American consumers are apparently very satisfied with national pizza chains. The highest score in a new customer satisfaction survey was awarded to Papa John’s, while one of its low-cost pizza rivals, Little Caesar, also had one of the top scores—even when considered alongside fancier full-service sit-down chains like Chili’s and Outback Steakhouse.
In the latest American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), Papa John’s, home of $10 (or less) pizza deals, tied Red Lobster in a competition aimed at naming the chains that most please American consumers. Both restaurants were given scores of 83 on a scale of 0 to 100, with chains such as Subway and Little Caesar close behind (both got scores of 82).
The results indicate that overall, consumers are much more satisfied with national restaurant chains than they are with airlines today: As category, restaurants collectively received an 80, compared to a barely passing grade of 67 for the airlines. That shouldn’t be surprising considering the news among airlines focuses on endless fees and higher fares, while restaurant trends tend to feature special deals and new menu items.
But is Papa John’s, or Red Lobster for that matter, really the most satisfying chain restaurant experience out there? It’s hard to tell what the ACSI’s scores really mean. A typical Papa John’s review on Yelp will get two stars, maybe three, out of five.
In terms of the ACSI scores, how much better is a restaurant with a score of 83 from one with an 82, or 79? In what ways is it better? Detailed explanations are hard to come by. Surely, price is factored in—the index is intended to reveal overall satisfaction, not which option is the “best” period—but how and whether the scores are an indication of true value is a bit of a mystery.
What’s more, the ACSI isn’t remotely comprehensive. There are no upstart “better burger” chains considered, nor any “fast casual” chains such as Panera Bread or Chipotle on the list. It’s chains like this that routinely top other restaurant chain ratings and awards lists.
If nothing else, the ACSI ratings, as well as recent news about Domino’s topping $1 billion in online orders over a 12-month period, should make one thing pretty clear. If you weren’t already aware: We love pizza.