This is part of NRN’s 2012 Consumer Picks special report, produced in partnership with WD Partners. The study rates top restaurant chains based on customer preferences. Visit Consumer Picks on NRN.com for more information. For the full report, including detailed rankings on the more than 100 chains, see the Aug. 6 issue of Nation’s Restaurant News.
In the 2011 Consumer Picks survey, Papa Murphy’s Take ‘N’ Bake Pizza took the top spot, and In-N-Out Burger took second place. But ice cream specialist Marble Slab, one of six new brands in this year’s LSR category, pushed last year’s high rankers to second and third place, respectively.
The attributes consumers consider most important among limited-service brands are Food Quality, a brand’s Reputation and Cleanliness.
1. Marble Slab Creamery
This popular frozen-treat chain recently opened its first location in Saudi Arabia and merged with MaggieMoo's Ice Cream and Treatery under the Marble Slab Creamery moniker. The chain makes its Consumer Picks debut with the highest score in the limited-service category.
• Number of units: 250 (source: Technomic Top 500)
• U.S. systemwide sales: $66.5 million (source: Technomic Top 500)
• Survey strengths: Cleanliness, Menu Variety, Atmosphere, Craveability
• Last year’s rank: N/A
2. Papa Murphy's Take 'N Bake Pizza
In the last year, Papa Murhpy's named Ken Calwell as its new president and chief executive and celebrated its 30th anniversary. The pizza chain also launched a new ad campaign called "Take 'N Bake Revolution", which focused on customization.
• Number of units: 1,283
• U.S. systemwide sales: $696 million
• Survey strengths: Value, Likely to Recommend, Return Intent
• Last year’s rank: 1
3. In-N-Out Burger
For the second year, In-N-Out Burger won top ratings in seven out of the 10 survey attributes, scoring much higher than its peers in the hamburger category on Food Quality, Craveability and Reputation.
• Number of units: 266
• U.S. systemwide sales: $596 million
• Survey strengths: Service, Reputation, Craveability
• Last year’s rank: 2
4. Ben & Jerry's
Ben & Jerry's, the veteran Burlington, Vt.-based ice cream chain, tapped into the growing trend of Greek yogurt by rolling out a new line of frozen yogurts. In April, the chain introduced four new Greek frozen yogurt flavors, including Strawberry Shortcake, Raspberry Fudge Chunk, Banana Peanut Butter, and Blueberry Vanilla Graham.
• Number of units: 298 (source: Technomic Top 500)
• U.S. systemwide sales: $103 million (source: Technomic Top 500)
• Survey strengths: Reputation, Food Quality
• Last year’s rank: 3
The popular surrounded by controversy, has had a busy year. Chick-fil-A named four new executive vice presidents and set a goal to reach $10 billion in systemwide sales before 2020. The Atlanta-based chain also plans to open 92 restaurants in 2012.sandwich chain, recently
• Number of units: 1,592
• U.S. systemwide sales: $3.9 billion
• Survey strengths: Food Quality, Cleanliness, Service
• Last year’s rank: 7
Editor's note: Company sales and unit data was derived from the 2012 Nation Restaurant News Top 200 report, except where noted.