NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) - American consumers are apparently less satisfied with fast food than they used to be.
According to the American Consumer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), while the grades for full-service restaurants are holding steady, fast-food satisfaction is down nearly four-percent. For the second year in a row satisfaction with full-service restaurants held steady at 82 -- on ACSI's 100-point scale -- while fast food restaurants fell 3.8-percent to 77.
There was a time when cost was the biggest deciding factor, but ACSI Research Director Dr. Forrest Morgeson says that's changed. "Certainly value is important, but we've seen the economy recover and people get a little bit more money, they then tend to become a little bit more focused on quality."
The top fast-food places were all newcomers to the list. "We add new companies in for measurement whenever they become large enough in terms of market share and relevance, so some of them are really new companies to the index," Morgeson explained. "But what we're seeing in the index is that the new players, the fast-casual brands, the Paneras, the Chipotles are in fact doing a little bit better in terms of the customer satisfaction experience."
When it comes to fast food, when McDonald's sneezes the whole world catches a cold. While the Golden Arches has been revamping its menu and changing business practices, the restaurant still brought up the rear of the satisfaction survey. Morgeson said, "The industry overall was really driven down by a big drop in McDonald's, because McDonald's has such a large market share and is such a big part of the industry. What happens to McDonald's tends to happen to the rest of the industry, a little more exaggerated."
A footnote -- McDonald's menu changes vary according to geographical location. Over the weekend the restaurant added a specialty item to its menu in New England -- the McLobster!
As for the ACSI ratings, Chick-fil-A and Chipotle Mexican Grill topped the ACSI ratings. When asked what Chick-fil-A was doing right Morgeson said, "They seem to be one of those companies that really focuses in on what they do best, on their core competencies. They just focus on that [chicken sandwiches] and they do it really well. They don't try to tailor their menu to a variety of different tastes."
Morgeson says consumers are focusing more on higher quality food and customer service.
(©2015 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)
for more features.