When it comes to dining out, choosing a big-name venue may result in big disappointment. McDonald’s is a prime example that number one in sales does not always add up to number one in customer satisfaction. In fact, fast food Goliath Mickey D’s has been serving up less satisfaction to its patrons than any other competing chain for 20 years. Consistency may be good in some cases, but not when it involves being an industry customer satisfaction laggard.
Since the ACSI’s inception in 1994, McDonald’s has earned the lowest ACSI score among a dozen major fast food chains such as Pizza Hut, Wendy’s, Subway, and more. The ACSI also measures smaller chains and independent restaurants in aggregate (shown in the chart as “all others”). In stark contrast to McDonald’s, these smaller chains—including the rapidly growing fast casual brands Panera and Chipotle—have always been just above or much higher than the industry average for customer satisfaction. This year, small chains are on top with an industry-leading ACSI score of 84 (scale of 0 to 100). This is a whopping 13 points ahead of last-place McDonald’s at 71.
A possible silver lining for McDonald’s is that it no longer scores in the 60s, as it did for many years. With a large and diverse customer base, maintaining a higher level of satisfaction may always be challenging for the company. In 2014, McDonald’s declines 3%, down from a peak score of 73 in 2013. Smaller chains, in contrast, improve 2% and set a new record high for the industry at large.