Outback Steakhouse, Panera Bread Top Customer-Centric Food Service Retailers

Outback Steakhouse, Panera Bread, and Texas Roadhouse are the top-ranked customer-centric food service retailers according to dunnhumby’s first-ever Customer Centricity Index (CCI) released today.

According to the CCI, higher Customer Centricity Index scores are directly linked to sales growth. dunnhumby is one of the world’s leading customer science companies. THE CCI measured how well retailers are responding to the needs and wants of their customers – through the eyes of their customers. The CCI weighs customers’ perceptions of retailers against seven pillars, or primary business areas, most critical for achieving long-term customer centricity to help retailers understand where and how they can improve.

The CCI report and rankings target the restaurant industry and, specifically, three primary categories: Casual Dining, Fast Casual, and Fast Food. Outback Steakhouse and Panera Bread topped the list for most customer-centric restaurants in the Food Service Retail ranking overall, as well as within their respective categories, Casual Dining and Fast Casual. Chick-Fil-A checked in at No. 7 in the overall Food Service ranking, but earned the highest ranking within the Fast Food category.

Top Scoring Food Service Retailers:

1.     Outback Steakhouse

2.     Panera Bread

3.     Texas Roadhouse

4.     Olive Garden

5.     Chili’s

6.     Red Lobster

7.     Chick-Fil-A

8.     In ‘N’ Out Burgers

9.     Cracker Barrel

10.  Applebee’s

According to the CCI analysis, companies with higher CCI scores also tended to have higher long-term comparable sales growth over a two-year period. Euan White, Senior Vice President, Consumer Markets, dunnhumbyUSA, told Loyalty 360 that the biggest surprise of the CCI was that pricing scores remained at a consistent level.

“We expected scores for Fast Casual to be lower than Fast Food because they tend to be higher priced, but the data showed otherwise,” White said. “This indicated that customers don’t look for the lowest price, but customer centric pricing is really about having a strong value proposition – the right prices on the right items. Even looking deeper within the categories, like Fast Food, those restaurants that tend to be the lowest priced aren't scoring higher with customers than those Fast Food restaurants with higher price points. Historically, retailers have focused on being convenient to customers or having a competitive price. However, pricing strategies that focus on being the lowest price may not be effective in the long-term in driving loyalty and sales.  

White said the CCI identified seven key areas that are most important to “get right” with the customer: assortment, price, experience, feedback, promotions, loyalty, and communications.

“We believe that all of these ‘Seven Pillars of Customer Centricity’ were important to customers and the top performing companies strive to excel in meeting customer needs across the pillars,’’’ White explained. “Key drivers, however, were having the right balance between creating a unique and easy experience, while also having the right product and pricing mix. Panera, Outback, and Chick-Fil-A for their categories truly excelled in having customers view their strategies as right for them – and that’s translating to positive sales growth.”

While some of the strongest companies had a defined loyalty program, White said, it wasn’t an indicator of how they were perceived with customers.

For example, White said Panera has a strong loyalty program in MyPanera and excelled in its loyalty scores, while Chick-Fil-A, which also received strong loyalty scores, doesn’t have an established loyalty scheme.

“Customers for Chick-Fil-A, though, indicated that they felt that the company rewarded them in a way that they liked – through personalized attention, thanking them for their patronage, or even helping them to tables with their order.”

More than 100 food service retailers were rated by their customers via an online survey over a nine-month period. Respondents were classified as customers of a retailer based on trips occurring at the retailer in the past three months.

Key findings from the dunnhumby Food Service CCI include:

A strong customer experience, personalized communications, and a tailored assortment mix that meet customer needs had the strongest impact on customer centricity and higher CCI scores/rankings

Across all food service categories, price was important to customers but was less about “lowest price” and more heavily tied to perceived value. For example, Outback Steakhouse’s CCI score for price was slightly higher than competitors with a similar or lower price point. This indicates that Outback customers perceive a stronger value for their purchases than at competitive restaurants

Casual Dining and Fast Casual retailers were rated higher than Fast Food retailers by customers in terms of experience and opportunities for them to give feedback and interact with the company. As a result, Casual Dining and Fast Casual restaurants tended to receive higher CCI scores than Fast Food.

Outback Steakhouse, No. 1 on the Food Service CCI, scored high in assortment and feedback but excelled within both Food Service and Casual Dining in experience. Insights from customer responses reflect the quality of the brand experience and how it translates seamlessly across the way the brand is marketed and the products they serve.

Panera Bread, the Fast Casual category leader, scored higher than competitors in each of the seven pillars and significantly higher in loyalty. Customers indicated an appreciation for the retailer’s personalized rewards and surprise and delight features of Panera’s MyPanera loyalty program.

For the Fast Food category leader, Chick-Fil-A outscored competitors in experience, communication, feedback and assortment. Responses indicated that their customers were passionate for the brand, the quality of the food, and the variety of its assortment.

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