The poll, conducted by Market Force Information, found that four restaurants – Prêt à Manger, Bella Italia, Pizza Express and Nando’s – each scored 45 per cent on a composite ‘brand loyalty’ index.
Frankie and Benny’s was close behind, on 44 per cent, while Pizza Hut scored 41 per cent.
Despite its equal placing, Prêt à Manger came out on top after leading on three of eight customer satisfaction drivers – speed of service, food quality, and healthy food options.
Bella Italia led on friendly service while Frankie and Benny’s was voted the best for providing a great atmosphere.
Overall, the Market Force survey showed that on average consumers visit a fast-casual restaurant at least twice a month.
The survey also found that the restaurants received relatively high ratings for service, food quality and speed of service, but had opportunities to improve on value and availability of healthy food options.
When restaurants execute on at least five of the critical drivers, the survey found 91 per cent of consumers will recommend the brand, compared to a 25 per cent recommendation rating when restaurants execute on only one of the critical drivers.
However, after also revealing that one in five customers were dissatisfied with their recent restaurant visit, the survey concluded that the “top brand food chains are in a tug of war when it comes to winning customer loyalty and satisfaction”.
The poll also revealed that one-in-three consumers had used ‘guest-facing technology’ to place orders in the past 90 days, whether through a kiosk in the store (20 per cent), using a mobile (11 per cent), or tabletop tablets (five per cent).
Of those, about one in four actually preferred to place their order using technology rather than place their order with a cashier or server.
Consumers also indicated whether they used the mobile apps provided by restaurants. Awareness that a restaurant offers a mobile app is surprisingly low, with Domino’s having the highest awareness at 56 per cent and Frankie and Benny’s the lowest at six per cent.
Even though Frankie and Benny’s had the lowest awareness rating, a high proportion of those who actually were aware of the app downloaded and used it (90 per cent) compared to only 19 per cent for Pizza Hut.
Cheryl Flink, chief strategy officer for Market Force, said the research highlights the “extreme competition among restaurant brands and the importance of excelling on the key drivers of satisfaction”.
She explained: “Restaurant brands have the opportunity to steal ‘share of stomach’ by creating exceptional experiences. In addition, they have the opportunity to be ‘stickier’ with consumers by creating convenient, hassle-free experiences via mobile apps.
“Many brands have created apps, but consumers aren’t aware they exist.”
For the survey, Market Force polled more than 4,500 consumers in January.
Full survey results: