Food For Thought: Top 5 UK Fast Food Outlets

2017 has seen its fair share of food trends. Instagrammers would happily have you believe that we’re all at home eating purple kale and zucchini noodles. The reality is that the fast food giants are not going away anytime soon. In the UK alone, the fast food industry is worth tens of billions of pounds.

To keep hold of their loyal fans, fast food outlets must learn how to leverage their online customer experience. With so many new fast food products launched every year, established chains must take care not to leave a bitter taste in customers’ mouths.

Using our emotion analysis software Emotics, we analysed over 6,000 mentions of the UK’s leading fast food outlets on Twitter. The Emotics tool allows us to reveal which fast food outlets provide the best customer experience. The data is scored across 8 emotion indexes to reveal both how customers feel towards brands and what key themes are driving these emotional responses.

The results of the analysis show that Pizza Hut came out on top and was received more positively than the other fast food outlets. Subway took second place, and McDonald’s and KFC took third and fourth place respectively. Burger King, Home of the Whopper, came last in our analysis. This might surprise some, so let’s take a closer look at the data to better understand these rankings.

Pizza Hut took first place in our analysis with an Adorescore of 37, showing the pizza outlet’s commitment to superior customer experience. Emotions connected to joy were high due to mentions of ‘free pizza’ and ‘excellent customer service’. Pizza fans were delighted that they were rewarded with a free large pizza simply because their order ‘came too early’. High customer trust was driven by a partnership between Three UK and Pizza Hut, where Three users are rewarded with free pizza.

Profitable brand partnerships and customer giveaways both increase customer-brand interactions online and improve the public perception of brands.

Subway came in at second place with an overall Adorescore of 33. Trust and joy levels were increased by mentions of ‘subway salads’, ‘vegan’ and ‘veggie’ options. The quality and the taste of these healthy products has Subway fans hooked.

Listening to and reacting to changing consumer wants and needs is a critical part of any brand’s customer experience strategy. Customers who feel as though their unique needs are valued and met will remain with brands for longer. Subway’s readiness to expand its veggie and vegan product range has not gone unnoticed by consumers, and so it takes the number 2 spot.

The UK’s largest fast food chain, McDonald’s, comes in at a slightly underwhelming third place, with an Adorescore of 27. High levels of customer joy and trust were driven by McDonald’s UK availability on UberEATS. Fans are totally delighted that they can now order their egg McMuffins from home, without even having to change out of their pjs.

However, McDonald’s customer experience score took a hit from high levels of sadness driven by the backlash of an environmental campaign. Single-use straws have a devastating impact on marine wildlife and campaigners from Dame Ellen MacArthur to Lily Cole have been campaigning for a reduction in plastic waste. Twitter users have jumped on the bandwagon, driving up the sadness index.

It is not enough, then, to make products affordable and available for swift delivery. Consumers have increasingly high demands of brands, regarding their environmental and ethical decision making. The wrong decisions can potentially damage customer experience.

KFC ranked fourth with an overall Adorescore of -6. Increased levels of sadness and disgust were driven by mentions of ‘poor taste’ and ‘disgusting’, triggered by KFC’s most recent television advert, ‘The Whole Chicken’. Many on Twitter felt that the advert humanised chickens in such a way that as a consumer you do not want to eat them. This surely goes against the very ethos of KFC.

There have been countless complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) about KFC’s most recent advert. This disaster is reminiscent of the banned April Pepsi ad blunder that Kendall Jenner would rather we all forgot. The fact remains: bad adverts damage brand perception and performance.

Burger King came in last in our analysis, with an Adorescore of -13. High levels of anger were driven by mentions of ‘appalling service’. Customers were left frustrated and ignored by customer service teams and took to Twitter to express their discontent.

High levels of disgust were driven by mentions related to the dirty, shabby interiors of some Burger King restaurants. Some customers even suggested that the dining conditions were so unsanitary that they posed a serious health hazard.

The results of our analysis confirm Pizza Hut’s position at the top of the UK fast food outlet customer service rankings. Their partnership with Three UK and their readiness to respond to customer issues quickly is behind their success. Subway comes in second because of its vegan and veggie-friendly service offering. McDonald’s takes third place due to its availability on UberEATS, but it can improve its customer experience further if it seeks out alternatives to single-use plastic straws. The same is true for all fast food service providers – customers have come to expect ethically sound business practices as standard.

KFC’s underwhelming fourth placing is largely due to their questionable advertising strategy. Their most recent advertisement is both confusing and ill thought-out, and this has damaged brand perception and performance. Lastly, Burger King takes fifth place. The Home of the Whopper is perhaps due a facelift, with customer complaints related to poor service and dirty interiors. If these customer experience issues are resolved over time, then customers will keep coming back for their burgers and fries. Otherwise, they’ll just continue instagramming their kale and quinoa from home.

At Adoreboard, our emotion analysis software Emotics allows us to measure the emotional intensity around customer experience. It unearths the underlying themes driving emotional response and provides detailed customer insights to improve customer experience.

If you’d like to find out more about our products, sign up here for our next webinar ‘Beyond NPS: To Decision Ready Insights’, featuring guest speaker James Dodkins.