Quality operational management can elevate customer satisfaction with limited-service restaurant brands, a recent consumer study indicates.

The survey conducted in February by Boulder, Colo.-based research agency Market Force Information asked 6,197 consumers to rate their satisfaction with their most recent dining experience and their likelihood to refer that brand to friends and family. The results were averaged for a “Composite Loyalty Score,” which was the intersection between overall satisfaction and the likelihood of recommending a restaurant.

Brand leaders in the categories broken out by the survey were Firehouse Subs in sandwiches, Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers in chicken, Papa Murphy’s Take ‘N’ Bake Pizza in pizza and Qdoba Mexican Grill in Mexican.

Janet Eden-Harris, Market Force’s chief marketing officer and senior vice president of strategy, said in an interview that the respondents in the United States and Canada tended give higher marks to operational attributes like fast and friendly service.

“You need to be convenient and have good value and reasonable accommodations,” Eden-Harris said. “The minute you start to look at what we call operational attributes like friendly service and cleanliness — these are things the manager in the store can effect.

“The brands that do really well on these operational attributes are almost always the ones that are in the top quadrant,” she emphasized.

Eden-Harris said those findings should be heartening for managers.

“If I’m a branch manager or a store manager,” she said, “I can’t do much about my location. But I can hire the right people, train them and make sure they know the brand promise and offer the right things to the customer. Those are things that I can control, and those are the attributes that tend to differentiate the best brands.”

The survey, which was conducted online, also found continued interest in QSR loyalty programs and social media, Eden-Harris said.

About 55 percent of respondents said they participated in QSR loyalty programs. “Half of them participated in one or two,” Eden-Harris said, “And another 37 percent said three to four. Special promotions led the way in why they did use the loyalty programs.”

About 39 percent of those polled had read an online review, blog or Tweet about a restaurant before visiting. “This has been incredibly consistent year-over-year,” she said. In 2012, the number was 40 percent.

“The use of social media really started to step up in 2009-2010,” Eden-Harris said. “Now it’s staying rather flat. We’re not seeing an increase anymore.”