BOULDER, Colo. -- CiCi's Pizza is America's favorite pizza chain, according to a national study of more than 7,600 consumers conducted by Market Force, a provider of customer intelligence solutions. Papa John's and Papa Murphy's ranked No. 2 and No. 3, respectively. Sbarro, Pizza Hut, Godfather's, Domino's and Little Caesars also made it onto the list of favorites.
The study, conducted in August, was designed to uncover which pizza chains consumers like most and why they prefer one over another. Market Force first calculated the favorites based on the total number of votes, and then factored in the number of locations for each chain for a more level view of the results.
Of the 12 national and regional pizza chains studied, Pizza Hut garnered the most number of total votes across the country, given that it has more than 6,000 U.S. locations. When viewed as a calculation of favorite votes per location, regional chain Cici's Pizza took the top spot.
Fast-casual pizza chains are broadly doing well by offering inexpensive food options to consumers who are still budget-conscious in a tepid economy.
The Coppell, Texas-based CiCi's Pizza has honed the buffet concept, distinguishing itself from big pizza delivery players by focusing more on the dine-in experience. With approximately 550 locations in 24 states, CiCi's is growing steadily at a pace of about 25 to 30 new locations per year. That said, No. 2 ranked Papa John's credits its industry success to focusing on quality ingredients rather than low prices. And Papa Murphy's wins consumer accolades for food quality and taste, cleanliness and overall value.
Market Force also analyzed the results geographically to see which pizza chains are most popular in the four regions of the country--the Northeast, Midwest, South and West.
CiCi's came out on top across all but one region, the South, where Papa Murphy's won over the most consumers, followed by CiCi's. Sbarro came in second in the Northeast, Godfather's in the West and Papa John's in the Midwest. Papa John's came in third across all other regions except the Midwest where Papa Murphy's held the No. 3 spot.
Market Force also asked consumers to rank the pizza chains based on various attributes such as food quality/taste, customer service, cleanliness, atmosphere and overall value. Between them, Papa Murphy's and CiCi's Pizza dominated all of the categories. Papa Murphy's rated tops for food quality/taste, cleanliness and overall value. CiCi's Pizza received the most votes for best service and atmosphere, and Papa Murphy's came in second in these two categories. Godfather's, known for its old-Italian atmosphere and steadfast focus on pizza, also fared well, coming in at the top five for all attributes, including second for food quality/taste. Sbarro brought up the rear in all of the categories.
"Its no surprise that Americans love their pizza. In fact, recent data shows that pizza restaurants represent 9.5% of the U.S. commercial foodservice market," said Janet Eden-Harris, chief marketing officer for Market Force. "This love of pizza creates huge opportunity for chains to differentiate themselves and win a larger slice of the market, which is what we're seeing with breakout chains like CiCi's, Papa Murphy's and even Little Caesars."
The survey was conducted in August 2012 across the United States. The pool of 7,600 respondents reflected a broad spectrum of income levels, with half reporting household incomes of more than $50,000 a year. Respondents' ages ranged from 19 to over 65. Approximately one-quarter were men and 75% were women, and 73% reported working full or part time. Half of the respondents have children at home and more than two-thirds are married.