Study: Panera Bread No. 1 in Customer Loyalty

Panera Bread topped all dining brands, including full-service restaurants Texas Roadhouse, Bonefish, and Longhorn Steakhouse.
Panera Bread topped all dining brands, including full-service restaurants Texas Roadhouse, Bonefish, and Longhorn Steakhouse.

Panera Bread, Culver’s, and In-N-Out are among the brands that a majority of customers would recommend to friends and family, according to a study by marketing and research firm YouGov BrandIndex.

The study examined 140 dining brands over the past 12 months, tracking recommend scores—or the percentage of customers who would tell a friend or family member to avoid the brand subtracted from the percentage of customers who say they would recommend the brand.

Panera Bread had a recommend score of 58.8 percent, topping all dining brands, including full-service restaurants Texas Roadhouse, Bonefish, and Longhorn Steakhouse.

“A customer who is actively recommending a brand is beyond satisfied, and actually working, consciously or not, on behalf of the brand to bring it new customers,” says YouGov BrandIndex CEO Ted Marzilli. “Plus, when a person provides a recommendation for a brand, he/she is staking his/her reputation on the line. That confidence is indicative of brand loyalty.”

Marzilli says that perceived scarcity of several regional brands may also play a role in bumping up the recommend scores among those customers.

“A brand like Subway, with 26,000 stores, has an incredible management challenge to maintain consistency and standards across the brandit is a little easier at a small- or medium-sized brand,” he says.

“Smaller, regional brands might also benefit from a feeling among its customers that the brand is still a ‘secret’ or a pleasure available to a small group of people who live in a particular region of the country. And that might contribute to a sense of pride in the brand, which they are then happy to share with friends and family.”

Marzilli says YouGov BrandIndex doesn’t explicitly know from the data why customers are recommending the brands, but measures like quality, value, and satisfaction are correlated with recommendations.

The top quick-service and fast-casual brands based on the recommend scores include:

  • Panera Bread: 58.8
  • Culver’s: 55.2
  • In-N-Out: 52.4
  • Chick-Fil-A: 51.6
  • Five Guys: 50.5
  • Papa Murphy’s: 50
  • Subway: 40.7
  • Whataburger: 37.9
  • Rubio’s: 35.7
  • Baja Fresh: 35.4
  • Schlotzsky's: 35.0
  • Wendy’s: 34.3
  • Jimmy John’s: 31.7
  • Qdoba: 31.5

By Alex Dixon