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Two Steakhouse Brands Top the List of America's Best Dine-In Chains, New Data Shows

The customers have spoken.

The results are in from one of the most reliable indicators of America's satisfaction with its restaurant chains—the annual American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) report. While some brands had a rocky year, others have seen their hard work rewarded with high scores on several measures that are crucial to a great customer experience.

This year's ACSI data was derived from interviews with 20,143 restaurant customers who were chosen at random and contacted via email between April 2021 and March 2022. The participants were asked to rate chains they've recently dined in on everything from food and service to restaurant layout and cleanliness.

And the crowd has spoken. Popular dine-in brands Longhorn Steakhouse and Texas Roadhouse have come out on top as the most highly-rated restaurants in the full-service category, averaging a score of 80 points. 

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Texas roadhouse restaurant
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On the other hand, Applebee's and IHOP placed at the bottom of the pack with scores of 73. IHOP's score managed to nosedive 5% since last year's survey.

Besides food quality, courtesy of staff, and order accuracy, there were some other surprising factors that tipped the scales in this year's survey. According to researchers at ACSI, the current winners and losers were greatly affected by scores on the quality of their mobile apps.

"Amid the pandemic, restaurants needed to quickly up their game in the mobile arena. With fewer resources, smaller chains and independent restaurants are offering apps that aren't making the grade per customers," said Forrest Morgeson, assistant professor of marketing at Michigan State University and director of research emeritus at the ACSI. "In contrast, positive shifts in both mobile app quality and reliability for several larger chains appear to reflect major app updates for these bigger industry players." 

Texas Roadhouse has been consistently updating its digital presence. Back in 2017, the steakhouse added a waitlist function to its mobile app and in January of this year, it made additional upgrades by adding the option of using a digital wallet as well as personalized offers for guests. The steakhouse has also rolled out a pay-at-the-table system in March, allowing customers to pay and leave at their leisure. 

Similarly, LongHorn Steakhouse currently has digital pay, the ability to join a waitlist, and mobile pay through its app. 

IHOP, on the other hand, rolled out its first true loyalty program, the International Bank of Pancakes, in March, according to Forbes. The program will allow customers the ability to earn digital tokens, called PanCoins, that can be used to buy more food. Since ACSI's data collection ended in March of this year, it may be interesting to see how the new program affects consumer satisfaction in next year's survey.

Amber Lake
Amber Lake is a staff writer at Eat This, Not That! and has a degree in journalism from UNF in Jacksonville, Florida. Read more