Quality, Value And Service Not Of Great Importance For Average Fast-Food Consumer

LOS ANGELES , July 9, 2014 () – I have two words for restaurant industry officials about the recent fast-food survey by Consumer Reports in which major players like McDonald’s Taco Bell and KFC rated poorly among U.S. consumers.

Ignore it.

Let me be clear: I’m not saying the results of the survey — which ranked fast-food chains on food quality, value and service — aren’t valid. I have no doubt that the poll of more than 32,000 U.S. consumers showed that McDonald’s ranked behind 20 other burger chains or that Taco Bell finished a lowly eighth among Mexican food chains.

But what are these results really telling us?

Like most consumers of fast food, I’m not stupid. I know what I’m getting when I’m visiting a McDonald’s or Burger King. I’m not expecting top quality when I order a double cheeseburger. I don’t think much about the actual value I’m receiving for that premium chicken sandwich value meal. And when it comes to service? Look, just get my order right and remember to put some ranch dressing in the bag when I ask for it. That’s all I care about.

Of course restaurant chains like In-N-Out, Culver’s, Chick-fil-A and Chipotle all rated much higher in this survey than the top chains. Their food is higher quality, they put more emphasis on service and when it comes to value, I don’t feel like I’ve wasted $8 or $9 when I buy a Chipotle bowl. No consumer with half a brain in his or her head thinks that a Whopper is higher quality than an In-N-Out Double-Double.

But the survey forgets an important thing: How much emphasis your average fast-food eater puts on quality, value and service. These customers don’t mind the subpar service and quality because they’re paying a fraction of the cost of burger a fries from Habit Burger Grill.

That’s why places like Burger King are in no trouble of losing my business. There’s always going to be times when I feel like a junky cheeseburger that I can get quickly and cheaply.

Nevin Barich is the Food and Beverage Analyst for Industry Intelligence. Email him here or follow him on Twitter here.

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