City A.M. | QSR research | Market Force

Five Guys, the US burger chain that launched in the UK less than three years ago, has edged out its South African competitor to be crowned the nation's favourite fast food joint. That's an impressive feat considering there are just 13 Five Guys in the UK, while there are around 280 Nando's. The study, carried out among more than 4,500 UK consumers by Market Force Information, found that Five Guys actually topped fewer categories than Nando's (three vs five) but an "exceptional" performance in food quality, cleanliness and staff friendliness pushed it into the top spot. 

Date: Monday, March 21, 2016
Quick Service Restaurant | Market Research | Market Force

Five Guys edges out Nando’s, while Pret A Manger reigns supreme according to a Market Force Information Study

London, U.K., 21 March 2016 – An in-depth industry study from Market Force Information® reveals the UK’s favourite places to grab a bite to eat and to stop for coffee. Five Guys Burgers and Fries has been crowned Britain’s favourite fast-food restaurant, taking top spot from last year’s winner Nando’s. In the café category, Pret A Manger was chosen as number one for the second year running.

More than 4,565 UK consumers were asked to rate how satisfied their last experience at a given restaurant was and how likely they would be to recommend it to others. This data was averaged to rate each brand on a Composite Loyalty Index which benchmarks overall satisfaction and likelihood to recommend.

The Market Force study also looked at the specific attributes that drive satisfaction, analysing factors such as speed of service, food quality and value for money. With between one in five and one in eight people saying they were dissatisfied with their most recent eating out experience, this information offers insight into areas where higher levels of service can make a big difference to overall satisfaction.


Pret A Manger retained its position for a second year running, while Caffè Nero has leapfrogged Greggs into second place. Greggs is just behind however, closely followed by Costa Coffee and Starbucks. Overall, one in eight customers reported dissatisfaction with their experience in a café, revealing plenty of room for improvement.

Graph 1: Composite Loyalty Index
Pret A Manger reigns supreme, but Greggs offers best value for money

Consumers also rated restaurants out of five on various attributes relating to satisfaction. Pret A Manger very nearly swept the board by being rated as top in all but one category with Greggs taking top spot in the crucial value for money category. Greggs also scored well on food quality, speed and availability of healthy options, while Caffè Nero was recognised for staff friendliness and atmosphere. 

Graph 2: Percentage of totally satisfied customers by attribute

Cheryl Flink, Chief Strategy Officer for Market Force Information, comments: “The popularity of speciality coffee in the UK has exploded and shows no signs of slowing. Our research shows that this sector is intensely competitive. Although Pret A Manger scores best, the other brands have very similar guest ratings and will need to focus on product quality and the service from staff to differentiate. ”

Other findings from the café category
  • One in four guests visited a café at least 10 times the last 90 days and people are most likely to have visited Costa Coffee.
  • Overall, just 24% of people are aware that the café they visited most recently offers a mobile app. Starbucks visitors are the most likely to be aware of its app, with 46% saying they did know about it.
  • Nearly a third (31%) of people don’t know whether the café they visited offers a loyalty programme, although visitors to Caffè Nero and Costa Coffee were the most likely to be aware of such a scheme.

Five Guys, which launched in the UK in 2013, has swept to success by fending off tough competition from last year’s number one Nando’s. Gourmet Burger Kitchen (GBK) placed third, followed by KFC. Overall in this category, a fifth of visitors reported an unsatisfactory experience. 

Graph 3: Composite Loyalty Index
Nando’s top for speed and value, but Five Guys wins on food quality and friendliness

Consumers again scored each establishment out of five on a range of attributes. While Nando’s scored the highest percentage of top marks for five out of eight attributes, exceptional performance from Five Guys in the food quality, cleanliness and staff friendliness categories was enough to earn overall success. Elsewhere, consumers recognised Gourmet Burger Kitchen (GBK) for its healthy options.

Graph 4: Percentage of totally satisfied customers by attribute
Other key findings from the burger/steak/chicken/grill category
  • Customers who gave top marks to a brand in terms of satisfaction are 5.7 times more likely to recommend than those who gave a score of four out of five.
  • Most guests do not report their dissatisfaction. Seven in ten guests who weren’t satisfied took no action and just 15% brought it to the attention of a member of staff.
  • While all five restaurants offer a mobile app, across the board 79% of consumers didn’t know about it. Mobile app awareness was highest for GBK where half of those who visited knew it had an app, while Nando’s takes second place with 41%.
  • Three-quarters of people who had visited Nando’s were aware that it offered a loyalty programme – a significantly higher figure than any of the other restaurants.

Cheryl Flink says: “The quick service restaurant category is evolving all the time, with new chains launching and arriving from overseas. Our research shows the quick traction of newcomer Five Guys – guests really appreciate the tasty burgers and think the brand offers great value.”


In addition to burgers and coffee, the research looked at four other categories: pizza, Sandwich, pub/bar and Italian.

  • PizzaExpress is the UK’s favourite pizza restaurant, with Domino’s, Pizza Hut and Papa John’s just behind. The availability of healthy food options is a key area for pizza chains to differentiate.
  • JD Wetherspoon has overtaken Toby Carvery as the UK’s favourite Pub / Bar eatery, although the latter is only marginally behind. In this category, food quality and availability of healthy options are the main opportunities to differentiate.
  • As with cafés, Pret A Manger is top in the sandwich category, followed by Subway and Greggs.
  • PizzaExpress and Prezzo shared the honours in the Italian category with Bella Italia in third and Frankie & Benny’s in fourth.

A final area of research was into the use of technology in restaurants:

  • 38% of people surveyed had used some form of technology to place orders in the last 90 days, up from 30% in 2015.
  • One in seven (15%) people use mobile apps of digital wallets to pay for meals, with 30% of those aged 18-24 and 25% of those aged 25-34 the most likely to have done so. This represents a 3% increase on 2015.
Survey Demographics

The survey was conducted online in January 2016 across the United Kingdom. The pool of 4,565 UK consumers reflects a broad spectrum of income levels, with 21 per cent reporting a household income of more than £50,000 a year. Approximately 68 per cent were women and 32 per cent were men and represented a broad spectrum of age groups. 

Follow Market Force’s Restaurant Insights LinkedIn page for the latest insights, timely discussions, commentary and industry news.

About Market Force Information

Market Force Information® provides location-level measurement solutions that help businesses protect their brand reputation, delight customers and make more money. Solutions include customer experience surveys, mystery shopping and contact centre data integrated on one technology and analytics platform. Founded in 2005, Market Force has a growing global presence, with offices in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, France and Spain. It serves over 350 clients that operate multi-location businesses, including major retailers, restaurants, grocery and convenience stores, financial institutions and entertainment. More information can be found at

The popularity of speciality coffee in the UK has exploded and shows no signs of slowing. Our research shows that this sector is intensely competitive. 

The quick service restaurant category is evolving all the time, with new chains launching and arriving from overseas. Our research shows the quick traction of newcomer Five Guys – guests really appreciate the tasty burgers and think the brand offers great value.

Date: Monday, February 22, 2016

The results are in! Market Force’s annual QSR survey

The results are in. Each year Market Force conducts a QSR panel survey across multiple categories, looking at which brands are consumer favorites and why. We conduct the survey in both the US and UK, this year surveying 10,477 and 4,565 consumers, respectively. The ranking is not just for overall favorite brands, but the survey delves into each brand’s ranking for factors such as staff friendliness, value, curb appeal, atmosphere and food quality, among others.

The study also looks at which factors are most important to consumers in each category. For example, in the pub category in the UK study, we identified six key factors that gave the biggest lift to satisfaction. Executing on all six factors resulted in an 89% lift in customer satisfaction. Furthermore, those respondents who gave a score of 5 (very satisfied) compared to a score of 4 (satisfied) were 3.6 times more likely to recommend to friends. With 36% of respondents saying new trials were driven by a recommendation by a friend or family member, clearly, executing on the key factors is critical for growing the business and the bottom line.

A theme that we see year after year is that it’s not ok to be just ok in this fiercely competitive sector. With so many choices, QSRs need to get it right to satisfy consumers, keep them coming back for more and referring the restaurant to friends. In the survey we learn what key areas QSRs in each category need to get right to delight the customer.

In this year’s surveys we also look at the influence of mobile apps, paying with digital wallets, loyalty programs, whether guests report dissatisfaction and how, how many respondents are trying new brands, and what drives new trials, among other topics.

You can find highlights of the 2015 results here. Watch for the 2016 results coming soon, or schedule a briefing and we’ll walk you through the 2016 results.

Jay Little is a Director of Strategic Relations at Market Force Information and has over 10 years’ experience working with some of the biggest brands in the UK. He oversees the team of Key Account Managers who will help your business understand the key drivers & insights that will drive the biggest ROI, either in loyalty or financial return.

The Retail Bulletin - article featuring Market Force

Primark was considered to offer the best value while Next came top in terms of speed of checkout, store atmosphere and ease of finding items. However, one in three customers polled claimed their favourite fashion retailer performed relatively poorly across all seven key drivers, which related to merchandising strategies and customer service.

Date: Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Guest Recovery in the age of One Strike and You’re Out

The restaurant industry is a ‘one strike and you are out’ kind of business. If you disappoint a guest they are likely never coming back. There are just too many other options out there. Because of this brutal reality, many restaurant organizations have multiple listening posts to ensure that they are able to hear from their guests. Most concepts have guest experience surveys where a customer can take a survey and provide scoring on attributes such as their overall satisfaction, likelihood to return and likelihood to recommend the business to a friend or family member. These businesses also have live agent contact centers, either internal or outsourced, to answer guests calls for everything from rude service to simply providing the nutritional content of a specific menu item. These same services are available to resolve guest comments posted to a brand’s website. Another tool for capturing guests expressing frustration is monitoring social media venues such as Facebook, Twitter, Yelp! and other social media sites. These channels are all examples of best practices for brands being available to restaurant customers.

Listening to guests across these channels is critical. Why? In the 2016 Market Force QSR/Fast Casual Consumer Preference Study, one out of every ten guests reported a disappointing experience at the restaurant that they most recently visited, and one in four did not report it. Of those who did: 

  • About 17% talked to a staff member or manager in the restaurant. Clearly, staff need to be empowered to resolve issues and make guests happy—or guests just won’t come back.
  • 13% responded using customer surveys. Providing a guest survey option is a critical channel to capture and manage complaints.
  • 2% chose to make a call to the contact center. You might think this is old-fashioned, but it’s still an important channel and requires attention.
  • 2% posted to social media channels like Facebook and Twitter. 

What is clear and critically important is how well brands recover these guests when they do complain. Ensuring that each of these listening posts includes a closed loop guest recovery process is a best practice to ensure that team members are responding to guest concerns and complaints quickly as well as being accountable to document the issue and the resolution. Included in this process should be templates for how best to respond to guests depending on the issue, standards for the timing of follow up and providing senior leadership visibility into the type and severity of problems that are surfacing at each location. If you only get one shot, it can be priceless if you can find a way to get just one more chance. Effective guest recovery is a must have in today’s hyper-competitive restaurant industry.

Brad Christian is a Managing Director at Market Force and consults with retail and restaurant executives to design cost-effective customer experience measurement programs that help them protect their brand's reputation, delight guests and drive greater unit economics.  

A softening economy means renewed focus on CX

The World Bank projects a 3.3% growth in GDP for 2016. But the projection for high income countries is lower, with the US at 2.8% and Europe at 1.8%. When the economy softens, businesses typically respond in two ways:

  1. By cutting costs
  2. By seizing the opportunity to gain competitive market share.

The one thing businesses must not do is short-change their focus on customers. 

A 2015 study by Forrester Research shows that companies that deliver excellent customer experience have a high correlation with likelihood to recommend and consider the company for another purchase. They also have a much lower likelihood of switching—key when competitors lower their prices or introduce new offers to lure customers away. What’s really interesting in Forrester’s research is that many companies are putting a renewed focus on customer experience with various indices and ratings skewing higher. Most importantly, Forrester cites research demonstrating the strong relationship between share holder value and actual revenue. 

    Market Force’s research confirms that emphasizing the customer experience impacts loyalty and revenue. Across dozens of statistical models we have built for clients in the restaurant, retail, grocery, wireless, and petro-convenience spaces, we’ve found that high satisfaction rates result in 2x to 12x higher recommendation ratings. In addition, we’ve found that a focus on operational excellence and customer experience has a positive and significant impact on revenue results like YoY same store sales (restaurant), conversion rates (retail), household spend (grocery) and volume of fuel sold (petro-convenience). 

    The strong relationship between CX and financials makes a compelling argument for continuing your investment in customer experience. Continue measuring so you understand how every function and every location delivers to customers. Increase the visibility of those measures, and make sure every employee understands his or her impact on the customer experience and is committed to excellence. Demand action with commitment from managers to addressing issues and improving scores. Model the relationship between CX and financials to show ROI and build the business case for keeping your program intact. Your investment will help your business thrive in a slowing economy. 

    View our Strategic Advisory Services

    In fiercely competitive times for the sector, Next has been named as Britain’s favourite fashion retailer, according to an independent study by Market Force Information. In the large-scale consumer research study, New Look, TK Maxx and Zara all tied in second place, with Primark just behind in third.

    Date: Wednesday, February 24, 2016

    Focus Sales Associates’ Attention and Increase Conversion Rates

    I’ve been working with retailers for over a decade and I see a common struggle: Sales associates are given a list of items to be done during the day—important things, such as cleaning, merchandising etc. Although they may diligently focus on the items on their ‘to do’ list, they may do that at a cost: Ignoring or underserving their customers.

    You’ve no doubt experienced this: A customer walks in the door and the associate remains absorbed re-arranging the merchandise on the shelf or marking new price tags. The customer wanders around the store, picks through a few items, and then leaves. The sales associate missed the opportunity to engage—and that impacts conversion rate and sales.

    A clean, well merchandised store is important, but if you want to drive brand loyalty and same store sales, your associates need to do more than clean and stock—they need to connect. How can you focus your sales associates’ attention so their store produces better conversion rates and same store sales numbers? 

    Leverage your location-level data to understand ‘what’s most important’

    Almost every brand collects data about how their locations adhere to brand standards (mystery shopping or audit), what customers think about the brand itself and the experiences they have shopping either online or in stores via customer experience surveys. The key to understanding which of those behaviors most impacts sales is to analyze your customer—that data is worth gold when bumped up against financial data for the store, including sales, loyalty card data or through location-based data, like traffic counters, dwell time, and conversion rates.

    Once all that data is assembled, the analysis should focus on pinpointing the critical drivers of conversion and/or average transaction size. As an example, in one study conducted by Market Force for a specialty retailer, analysis of customer experience data identified six “helpful acts” for sales associates to perform that showed a positive impact on customer loyalty. Once we added sales and transactional data to the analysis, we found that three of those six ‘helpful acts’ in combination directly impacted not only customer satisfaction but also conversion rates and average basket size. Those locations that executed well on the six drivers had a 6% higher conversion rate than those that did not.

    Now that you know what’s important, train your teams to drive customer loyalty and revenues

    By creating the predictive model that shows which sales associate behaviors most impact loyalty and conversion rates, you will empower your teams to focus on those specific behaviors that matter most. Once you have trained your teams, relentlessly measure execution of these behaviors—and watch your conversion rates and sales rise.

    Kelly Massey serves as vertical practice lead for retail brands. She works with clients ranging from home improvement retailers to iconic fashion brands, focusing on how to improve same store sales and conversion rates at every location. 

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    Make Loyalty Your Currency

    You've painstakingly crafted your brand, your organization lives and breathes its values, and customers are responding to its message. Protecting that brand image is now paramount. As business booms, so does the need to establish processes to interact with customers, secure feedback, answer questions and resolve issues. You need a contact center. Whether your approach is home grown or outsourced, it’s imperative to institute an engagement strategy and to measure how effectively the contact center is maintaining your brand image and recovering unhappy customers.

    After all, loyalty is your currency. Yes, coupons and gift cards can demonstrate that you value feedback and that you are willing to acknowledge bad experiences and provide some recompense. However, many consumers simply want to know that your organization cares about their concerns and acts upon them.

    As you evaluate your own contact center or consider partners for outsourcing, keep in mind three criteria to inform decisions: 

    1) Be Responsive

    Negative experiences impact a customer’s willingness to return, which impedes the future relationship (revenues). When a frustrated customer wants to tell you about their bad experience, your brand needs to be available to listen. To this end, your organization must have effective workforce management and agent engagement measures.

    KPI: Service Level is a measure of how quickly customers are served and Abandonment Rate measures customers who were unable to engage you. If agents are connecting with customers 80% of the time in less than 20 seconds, and no more than 5% of consumers abandon their call, then you have hit a solid performance level for engaging with customers.

    2) Make resolution a priority

    An apology for a poor service experience is not a differentiator - everyone does it. Your customers are looking for a connection. Resolution requires that customers feel they’ve been heard and had a great resolution. Without that, customers may defect to a competitor.

    KPI: First Call Resolution measures the percentage of customer contacts that ended in resolution at time of engagement (no follow-up required). Strive for this number to exceed 90%. Using a post-call automated survey that specifically asks the customer, “Are you satisfied with the proposed resolution?” will help you evaluate your resolution activities and options. First Call Resolution should match customer sentiment on resolution offered to be in the sweet spot.

    3) Trust your best talent with customer relationships

    Service agents are brand ambassadors and must be up to the challenge. Highly skilled, trained and motivated agents need only apply. As mentioned, customers expect responsiveness, a personalized connection and action. They also expect their service agents to be highly knowledgeable and empowered to resolve issues. Remember that customers have already had one poor experience – they should not be set up to potentially encounter a second one.

    KPI: Ensure every customer service associate has completed and passed with top marks all available customer-handling and tool-utilization training. 100% complete = Certification. Strive to ensure 100% of agents remain certified at all times when facing customers.

    Contact centers are fertile ground for the expression of positive customer experience and the championship of customer concerns. If you've not given a contact center strategy correct thought, you could be tarnishing your brand dramatically, and without measurement you may not know it.

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    Ryan Stewart is the General Manager, Market Force Center of Excellence in Winnipeg and oversees customer surveys and contact center services in Winnipeg, leveraging experience at companies like Sears and Staples. His mission? Deliver operational excellence to our clients. 

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    When consumers walk a grocery retailer's aisles, they are confronted with a myriad of choices. Hundreds of thousands of products compete for a piece of the consumer’s shopping budget. What captures their attention at the point of sale? What labels do they look for—and do they understand the definitions and terms?

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    Schedule a Briefing

    To discuss your needs for improving performance for your multi-location brand, give us a call. We’d be happy to discuss best practices for measuring the customer experience and compliance to brand standards, using analytics to understand what matters most and the ROI for change, and technology solutions that integrate large quantities of data on one single platform. We look forward to a great discussion!

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