While perception of the big three burger chains has been moving recently in different directions, driven by news, menu items and other factors, one thing still remains relatively un-impacted: more fast food eaters say they have bought meals at McDonald’s over the past 30 days than Burger King or Wendy’s by a wide margin.
Here’s how each of the chains has seen their perception change lately:
Maybe it was the phasing out of the low-calorie Satisfries. Or maybe it was the heralded revival of Chicken Fries. Burger King’s perception among fast food eaters has been on the rise since the beginning of the month, while the other two burger chains have been on the wane.
Using YouGov BrandIndex’s Buzz score, which asks respondents "If you've heard anything about the brand in the last two weeks, through advertising, news or word of mouth, was it positive or negative,” Burger King went from a 9 at the beginning of August to a current 13 score. A score can range from 100 to -100 and is compiled by subtracting negative feedback from positive. A zero score means equal positive and negative feedback.
Burger King’s Buzz score has risen to within 2 points of the leader, Wendy’s – whose score has declined over the past two weeks.
On current customer metrics, Burger King reached its 2014 high among recent (last 90 days) fast food eaters, reaching 30% on August 11th. This has allowed the Miami-based chain to put a little bit of distance between itself and Wendy’s, which has been neck and neck with Burger King through most of 2014 on the current customer measure.
McDonald’s, reporting its worst global same-store sales performance in 10 years last month, has seen its fast food eater perception levels fall to their lowest levels in four years. Documented problems include falling out of favor with millennials, complaints about customer service, as well as highly-publicized protests over labor conditions and wages.
McDonald’s has seen its Buzz score with recent fast food eaters drift down from 13 in mid-May to its current 2 score.
McDonald’s still remains far ahead of its two rivals in current customer metrics – sometimes by as much as 25 percentage points – more than 50% or recent fast food eaters say they have patronized the brand in the last 30 days, and that score has been relatively stable year to date, with the exception of the first two weeks in June when current customer scores dipped as low as 45%.
Dublin, OH-based Wendy’s has always maintained a Buzz score lead over its two rivals, but that’s on shaky ground lately. Their Buzz score has dropped from 21 to 15 over the past two weeks, putting the ascending Burger King within close reach with its 13 score.
Wendy’s is tinkering with a build-your-own-sandwich program at two stores in Columbus to see if this will make them stand out from the pack and attract customers who seek healthier choices.
Burger King, McDonald’s and Wendy’s were measured with both their Buzz score and Current Customer score (“Have you purchased from these brands in the past 30 days?”). The Current Customer score range is from zero to 100%. All respondents were adults 18+ who have eaten fast food at least once in the past three months.