Chipotle was voted favorite fast-casual Mexican chain in a Market Force survey focused on quick-service restaurant preferences.
The survey of more than 7,600 U.S. consumers, conducted in August, found Baja Fresh and Moe’s Southwest Grill ranking #2 and #3 overall, followed by Taco Cabana, Qdoba, El Pollo Loco, Taco John’s, Taco Bell and Del Taco.
Market Force first calculated favorites based on the total number of votes, then indexed them by factoring in the
number of locations for each chain for a more level view of the results.
By region, Chipotle ranks first in the Northeast and Midwest, but Baja Fresh is the favorite in the South, and Taco Cabana rules in the West. Conclusion: Chains’ popularity levels aren’t necessarily higher in the regions where their headquarters are based. (For instance, Irvine, Calif.-based Baja Fresh ranked fourth in the Western region, yet stole the first place spot in the South from Atlanta-based Moe’s Southwest Grill.)
Looking at specific attributes, survey respondents ranked Chipotle and Qdoba tops in food quality/taste; Moe’s and Qdoba tops in service; Chipotle and Qdoba tops in cleanliness; Qdoba and Moe’s tops in atmosphere; and Moe’s and El Pollo Loco tops in overall value. Taco Bell was ranked last among the seven chains on all attributes except overall value, where it ranked fifth. (Chart summary shown.)
“The fast-casual Mexican food phenomenon shows no signs of slowing down, but our research suggests that it’s no longer enough to just offer the lowest prices or largest number of menu options,” said Janet Eden-Harris, chief marketing officer for Market Force. “Instead, we’re seeing chains that are satisfying consumers’ taste for fresh ingredients, friendly service and a comfortable setting are emerging as the category leaders.”
In other recently released results from the QSR survey, Market Force found Ben & Jerry’s to be the overall favorite ice cream chain, followed by Cold Stone Creamery, Culver’s , Haagen-Dazs, Baskin-Robbins, Dairy Queen and Carvel.
Among burger chains, Five Guys is the favorite, followed by In-N-Out, Fuddrucker’s, A&W, Smashburger, Culver’s, Steak ‘n Shake, Whataburger, Carl’s Jr. and Wendy’s.
Survey respondents represented a broad range 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.