Chick-fil-A is dominating the fast-food industry in one key area and it reveals the secret to the chain's success

  • Chick-fil-A earned the No. 1 spot as America's most beloved fast-food chain in the American Customer Satisfaction Index's annual survey.

  • This is the third year in a row that Chick-fil-A has topped the charts in ACSI's survey.

  • Chick-fil-A's reliably impressive customer service scores have played a major role in the chain's explosive growth.

Chick-fil-A continues to top the charts as the most beloved fast-food chain in the industry.

The chicken chain earned the top spot in American Customer Satisfaction Index's 2018 survey of customer satisfaction. Chick-fil-A earned 87 out of a possible 100 points, beating chains such as Panera Bread and Papa John's.

This is the third year in a row that Chick-fil-A has earned the No. 1 spot in ACSI's rankings. Customers rave about the restaurants' cleanliness, quick, convenient service, and hardworking employees, as well as its high-quality food.

Chick-fil-A's ability to guarantee customer satisfaction can be traced in part to the chain's peculiar business model. The company accepts just 0.4% of franchisees, one of the most selective chains in the industry. Operators do not own or receive any equity in their business and can only open one location.

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That's in stark contrast with the rest of the industry, as many fast-food franchisees own hundreds of locations. Four franchise groups make more than $1 billion a year, and 130 generate revenue of more than $100 million, according to the Restaurant Finance Monitor.

Chick-fil-A has gone from a regional cult favorite to an increasingly dominant national chain in recent years, as it expands across the US.

The company's sales grew by $1 billion to $9 billion in 2017, making it larger than Chipotle and KFC combined. Chick-fil-A is now the eighth-largest fast-food chain in the US by sales, with locations earning more on a per-restaurant basis than any other chain in the industry, according to QSR magazine.

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