Adult perceptions of leading QSRs have been improving for the past year -- and the latest BrandIndex data show brand loyalty, in particular, rising dramatically during the past month.
BrandIndex tracks loyalty by asking consumers whether they would recommend a given brand to a friend.
The averaged "recommend" scores for McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's, KFC, Subway, Pizza Hut, Domino's, Taco Bell, Long John Silver's, Hardee's, Chipotle and Jack in the Box (the 12 with the most units in the U.S.) jumped from 16.9 on Sept. 16 to 20.6 on Oct. 22. A score can range from -100 to +100, with zero indicating equal positive and negative feedback.
This rapid rise appears to have been driven in part by aggressive, post-Labor Day advertising focused on new menu items, such as Wendy's Bacon Deluxe, Burger King's $1 double cheeseburger, Taco Bell's Black Jack Taco and KFC's grilled chicken, says BrandIndex SVP and Global Managing Director Ted Marzilli.
However, he adds that willingness to recommend is typically indicative of behavior going forward. Furthermore, both the average "satisfaction" score and the average overall brand health scores for the 12 QSRs have risen from 19 on Jan. 1 to 25 as of Monday.
Loyalty and other scores are improving among the highest-income group (household income of $100,000 and over), along with those at lower levels, indicating that consumers who have traded down from casual and higher-end restaurants to QSRs "are finding themselves pleasantly surprised," Marzilli says. The chains' strategy of capitalizing on this trading down by introducing some higher-quality offerings -- such as coffee and premium burgers -- may be paying off, he surmises.
"This is really good news for the QSRs," Marzilli concludes. "Higher-end consumers may need a very compelling reason to trade back up once the economy starts coming back. If QSRs can hold onto some higher-end consumers, and the folks at the opposite end of the scale who have had to drop QSRs altogether return when jobs return, the chains will obviously be in an even stronger position" than before the recession.
BrandIndex surveys 5,000 adults from a sample that is representative of the U.S. population each day. The margin of error is +/- 2%.