The Big Three, McDonald’s, Burger King and Wendy’s, make billions selling burgers. In 2012 in the U.S., McDonald's had sales of $35.59 billion, Burger King had sales of $8.94 billion and Wendy's had sales of $8.8 billion. Those totals do not include international sales. However, these three burger chains have fared poorly in customer satisfaction. So how the hell do they keep making billions?
Empathica Inc. recently released the results of their 2013 Quick Service Restaurant (QSR) Benchmark Study which surveyed 10,000 U.S. consumers concerning the top 62 QSR brands. The study measured elements including food, order accuracy, the menu, speed of service, staff, value, cleanliness, and atmosphere. The results were also broken down to include region, gender, age and income. The results of this study are fascinating, and show that some of the largest burger chains aren't satisfying their customers.
The study determined the QSR categories which were most visited by consumers: Burgers 60%, Sandwich 41%, Pizza/Pasta 33%, Chicken 30%, Snack/Coffee 26%, Mexican 24%, and Asian/Seafood 12%. So, more people seek out burgers for a quick and casual bite than any other type of food. I am surprised that Asian/Seafood was at the bottom, as I thought Chinese food, and other Asian cuisines, were more popular than that for a quick bite.
The study also indicated that males made more visits (62%) to burger spots than females (58%). Plus individuals with lower incomes made more visits (63%) than those with higher incomes (59%). However, these difference are not too great.
How do these places satisfy consumers? The study found that the satisfaction percentages for each type of QSR category is Sandwich 52%, Snacks/Coffee 51%, Mexican 49%, Chicken 48%, Pizza/Pasta 48%, Asian/Seafood 43%, and Burger 42%. Despite the popularity of burgers, they actually satisfy customers the least of these seven categories. What a contradiction! People often go to burger joints despite the fact they don't satisfy many people. In addition, only 38% of the customers of these burger spots, again the lowest amount, would recommend them to their friends.
We can also see that QSR restaurants in general don't have high satisfaction rates, basically around 40%-50%. Every other customer is not satisfied with their meal yet they continue to patronize these places. Something seems wrong there. Would you continue to patronize a restaurant that only satisfied you 50% or less of the time? Though it would seem most of us would answer negatively, the fact these burger spots are hugely popular indicates most people really don't care. Other factors seems far more important than their satisfaction.
The study also specifically looked at the satisfaction levels of particular burger chains, measuring them by the number of people who were "delighted" by their visits. The Big Three fared poorly, with Burger King actually finishing last among 16 chains. The top burger chain to satisfy consumers was In-N-Out Burger with 66% of their customers being "delighted." Five Guys Burgers & Fries came in second place, at 57%, and Whataburger at third place, at 49%. More than ten burger spots were rated better than Wendy's (34%), McDonald's (32%), and Burger King (29%). So, about two-thirds of the customers who visit the Big Three are not satisfied with their meals. So why do they keep patronizing these fast food burger joints?
One of the main reasons that the Big Three remain so popular, despite the fact they satisfy consumers to such a small degree, is because children love those restaurants. In my prior post, Rant: Parents, Stop Spoiling Your Children!, I described how Tyler Cowen wrote that these burger spots market to children, and adults cater to their children's food desires and take them to those chains. Even if parents are not satisfied with the food at McDonald’s, Burger King and Wendy’s, they still take their children there and eat with them. Children won't stop eating there on their own so it is up to their parents to start bringing them to better restaurants.
Is there brand loyalty involved with all those people eating at McDonald’s, Burger King and Wendy’s? Well, it is probably much more habitual buying than anything else. In another prior post, Rant: Wineries, Don't Assume It's Brand Loyalty, I explained that habitual buying is commonplace, and most people don't think about many of their regular purchases. I quoted a book that stated: "Research undertaken by Nielsen shows that customers who purchase a brand eight times have a 97% likelihood of buying the brand a ninth time." So, when people visit one of the Big Three enough times, then it can become such an ingrained habit that they are most likely to return there, despite the fact they are not very satisfied with their burger experience.
The key to changing all of this, to getting more people to patronize QSR restaurants which truly satisfy, is for people to wake up and THINK about their decisions. Stop just giving into your children. Stop your habit of frequenting the same old spot which doesn't satisfy. Take the time and rationally consider all of your options. Make a conscious decision where to eat.
Stop Buying Burgers That Don't Satisfy.