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Due to public backlash to company actions, brands like Chick-fil-A and Papa John’s Pizza, which held top spots in 2011, dropped out of the top five in 2012.
Subway led all restaurant brands in the United States in positive consumer perceptions in 2012, the third consecutive year that it garnered the highest annual average “buzz score” from YouGov BrandIndex.
However, Chick-fil-A and Papa John’s Pizza, which ranked in the top five in 2011, fell out of the top group in 2012 after the companies’ executives made public comments that set off widespread negative reactions.
Although Subway, the world’s largest restaurant chain, has recently dealt with its own social-media controversy over the length of its "Footlong" sandwiches, its annual buzz score last year of 40 far outpaced the No. 2 finisher, Wendy’s, which earned a 28.
Dairy Queen and Dunkin’ Donuts made their first entry into the top five best-perceived brands list last year with annualized buzz scores of 26 and 24, respectively. Pizza Hut held on to its spot in the top five by tying with Dunkin’ Donuts with a score of 24.
To calculate its proprietary buzz score, New York-based YouGov BrandIndex interviewed 5,000 consumers about 44 restaurant brands each weekday and asked, “If you’ve heard anything about this brand in the past two weeks, was it positive or negative?” Negative responses were subtracted from positive ones, and a moving average was calculated between negative 100 and positive 100, with a zero rating denoting a neutral consumer perception.
Ted Marzilli, senior vice president of BrandIndex, said Subway and Wendy’s once again earned the industry’s highest buzz scores by cultivating and advertising food quality — and in the case of Subway, healthfulness — as their points of differentiation.
“They have positioned themselves historically as being different from the other guys in their segment,” Marzilli said. “That still resonates, and customers for the most part believe it enough that there’s a difference there [in buzz scores].”