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Consumers prefer Subway when it comes to quality fast food

London, 16 October 2012

  • Subway is the casual food chain that consumers associate with the best quality food
  • Despite its re-positioning in recent years as a more premium chain, consumers are still not convinced with the quality of food served at McDonald’s

Across the major casual food chains in the UK, consumers are most likely to associate sandwich restaurant Subway with serving good quality food, research conducted by Canadean Consumer reveals. The findings reflect how the chain is managing to effectively promote the concept of freshness, which enhances perceptions of health and taste, and how other chains need to take inspiration from the Subway format.

UK consumers believe that the best quality food from casual dining chains across the country comes in the form of a sandwich as opposed to a burger. Subway is the chain that consumers are most likely to say serves good quality food (46.7%). Despite its attempt to reposition itself as a more premium foodservice chain in recent years, McDonald’s is the chain that people are the least likely to agree serves the best quality food (23.2%). The findings show that the Subway chain is more effectively promoting its key message of health, freshness and good taste, while other fast-food chains continue to struggle to shake off any negative perceptions associated with their brands.

Despite casual restaurants being associated with attributes such as convenience and affordability, consumers are becoming more demanding of the casual food outlets they visit, wanting food they perceive to be tasty and, as obesity rates continue to rise, healthy. Michael Hughes, Research Manager at Canadean Consumer explains “freshness is everything, with consumers automatically associating fresh food as being tastier and healthier. It appears that Subway is doing the best across the major foodservice chains in the UK in promoting this message”.

Hughes adds “the findings will be a disappointment for McDonald’s, particularly as the chain has significantly increased its menu range to offer healthier alternatives over the last decade, as well as leveraging marketing messages around good quality food that is local and fresh. It shows that it still needs to do more to boost its image among consumers”

As consumers continue to become more demanding of the casual food outlets that they visit, it is crucial that menus are automatically associated with freshness. The Subway concept works because people are able to see the ingredients that are put into their sandwich as it is prepared, which automatically increases perceptions of freshness. This notion of making consumers feel like they are getting closer to their food and being able to visibly witness preparation is something that other food chains need to take inspiration from.

Figure 1: Proportion of consumers who believe the following chains serve good quality food (% of UK respondents) 2012

Proportion of consumers who believe the following chains serve good quality food (% of UK respondents) 2012

Source: Canadean © Canadean

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