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McDonald’s Franchisees Missing the Point on Chick-fil-A

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Forbes senior contributor Micheline Maynard reports that McDonald’s franchisees are not happy with corporate leadership. In the midst of falling sales, franchisees believe corporate leadership has let them down in regards to staying abreast of the competition. They are especially unhappy that they don’t have a chicken sandwich capable of competing with Chick-fil-A.

A thorough reading of Maynard’s piece makes it clear that Chick-fil-A is beating McDonald’s in a number of key metrics. Chief among them is the customer service metric. It turns out that Chick-fil-A owns that category. Moreover, McDonald’s doesn’t even take second or third place. Those spots go to Sonic and Arby’s.

If you understand the mindset of the loyal Chick-fil-A customer, it becomes abundantly clear that the problem at McDonald’s is not the lack of a good chicken sandwich. If franchise owners believe a better chicken sandwich would put the kibosh on Chick-fil-A, they are missing the point.

Customer Satisfaction Means Something

McDonald’s and its franchisees would do well to pay attention to annual customer satisfaction surveys. Customer satisfaction means something. In the restaurant business, it is everything.

Studies consistently show that people want a pleasant experience when they dine out. They rate the dining experience as more important than the quality of the food or the price they pay. If a restaurant isn’t providing a pleasant experience, patrons will dine elsewhere. It is no coincidence that Chick-fil-A enjoys both a high customer satisfaction rate and robust sales.

While corporate leadership at McDonald’s is looking for ways to replace staff members with ordering kiosks and mobile apps, Chick-fil-A continues to pay employees to carry food from the kitchen to the table. Those same employees check back to see if they can refresh drinks or do anything else. They are quick with a smile and deliberate about greeting every customer they come in contact with.

Chick-fil-A succeeds because they offer an experience fast food patrons cannot get anywhere else. Yes, they do sell very good food. But ask any loyal Chick-fil-A fan what keeps them going back and you’ll hear the same customer satisfaction story.

Restaurants Turned Factories

At Taqueria27 in Salt Lake City, Utah, ownership and management alike are very cognizant of both customer satisfaction and experience. As one of the most popular Mexican restaurants in Salt Lake City, Taqueria27 is built on the concept of providing a neighborhood restaurant experience guests will find comfortable and inviting.

Each of the five Taqueria27 locations was carefully chosen for its neighborhood appeal. Restaurants are centrally located so that customers can walk to and from it in a reasonable amount of time. The restaurants themselves are designed to be social and conversational. They are designed to invite neighbors and friends to hang out and enjoy one another’s company.

So many other restaurant chains, McDonald’s included, have gone in the opposite direction. They have turned restaurants into factories for mass producing cheap food. In the effort to keep corporate investors happy, they continue looking for ways to cut expenses without harming the customer experience. Unfortunately, doing so is nearly impossible.

You Get What You Pay For

American consumers are not dummies. They understand the principle that you get what you pay for, and they recognize cheap when they see it. There is a place for cheap fast food ordered by way of digital kiosks. But the audience for that experience is limited.

If McDonald’s franchisees want to see their organization compete more effectively against Chick-fil-A, they are going to have to match the customer experience. Otherwise, the only road to continued profitability is making their stores more factory like.

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