Get real, Americans love fast food. Enjoying a McDonald’s hamburger, Kentucky Fried Chicken popcorn nuggets, or Taco Bell burrito seems to be the pleasure of all Americans – rich or poor. In fact, fast food is perhaps the only thing that unites Americans. Even Donald Trump loves fast food and he indirectly promoted McDonald’s during his presidential campaign.
Sure, more than half of Americans dislike President Trump, but they don’t hate McDonald’s just because Trump loves the fast food. Eating fast food is frequently blamed for damaging our health, at least that’s what nutrition experts say. But not everyone agrees that fast food is junk food. Besides, if it’s true that fast food is so toxic, why the poor actually eat less fast food than the rich?
Yes, based on a research, the shocking truth showed that the rich (and famous people like Trump and even billionaire Warren Buffett) eat more fast food than the poor. Data show middle-income earners – as much as 85% – are more likely to eat fast food frequently, as compared to the poorest. Perhaps this has to do with the reality that fast food isn’t that cheap anymore.
But in case you think McDonald’s or Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) is the most successful brand in the United States, chances are you’re not an American. That’s right; while McD and KFC are still the finger lickin’ good fast food in Asia, especially China, the Asians might not have even heard of the most preferred fast food in the U.S.
Enter Chick-fil-A – the highest ranking fast food restaurant in the U.S. for customer satisfaction, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index Restaurant Report 2016. With 87 points on a scale of 100, the Georgia-based chicken chain smoked its nearest competitor by miles. Papa John’s came in 2nd place in the fast food rankings with a score of 82, a 5% increase from 2015.
KFC and McDonald’s, unlike their popularity in Asia, only scored 78 and 69 accordingly, putting the fried chicken and hamburger specialists in the unbelievable 9th and a distant 18th place respectively. But how could a veteran Kentucky-based chicken expert KFC lost to a Georgia-based chicken Chick-fil-A?
Surprisingly, even though Chick-fil-A has only 2,102 restaurants as compared to KFC’s 4,167 and McDonald’s 14,155 in the U.S., Chick-fil-A has the most profitable restaurants. To the envy of KFC which generated only US$1.1 million per restaurant for the financial year 2016, Chick-fil-A’s average sales were a mind-boggling US$4.4 million.
In spite of its mighty 14,155 chain of restaurants, McDonald’s only registered US$2.6 million per restaurant. Just to give a view on how awesome Chick-fil-A’s profitability is, its nearest competitor – Whataburger – made only US$2.7 million per restaurant. Although McDonald’s was No. 1 in sales (US$36.4 billion), thanks to its large presence, Chick-fil-A’s revenue was close to US$8 billion.
Still, Chick-fil-A is more successful considering they have only one-seventh restaurants that of the world’s most famous burger chain. As an additional insult to KFC, McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Subway and even Starbucks, the family-owned company actually close for business on Sundays and Thanksgiving, not to mention Christmas.
In other words, Chick-fil-A isn’t desperate for business, unlike other fast food chains. At a time when restaurants are testing out new menu items in an effort to draw in more customers (McDonald’s was forced to offer its popular breakfast foods all day long), Chick-fil-A has been sticking to its roots. That alone speaks volumes about the quality of its food.
But great food is just one of Chick-fil-A’s success factors. The primary reason why Americans couldn’t get enough of Chick-fil-A is their excellent service.Surveys show that customers were absolutely crazy about the restaurants’ cleanliness, response time, convenient service, and hardworking employees. And that’s a big deal. Why?
That’s because good customer service is something rare in fast food business, an industry notorious for paying pathetic low salaries or wages. Turns out, Chick-fil-A doesn’t pay much more than the industry average. According to Glassdoor, the restaurant, with its trademarked slogan, “We Didn’t Invent the Chicken, Just the Chicken Sandwich,” pays about US$8.51 an hour (the average industry rate is US$8.28).
Apparently, Chick-fil-A could maintain its customer service so consistent because it invests more than other companies in training its employees and helping them advance their careers. So, unlike other companies which bragged about human being their best assets, Chick-fil-A actually put to practice instead of spewing some empty rhetoric.
Employee reviews consistently note that the company is sincere in its efforts to maintain a fun, positive work environment with a focus on both happy employees and happy customers. Every time a new Chick-fil-A store opens the first 100 customers win a meal every week for a year. Days leading up to a grand opening, people actually camped overnight, similar to the launch of a new iPhone model.
As part of the recruitment process, Chick-fil-A asks employees to submit their career goals and then helps employees reach them through career advancement opportunities. Employees would actually get funding to do their marketing degree. While it was a wishful thinking elsewhere, Chick-fil-A crew members can work their way toward “director” positions in marketing and other departments.
The fast food restaurant realizes that it is able to attract hard-working employees in exchange for its cutting edge investment in training programs. Happy staffs breed loyal customers. And since 60-70% of Chick-fil-A business is generated via drive-thru, the secret to Chick-fil-A’s success is as simple as saying “please” and “thank you” to every customer they meet.
But that’s easy to do, right? Not quite, as according QSR Magazine’s annual drive-thru report, Chick-fil-A employees said “thank you” in 95.2% of drive-thru encounters while KFC had a “thank you” rate of 84.9% and McDonald’s rate was only 78.4%. Additionally, Chick-fil-A sends employees with tablets out to the drive-thru lane to take orders when lines begin to form.
Like Apple Inc., Chick-fil-A has successfully created its own legion of loyal customers pledging allegiance to the restaurant through thick and thin. Not bad for a fast-food chain founded on Southern Baptist which limits its operations to just 6 days a week. Perhaps a day off is one of the perks that makes employees of Chick-fil-A super-duper happy too.