Are you an average American? If you are, then you probably dined out, on average, four times a week last year. I can remember, as a bachelor, surpassing that total in two days.

If you are going out that much, chances are you prefer smaller restaurant chains, or even individual eateries. It seems we associate those places with better service and a higher quality meal.

According to a brand new study by the American Customer Service Index,

Small restaurant chains are gaining customer satisfaction as the largest chains deteriorate. Customer satisfaction with full-service restaurants is up 1.2 percent to an ACSI score of 82, holding a slim lead over fast food (80).


ACSI took a look at what 4,500 people had to say about their overall experience satisfaction with America's biggest chains. So, who is doing well, and who is spiraling downward?

Fast food pizza places hold the top 4 spots in customer satisfaction, with Papa Johns and Pizza Hut tie for the lead with scores of 82 out of a possible 100. Little Caesar's and Domino's Pizza tie at number two with a score of 80.

More from the ACSI report:

Subway falls out of the top spot (-6% to 78) to tie with Wendy’s, and Burger King is unchanged at 76. Starbucks is down 5 percent to 76, followed closely by coffee rival Dunkin’ Donuts at 75 (-6%). KFC declines the most, dropping 9 percent to 74. Fellow Yum! Brands chain Taco Bell is also down (-3% to 72). At the bottom of the category, McDonald’s dips 3 percent to 71.

It appears that one of America's most iconic brand names isn't as well-liked as one might imagine. And, as long as we're talking restaurants, what about the smaller chains?

Customer satisfaction for smaller restaurant chains is up 2 percent to an ACSI score of 83, the best in the full-service category. Meanwhile, all of the largest chains experience drops in customer satisfaction. Outback Steakhouse and Darden’s Olive Garden (both at 80) top the other large chains, but Outback slips 1 percent and Olive Garden’s guest satisfaction is down 4 percent from a year ago. Red Lobster takes the biggest fall, down 6 percent to 78 alongside Applebee’s (-5% to 78), but Chili’s patrons are the least satisfied by far (-5% to 74).

So, what could the problem be? Maybe this will help with the explanation:

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