Consumers: Starbucks Still The Top Java Chain

Starbucks coffeesStarbucks may be shuttering locations, laying off "baristas" and battling McDonald's massive specialty coffees' rollout, but the lately beleaguered chain is still top in the hearts of caffeine-loving U.S. consumers.

Starbucks emerged as the platinum winner in the "coffee/snacks" category in the just-released results of Restaurants & Institutions' 2008 Consumer Choice Awards. Gold and silver winners in the category are Krispy Kreme Doughnuts and Cinnabon, respectively.

Now in their 28th year, the R&I awards are based on a commissioned survey of 3,100 chain-restaurant patrons. For each of the chains they have visited, respondents are asked to rank eight attributes that factor into the total dining experience: food quality, service, convenience, cleanliness, value, menu variety, atmosphere and reputation.



In the pizza category, the nation's top two chains by gross sales, Pizza Hut and Domino's, were shut out by two considerably smaller competitors--Papa Murphy's Take N' Bake Pizza (platinum winner) and Round Table Pizza (gold)--along with #3-volume Papa John's (silver).

According to Pizza Today's most recent annual top 100 rankings, Papa Murphy's International had $444.2 million in gross sales in 2006, and Round Table had $415 million--putting them in 10th and 11th place, dollar volume-wise. Papa John's was #3, with $1.78 billion in gross sales to Pizza Hut's $9.35 billion and Domino's' $5.1 billion.

Similarly, on the sandwich front, relatively small chains Panera Bread, Jason's Deli and Jimmy John's won the three top R&I rankings from consumers, while leading chains including Arby's, Quiznos and Subway were nowhere in sight. Those last three chains respectively logged $904,000, $507,000 and $382,000 in sales per store during their fiscal 2006 years, according to Nation's Restaurant News--while Panera, Jason's and JJ's did not make the top 18 sandwich chains, as broadly defined by NRN.

In the R&I burgers category, In-N-Out Burger took top place, followed by Culver's and Fuddruckers--shutting out McDonald's and Burger King, among many others. (In-N-Out also came in at #1 in sales per store in NRN's overall sandwich chain rankings, with $2.2 million, to McDonald's $1.97 million.)

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