Those "healthier options" campaign messages are paying off for a number of quick-serve restaurant chains.
According to Brand Keys' Customer Loyalty Engagement Index, Subway, McDonald's, KFC, Domino's/Burger King (tied), and Quiznos come out at the top of the rankings (in that order) in terms of which QSR and pizza chains are perceived as offering healthy food choices by consumers who are fast-food customers.
Brand Keys does not specifically probe consumers about calorie counts, but was inspired to pull out these restaurant "healthy choices/quality" rankings from its brand loyalty research (conducted in February) by the menu calorie disclosure mandate within the new federal healthcare reform bill, notes Robert Passikoff, founder of the customer loyalty/engagement metrics firm.
The index rankings reflect category loyalty-drivers and perceptions of those loyalty drivers by brand as expressed by consumers who have been identified as being within the top 20% of the customer bases for brands measured.
According to Passikoff, "healthy choices/quality" is actually the second-most important among the four loyalty-drivers for QSRs -- below "brand value and variety" but above "customer service" and "entertainment value/décor."
In contrast, the "healthy choices" factor ranks fourth in driving loyalty when it comes to pizza chain brands (tracked separately from QSRs), and also fourth when it comes to casual dining restaurants.
Looking at other QSRs' rankings on healthy choices perceptions, places 6 through 10 are held by Wendy's, Red Lobster, IHOP, Outback and Hardee's.
Numbers 11 through 15 are Papa John's/Olive Garden (tied), TGI Friday's/Ruby Tuesday's (tied), Applebee's, Arby's, and Godfather's/Taco Bell (tied).
The top 20 is rounded out by Chili's, Little Caesar's, Roundtable, Chuck E. Cheese and Hooters, in that order.