Goodwill at stake for fast-food firms

Subway pips McDonald's, but appetites for better nutritional information and social responsibility remain unsatisfied.

Food groups: public perception of fast-food restaurants
Food groups: public perception of fast-food restaurants

As McDonald's ramps up its expansion into China, new figures show rival chain Subway is the fast-food restaurant with the best reputation.

In PRWeek/OnePoll's latest survey, 21 per cent picked Subway while McDonald's came a close second with 20 per cent of the vote. Pizza Hut and Domino's both eclipsed Burger King and KFC.

Thirty-two per cent saw McDonald's as offering the best value for money, but 40 per cent saw Subway as the most health conscious and 28 per cent said the sandwich chain used the best quality produce.

Despite a McDonald's campaign to improve perceptions of how it treats its staff, only 24 per cent believed working conditions had improved since the term 'McJob' entered the dictionary in 2001. Forty-nine per cent were unsure if things had changed while 27 per cent said they had not. However, 19 per cent saw McDonald's as the firm that treats its staff the best.

Consumers were negative about the fast-food sector in general, with 53 per cent saying none of the firms were environmentally friendly. In total 73 per cent of people did not think fast-food restaurants took enough responsibility for obesity in the UK. Sixty-eight per cent said they had an impact on UK obesity levels.

A considerable 76 per cent of respondents believed fast-food restaurants should display calorie information. This rose to 80 per cent for salt, sugar and fat content disclosure. Forty per cent said this would help them to choose healthier options.

HOW I SEE IT

Kate Wild MD, Wild Card

Following reports in March that Subway has overtaken McDonald's in its number of outlets worldwide, it's no surprise that the 'Eat Fresh' sandwich store has fared well throughout this poll, coming up trumps in reputation, quality and health.

Nonetheless, from the brink of the reputational abyss where McDonald's found itself a few years ago, these figures show some improvement. Then, unfavourable coverage of McDonald's practices, coupled with the chain's supposed negative contribution to the nation's health, severely impacted on the brand reputation.

Today, with McDonald's diversified menu and CSR at the heart of brand communications, these figures make better reading. However, it is a wake-up call to all of us to see the lightweight response from consumers to media reports on the obesity crisis.

There is a job to be done in promoting responsible eating; the question is whether this is down to the brand or the Government?

Calorie information

76% of respondents wanted fast-food restaurants to display calorie information

Obesity concerns

73% said fast-food restaurants did not take enough responsibility for UK obesity

Working conditions

24% believed McDonald's working conditions had improved since 'McJob' entered the dictionary in 2002

WHICH OF THE FOLLOWING ... HAS THE BEST REPUTATION?

Burger King 7%

Domino's 9%

KFC 8%

McDonald's 20%

Pizza Hut 14%

Subway 21%

Wimpy 2%

Not sure 19%

WHICH OF THE FOLLOWING ... OFFERS THE BEST VALUE?

Burger King 5%

Domino's 5%

KFC 11%

McDonald's 32%

Pizza Hut 10%

Subway 13.5%

Wimpy 1.5%

Not sure 22%

WHICH OF THE FOLLOWING ... IS THE MOST ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY?

Burger King 2.5%

Domino's 3%

KFC 3%

McDonald's 16.5%

Pizza Hut 5%

Subway 15%

Wimpy 2%

None of them 53%

WHICH OF THE FOLLOWING ... IS THE MOST HEALTH CONSCIOUS?

Burger King 2%

Domino's 3%

KFC 3%

McDonald's 10%

Pizza Hut 6%

Subway 40%

Wimpy 1%

None of them 35%

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