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The restaurant industry is known for being fiercely competitive. So which quick-service restaurants are winning at turning customers into loyal ones?
Market Force Information is out with a new set of restaurant rankings culled from responses of more than 12,700 people. They are based on a composite loyalty index that measures satisfaction with the restaurant experience and likelihood of recommending the brand.
Why does this matter?
"Because they're highly loyal, they're more likely to advocate for your brand," said Market Force's chief strategy officer, Cheryl Flink. "A very high percentage look at reviews to see what consumers are saying about their experience."
Shown here is a steak pizza from Papa Murphy's, which earned the highest composite loyalty score in the pizza category.
Click ahead to see America's favorite restaurants in different industry categories.
—By Katie Little
Posted 27 Feb. 2015
In this category, Starbucks garnered the highest average trips per month among customers at 5.4, likely in part due to its large footprint in the U.S.
In terms of stock performance, Starbucks has also seen the biggest gains of the top three during the past year, rising 30 percent.
Greater loyalty does not necessarily lead to greater frequency. Neither brand saw the highest monthly trip average of Mexican chains in the survey. That distinction went to Del Taco, which saw a monthly average of 4.6.
Take-and-bake chain Papa Murphy's took home the top spot for pizza composite loyalty at 71 percent. Pizza Ranch and Papa John's rounded out the top three.
In trading, Papa Murphy's and Papa John's stock performances have been neck and neck. Both are up nearly 60 percent in the past six months.
Chick-fil-A inched above Raising Cane's to top the chicken composite loyalty index. Zaxby's came in third place.
"Chick-fil-A has really grown in size and popularity in the last few years," said Flink about the privately held company.
It ranked also first in value, friendliness of staff and atmosphere.
Privately held Jason's Deli earned the highest composite of any restaurant in the six categories at 79 percent.
Meanwhile, convenience store Wawa drew an average of 5 trips per month, the highest of any in the sandwich group.
Convenience stores are increasingly becoming a force to reckon with in the restaurant industry.
After hearing more about how the sandwich category was pressured by the convenience space, Market Force added those stores to the survey.
Wawa's performance is "interesting and kind of scary for some of these fast casual and QSR sandwich brands," said Flink, adding that Wawa and Panera performed similarly.
Culver's drew the highest composite loyalty score in this category, followed by Dunkin' Brands' Baskin-Robbins and Cold Stone Creamery.
Category wise, this one drew the fewest portion of extremely frequent visitors. Just 4 percent of diners went 10 times or more.