And the 2019 consumer award winners are …

While we are in the midst of the entertainment awards season it would be most neglectful not to extend this to the worlds of foodservice and hospitality. Over the past year, MCA’s Eating Out Panel tracking service includes consumer reviews on a combined total of 80,000 lunch and dinner experiences, providing a robust platform from which to appraise those brands and operators that are held in the highest regard by their customers. This feature is based on three critical success factors: food quality, value for money and friendly service, and next week a follow-up version will focus on net promoter scores and revisit intentions.

Food quality champions

Starting first with the hotly contested award of food quality. Across the full spectrum of the entire Eating Out arena, the brand that received the highest overall score for its Food quality/taste was Nando’s. Its score of 8.77 (please note: scores are based on a 1-10 scale from poor to excellent and minimum specific sample sizes apply) was narrowly ahead of the highly commended Ask, Miller & Carter and Wagamama. Certainly, it would be concerning if they were not, but it is still encouraging to see so many restaurant chains rated so highly.

Looking further afield at other channels, Toby Carvery performs the strongest among pubs, Subway within fast food and Greggs within Bakery & Sandwich retailers. In terms of brands registering the most impressive year-on-year improvements, special mention here is due to Creams café, German Doner Kebab and Ikea restaurant – all with annual gains of 0.6 points.

Value for Money winners

Switching the focus onto Value for Money, it is highly conspicuous how the profile of the leading contenders changes. Chain restaurants fall away and pub chains step forwards. JD Wetherspoon is the winner here, with a score of 8.68, but this was another closely fought contest, with only fine margins separating it from the chasing pack led by Toby Carvery, Sizzling Pubs and Hungry Horse.

Outside of pubs, special commendations are also due to Lidl and Aldi among supermarkets to-go, Cosmo within chain restaurants, McDonald’s in fast food and Greggs again. Foremost among the list of upwardly mobile improvers, are O’Neill’s, Brewdog and Barburrito.

Customer Service stars

Achieving consistently high customer service standards across multiple site operations is where management teams earn their stripes and where the X-factor within successful corporate cultures is arguably most evident. While I recognise that speed of service is not to be undervalued at the appropriate times and places, my core focus of attention here rests with the perceived friendliness of the service received and how engaging it is.

A striking finding here is the return to form of the casual restaurant brands. Announcing the winners here in reverse order; in third place, with an impressive score of 8.80 is Carluccio’s, in second place is Ask Italian (8.85), but in the top spot, with a chart-topping score of 8.88, is Côte – beaucoup de félicitations! Interestingly, Carluccio’s and Ask also deserve praise for being among the group of operators seeing the highest annual improvements in their friendly service scores – so additional congratulations are due here too!

Outside of the restaurant chains, credit is due to Mitchells & Butlers, with several pub chains (Sizzling Pubs, O’Neill’s and Miller & Carter) all rated strongly. Additionally, Greggs, Waitrose café and AMT Coffee all score well within their specialist fields.

Finally, all that remains is to congratulate all the winners and highly commended, and caution against any creeping complacency. And by way of an award closing humorous comment, repeat a favourite line from Edinburgh Fringe comedian Lou Sanders: I waited an hour for my starter, so I complained: ‘It’s not rocket salad!’