In an industry rife with competition, casual dining restaurants are pulling out all the stops to turn patrons into loyal customers.
How? Mobile apps.
Some 2 in 5 causal chain diners have downloaded a restaurant mobile app, according to Market Force Information.
The company is out with a new set of restaurant rankings culled from responses of more than 6,700 people. They are based on a composite loyalty index that measures satisfaction with the food quality, service, value and restaurant experience, among other things.
"To remain relevant and sustain growth, casual dining chains must find new ways to differentiate, whether it's creating enriching guest experiences or offering innovative and high quality food options," Cheryl Flink, Market Force's chief strategy officer, said in a statement.
Click ahead to see America's favorite restaurants in different industry categories.
— By CNBC.com's Sarah Whitten
Posted Jan. 19, 2015
In this category, Cheesecake Factory scored high marks in food quality, healthy food choices and menu variety, but it fell just short of being named America's favorite general menu chain.
That honor went to Cracker Barrel.
Cracker Barrel led in three key areas of Market Force's study: value, friendly service and fast service.
The two restaurants were well-matched in all categories save for one: value. Cracker Barrel received a rating of 48 percent, while Cheesecake Factory was rated at 31 percent in this category.
Maggiano's, a Chicago-based Italian chain, took the top spot on Market Force's Composite Loyalty index with a score of 68 percent, outpacing Carrabba's Italian Grill, which garnered a rating of 61 percent.
This is Maggiano's second year in a row at the top of the loyalty list.
The restaurant led in every key attribute that Market Force tabulates save for one. It scored high in value, quality, menu variety and addressing allergens, among others.
Carrabba's bested Maggiano's in the friendly service category.
Texas Roadhouse narrowly beat Longhorn Steakhouse for the number one spot on Market Force's Composite Loyalty index, with a ranking of 63 percent.
Longhorn garnered a 59 percent score, while Outback Steakhouse trailed with 51 percent.
Brands like The Capital Grille and The Keg fell from the list this year.
Bob Evans, known for its "breakfast served all day" theme and sausage products, overtook Mimi's Cafe for the top spot on Market Force's breakfast chain list.
The restaurant garnered a 55 percent rating in the Composite Loyalty index, ahead of Mimi's Cafe (50 percent), Waffle House (46 percent) and IHOP (41 percent).
Bob Evans was lauded for its high-quality food and healthy choices, while Waffle House dominated the fast service and value categories.
Pizza Ranch dominated Market Force's loyalty index for buffet chains. The restaurant garnered a rating of 61 percent, well above second place's Hometown Buffet, which earned only 42 percent.
Pizza Ranch led in nearly every category, but Golden Corral was lauded for menu variety and Cici's Pizza reportedly provided the best value to customers.