McDonalds American flag


The American Customer Satisfaction Index just released its most recent survey, and the big news that's been reported is that McDonald's is the lowest-ranked fast-food chain. It shouldn't be a surprise; McDonald's has been the lowest-ranked establishment in the "limited-service restaurants" category—fast food, pizza, and Starbucks, basically—almost every year since they began measuring in 1995.

It's actually improved a lot: 63 percent in 1994 to 73 percent in 2012, a 15.9 percent change. But not enough to keep up with the rest of the catetory, which has averaged 15.9 percent since the year each establishment was introduced into the rankings. Basically, Americans are a lot happier with their fast food a lot better than they used to be—not exactly what I'd expect, but I've been in a foodie-and-public-policy orbit for the past couple years.

* Little Caesars: 72 percent satisfied in 1995 to 82 percent (!) in 2012
* Taco Bell: 66 percent to 77 percent, off their 2011 high of 80 (I blame the Dorito Taco)
* KFC: 67 percent to 75 percent
* Pizza Hut: 69 percent to 78 percent

(Where's Hardee's? I call regional bias. In-N-Out, presumably, would just blow up the curve.)

And so forth. Only Starbucks declined since the year it was introduced to the ACSI… and that was only 2006. Hotels, full-service chains, and airlines have stagnated or declined, but fast food has increased substantially. It's odd, given the pounding fast food has taken, culturally, over the past few years.

So it follows that, if things that we're told are bad for us and need to be completely rethought for the 21st century are increasingly popular, the big gainer would be… the U.S. Postal Service. The collapsing, doomed one. (There's a break in the data for McDonald's in 2004.) Besides fast-food restaurants, it's the only other establishment to gain consistently.

For consumer shipping, USPS is still behind FedEx for express and priority mail… but the former has increased from 69 percent to 81 percent, while the latter has declined from 85 percent to 82. And overall:

McDonald's, local doyen of standardization and efficiency, still trails the postal service. The customer is always right, but doesn't always make sense.


Photograph: Keoni Cabral (CC by 2.0)