These Are America's Favorite Dine-In Chains in 2021
Americans are heading back to restaurants in droves, but some full-service chains are enjoying a better reputation among customers than others. The just-released American Customer Satisfaction Index reveals how the biggest dine-in chains stacked up against each other over the last year, and which ones delivered the kind of service and quality of food diners would return to.
The list of this year's top full-service restaurant chains was based on surveys conducted on more than 19,000 consumers between April 1, 2020, and March 29, 2021. Customers were asked to rate their recent experiences with these chains based on the accuracy of their order, food variety and quality, restaurant cleanliness, staff helpfulness, and satisfaction with their digital services like mobile apps.
Here are the top-rated dine-in chains in America right now.
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Tying with Cracker Barrel, Outback Steakhouse made it into the top five just like last year. The home of the beloved Bloomin' Onion appetizer reported its sales returning to 2019 and above in April, thanks to improving in-restaurant capacity, pent-up consumer demand, and additional stimulus.
Cracker Barrel went down a percentage point in customer satisfaction, but it's still one of the top customer favorites out there. The chain experienced a same-store sales decline of 22% in the second quarter, as restrictions on dine-in traffic were still very much in place. But its off-premise sales comprised 30% of all sales during the same period, prompting Cracker Barrel to begin testing a virtual brand that would sell only chicken and biscuits.
Another steakhouse on the list! Texas Roadhouse has been a top-scoring chain for customer satisfaction for several years in a row now, so it's no surprise it's neck-to-neck with the top two options in the category.
The chain serving Texas-style fare with a back-road feel reported soaring sales numbers for the first quarter of the year. Company-owned steakhouses were up by 18.5% in same-store sales compared to the same time period last year, and 8.6% up compared to 2019. Thanks to the huge demand, the chain has had to extend its hours of operation at 200 or so of its reopened restaurants, according to the chain's CFO Tonya Robinson.
Another change Texas Roadhouse said it was implementing? A slight, 1.4% increase in prices.
LongHorn's sister company Olive Garden came in second place earning the same amount of points. In its latest earnings quarter, the chain's sales hit 2019 levels. The chain had a successful transition to off-premise sales during the pandemic, and while Darden CEO Gene Lee wasn't optimistic about these patterns sticking around, Olive Garden still seems to be a frequently chosen dinner option for takeout, where the chain's pastas, soups, salads, and beloved breadsticks are replacing home-cooked meals.
LongHorn Steakhouse may have fallen by a single point in overall customer satisfaction ratings, but it's still the head of the pack. The Darden-owned chain just announced record growth in sales in the last quarter ended May 30, and parent company's CEO Gene Lee believes the success is due to the value the chain provides.
"[President Todd Burrowes] and his team have done a great job of improving the value perception," he said. "When we look at where they are in Technomic and the ratings, they are No. 1 in most categories. They moved from middle of the pack to No. 1. And so I think LongHorn's performance is just a culmination of a lot of work over a great period of time."
The chain serves a variety of popular fire-grilled steak cuts, with Flo's Filet topping the list of customer favorites. But LongHorn also has plenty of options in the chicken and seafood categories, as well as burgers and chicken sandwiches and salad entrées on the lunch menu.
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