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LeBron James–backed pizza chain is America’s favorite: survey

Heidi Chung
·3 min read

Pizza may have originated in Italy, but ever since it entered the U.S. market, Americans can’t get enough. But which fast-food pizza joint is the best, according to Americans?

Market Force Information, a customer experience management company, conducted a survey of over 7,600 American adults to find out their favorite fast-food restaurants — and in the pizza category, one restaurant was the clear winner.

Blaze Pizza, a pizza chain backed by NBA champion LeBron James, took the top spot as America’s overall favorite fast-food pizza.

Participants were asked about their satisfaction levels with their most recent visit and their likelihood to recommend the restaurant to others. The results were then averaged to establish the Composite Loyalty Index (CLI) score. Only chains that received at least 100 customer responses were analyzed. Participants were also asked about their dining experiences, including delivery services, visit frequency, brand engagement, customer experience and problem experience.

(David Foster/Yahoo Finance)
(David Foster/Yahoo Finance)

While Papa Murphy’s and Marco’s Pizza may be less recognizable names, they ranked second and third place on the list, respectively. American pizza staples Domino’s (DPZ), Papa John’s (PZZA) and Pizza Hut (YUM) all received lower than 50% on the CLI. Although all three of those chains did improve their scores from last year, however.

Dining in at pizza restaurants continued to decline, with take out continuing to gain traction. Fifty-five percent of customers chose to take out their pizzas, while 24% opted to dine in at the restaurant, 16% got delivery directly from the restaurant or a third-party deliverer, and 5% visited the drive through.

Consumers prefer to take out pizza (Market Force Information)
Consumers prefer to take out pizza (Market Force Information)

Calling to place orders for pizza declined, while using ordering from the website and mobile app soared. Only 29% of people choosing take out called the restaurant directly to place their orders, down from 35% in 2018 and 36% in 2017. Meanwhile, 26% of customers placed orders through the website, an increase from 24% last year and 21% two years ago. Mobile app usage also spiked to 18% of customers.

After analyzing customer complaints, the biggest issue was long wait times, with 34% of votes. Twenty-seven percent cited poor food and beverage quality, along with inaccurate orders. Blaze Pizza had the lowest problem experience among consumers, and Little Caesar’s had the highest problem experience.

Despite ranking low on the overall favorites list, Domino’s Pizza, Papa John’s and Pizza Hut are the best known for their loyalty program incentives. In addition, Domino’s topped the list, as the brand that drove the most awareness. Seventy-seven percent of customers surveyed were aware of Domino’s loyalty program, and 73% were aware of Domino’s branded app.

Eight key categories of customer satisfaction (Market Force Information)
Eight key categories of customer satisfaction (Market Force Information)

In key categories to measure quality and value, Blaze Pizza topped four of the eight categories, including speed of service, atmosphere, curb appeal and healthy options. Papa John’s claimed last place in six of the eight categories — staff friendliness, speed of service, overall cleanliness, value for money spent, atmosphere and curb appeal.

While fast-casual pizza remains a consistent part of Americans’ diets, third-party delivery companies like Grubhub (GRUB), Postmates, DoorDash and Uber Eats are disrupting the industry and putting pressure on businesses. Domino’s was one of the leaders of tech adoption, and its mobile app and website were seen as the industry’s gold standard. However, innovation has since lagged, and with the recent penetration by third-party delivery companies, Domino’s is feeling the heat.

In the second-quarter, Domino’s Pizza reported weaker-than-expected same-store sales both in the U.S. and internationally. Same-store sales, a key industry metric, grew at a disappointing rate, and on the earnings conference call, CEO Ritch Allison said that third-party aggregators had a negative impact on sales. He also said that he didn’t see the threat easing in the future.

Heidi Chung is a reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter: @heidi_chung.

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