QSR Sandwich Brands' Bread & Butter

Perform well on taste, prep, order accuracy; stale on recommendations, customer value

Published in CSP Daily News

TORONTO -- Brands in the quick-serve restaurant (QSR) sandwich segment are performing well in food taste, preparation and order accuracy, according to Empathica Inc.'s Quick Service Restaurant (QSR) Benchmark Study. But the study also exposed areas where QSR sandwich brands have room to improve, including offering product recommendations and making customers feel valued.

It revealed that on average, 27% of consumers feel valued when visiting QSR sandwich brands.

"Consumers rank service over price, which provides an enormous opportunity for QSR sandwich locations to appeal to customers on service elements that they can control, while still growing sales," said Dr. Gary Edwards, chief customer officer for Empathica's Mindshare Technologies. "Our study reveals that brands are often missing the mark by failing to provide menu recommendations, an important tactic in good customer service and in increasing check size. In fact, an average of only 15% of consumers received recommendations when visiting QSR sandwich brands."

The top three brands ranked for overall staff attentiveness and friendliness were also ranked highest for overall customer satisfaction: Firehouse Subs, Schlotzsky's and Panera Bread.

For dine-in service, Firehouse Subs received the highest percentage of customers delighted at 59%, followed by Jimmy Johns (54%) and Schlotzsky's (54%).

Other QSR sandwich brands ranking at 50% or above: Moe's Southwest Grill (53%), Panera Bread (50%) and McAlister's Deli (50%).

Firehouse Subs also ranked highest for percentage of consumers delighted with the carryout experience, at 61%. Top scorers also included Panera Bread (53%), Arby's (51%) and Subway (49%)

Panera's rankings were the most consistent across delivery channel, week part and daypart satisfaction rates.

"Overall, guests are satisfied with the QSR sandwich brands, but cost is clearly still a concern as most brands were rated lower on value," said Edwards. "Driving guests' perception of value comes down to more than just price. The personal touch of the guest experience is also important to guests feeling that they are receiving good value for money. Little things like making helpful menu suggestions versus just pointing out the deal of the day, along with showing some genuine enthusiasm for the product choices that guests make can go a long way."

Consumers are more satisfied with QSR sandwich brands' speed of service and overall experience than they are with QSR burger brands

The study compared feedback from customers at burger and sandwich restaurants, revealing that on average, consumers are more satisfied with their experience with QSR sandwich brands than they are with QSR burger brands by a margin of 19%.

The study also found that consumers are 29% more satisfied with the speed of sandwich brands, compared to burger brands. While 27% of consumers reported feeling valued when visiting QSR sandwich brands (with 21% of consumers at QSR burger brands reporting the same), similarly, 37% felt they received value for their money at both QSR sandwich and burger brands

"This study demonstrates the importance of learning from customers' expectations across restaurant categories," said Edwards. "QSR brands, no matter the specific type of food, are fighting for the same customers looking to enjoy a quick meal out. To conveniently find great product at a good price with a little unexpected flair makes the experience stand out--and that really drives consumer loyalty."

The Empathica Quick Service Restaurant Benchmark Study launched in March 2013 and surveyed 10,000 U.S. consumers on the top 62 QSR brands. It measured food, order accuracy, speed of service, staff, value, cleanliness, atmosphere and menu for QSRs that customers had visited in the past 30 days. The survey also gathered the drivers behind loyalty for a QSR and for social media advocacy.

Toronto-based Empathica, a Mindshare Technologies company, is a leading provider of social Customer Experience Management (CEM) programs to multi-unit brands in the retail, foodservice, automotive and hospitality sectors. Mindshare Technologies acquired Empathica in Sept. 2013. The company now has the largest set of restaurant benchmarks in the CEM industry.