BUSINESS

Chick-fil-A, once center of protests, wins over Americans in customer satisfaction

Chick-fil-A has something to crow about.

The Atlanta-based chicken chain, a focus of gay-rights protests three years ago, led the fast-food category in the 2015 American Customer Satisfaction Index restaurant report released Tuesday.

The company had the highest score recorded by a fast-food restaurant with 86 out of 100. The results show an uproar over comments by CEO Dan Cathy and the company’s past donations to anti-gay groups hasn’t haunted Chick-fil-A’s reputation.

Chick-fil-A was followed in the rankings by Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc., with a score of 83. Rounding out the top three: sandwich purveyor Panera Bread Co. with a score of 80.

The report’s results highlight trends that have been rocking the fast-food industry.

Overall customer satisfaction with fast-food restaurants dropped 3.8% to 77, the lowest score in five years, said Forrest Morgeson, director of research for the American Customer Satisfaction Index.

“Everything is either flat or down a bit,” he said. “It seems to be an industry-wide trend.”

Much of the decline can be attributed to McDonald's Corp.'s performance. This year, McDonald's came in last place, falling 6% to a score of 67. The company has struggled to appeal to customers who increasingly want fresher fare and healthier food, an area where top companies like Chipotle and Panera Bread excel.

The index is based on the weighted average of companies, and weight is determined by market share. McDonald’s has seen declining sales for more than a year.

In a statement, McDonald’s USA said it is “always listening” to customers and appreciates hearing feedback “as it helps us improve and evolve.”

The 2015 restaurant report was based in 5,023 customer surveys collected between Jan. 19 and Feb. 9.

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Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times

UPDATE

12:16 a.m.: This article has been updated throughout with additional context.

This article was first published at 8:31 a.m.

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