burger and sandwich restaurants, revealing that on average, consumers are more satisfied with their experience with QSR sandwich brands than they are with QSR burger brands by a margin of 19 percent.

The study also found that:

  • Consumers are 29 percent more satisfied with the speed of sandwich brands, compared to burger brands
  • While only 27 percent of consumers reported feeling valued when visiting QSR sandwich brands (with only 21 percent of consumers at QSR burger brands reporting the same), similarly just 37 percent felt they received value for their money at both QSR sandwich and burger brands

“This study demonstrates the importance of learning from customers’ expectations across restaurant categories,” said Edwards. “QSR brands, no matter the specific type of food, are fighting for the same customers looking to enjoy a quick meal out. To conveniently find great product at a good price with a little unexpected flair makes the experience stand out – and that really drives consumer loyalty.”

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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.

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