Fast food restaurants providing mystery shopping opportunities and better service

Fast food restaurants are improving their customer satisfaction and loyalty ratings, according to the latest report by the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI).

Fast food restaurants are improving their customer satisfaction and loyalty ratings, according to the latest report by the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI). The quick-service chains might be gaining on their full-service competitors, as they now offer a wider variety of healthful options at affordable prices.

Fast food restaurants earning higher service scores

"The juxtaposition of low prices with newly improved quality makes fast food an attractive option for budget-conscious diners. It's a safe bet that fast food will make further inroads into the traditional restaurant business," said Claes Fornell, ACSI founder.

A rise in customer satisfaction might also mean the restaurants are tracking the experiences visitors have at locations, especially when it comes to food quality, speed and service standards.

The Index reported McDonald's earned its highest score ever, while competitors Wendy's, Burger King and Taco Bell each saw satisfaction increase 1 percent. Taco Bell earned 77 out of 100 points on the Index's scale and Wendy's scored slightly higher with 78. Subway earned a score of 82 and Papa John's earned 83 points.

Fast food assignments are often available through mystery shopping companies and can be a good way for secret shoppers to earn some extra money without infringing on their busy schedules. When participants visit these locations, they will often be asked to evaluate a location's customer service and cleanliness. Depending on the client, shoppers can earn both a cash payment and reimbursement for their meals purchased on the visits.

Full-service restaurants experience falling satisfaction scores

At the same time, full-service restaurants fell by 1 percent overall, the ACSI study found. Applebees brought up the end of the category with a score of 77 out of 100, while Olive Garden dropped 2 percent to 80 points and Red Lobster earned the highest rank with 83 points.

"The opposing customer satisfaction trends for full-service outlets versus fast food are all the more troubling for sit-down restaurant operators given the current weak economy," Claes added.

Full-service restaurants also hire mystery shopping companies to provide transparent evaluations of the dining experiences they offer. If customer experience ratings are falling, shoppers may notice a rise in assignments listings as the brands attempt to pinpoint areas in which they're failing to meet service benchmarks as well as identify areas in which they're doing well.