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McDonald's Ranks Dead Last in New Survey of Customer Loyalty

The iconic fast food chain's poor performance in customer satisfaction and recommendations speaks volumes.

Here's an understatement: McDonald's is a successful company. Indeed, no name carries more weight in the fast food industry than Mickey D's.

Boasting over 38,000 locations across more than 100 countries, McDonald's may be the world's biggest fast-food restaurant chain, but new research indicates its customers aren't very loyal. Market Force surveyed over 5,000 North American consumers on their fast food habits and recent experiences, and McDonald's ranked dead last in terms of customer loyalty.

Intro to Business 101 tells us that customer loyalty is key to sustained success, and while no one can argue with a straight face that McDonald's isn't ultra-successful, the iconic fast food chain's poor performance in both customer satisfaction and recommendations speaks volumes.

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On the other end of the customer happiness spectrum we find Chick-fil-A. The Georgia-based fast food chicken brand led all other considered chains in customer loyalty, followed close behind by West Coast fast food pillar In-N-Out. From there, Papa Murphy's, Jersey Mike's, and Raising Cane's rounded out the loyalty top five, respectively.

So what are brands like Chick-fil-A doing right and what is McDonald's getting wrong? Across assessed burger and chicken brands, five main factors appeared to drive customer satisfaction: Food quality, speed of service, friendliness of staff, the atmosphere in the restaurant, and value received for money spent.

Surveyed consumers were also asked about brand image and company values. Somewhat surprisingly, Chick-fil-A and Starbucks turned out to be the most polarizing chains. While most patrons of those two chains had good things to say, a notably high contingent of consumers also had negative opinions to share. McDonald's is fairly polarizing as well; while the golden arches enjoyed far more positive feedback, the home of the Big Mac also garnered more negative feedback than the vast majority of included brands.

Interestingly, Firehouse Subs probably fared the best regarding positive and negative consumer associations. While the sandwich chain received plenty of praise, no negative remarks were recorded among respondents.

mcdonalds food

Addressing and fixing problems appears to be a near-industry-wide problem. Most brands really struggle to respond to customer problems and order complaints in a timely and satisfactory manner, perhaps due to on-going post-pandemic labor shortages. Researchers name In-n-Out Burger, Dutch Brothers Coffee, Jersey Mike's, and Papa Murphy's as outliers that "do reasonably well" in tackling problems. For instance, despite Chick-fil-A ranking first in customer loyalty, it still only resolved 67% of reported problem experiences.

Diving into additional casual eating sub-categories, Dutch Bros Coffee had the highest customer loyalty score among coffee, breakfast, and bakery restaurants, Baskin Robbins ranked number one for dessert chains, Taco John's beat out all other Mexican chains, Papa Murphy's customers were deemed the most loyal among pizza patrons, and Jersey Mike's had the highest customer loyalty score for sandwich brands.

John Anderer
John Anderer is a writer who specializes in science, health, and lifestyle topics. Read more about John