When it comes to fast food chains, fanatics tend to go all in on their obsession and show loyalty to their favorites.
Chains will also mimic this back to their loyal fans, using strong rewards programs and promotions that provide personal and community-based incentives to keep customers coming back.
But a new study from Market Force found that not all fast food eateries are created equal when it comes to loyalty.
After surveying 5,173 customers from North America on all things fast food across 53 different chains, McDonald’s ranked lowest for customer loyalty, even though it was the biggest chain on the list by a landslide.
The chain has been under scrutiny this year after investigations found a location of the Golden Arches guilty of violating child labor laws, among other issues including employees seeking unionization and claiming unfair wages and hours.
The chain that drove the highest customer loyalty was rival Chick-fil-A which ranked just below 4.8 out of 5.0 on the customer loyalty index developed by the study. In-N-Out Burger, Papa Murphy’s, Jersey Mike’s, and Raising Cane’s rounded out the top 5.
Chick-fil-A was also ranked the No. 1 chain restaurant for Gen-Z consumers earlier this year in a separate study, even launching its own online store full of chicken nugget-themed merchandise for fans and consumers to indulge in.
Other notable findings: Only 3% of respondents reported having a “problem experience” with In-N-Out Burger, and all of those customer’s issues were resolved to satisfaction in 100% of the cases. Bojangles also saw 100% of the resolution to problems experienced in the 6% of reported issues.
“Most all brands engender more positive than negative associations, but some are more polarizing than you might expect,” the report pointed out. “Press coverage can create both advocates and detractors and we see this, in particular with Chick-Fil-A, Starbucks, Papa John’s and McDonalds. Consumer choice of brands visited become sticky quickly and can be hard to change.”
Market Force named Firehouse Subs as the overall winner of the report per the analysis of the data as the brand received high positive marks and no negative consumer associations.