Many American customers feel a genuine sense of connection with their favorite brands, and this very much extends to fast-food restaurant chains. How often do we seek out an Egg McMuffin from McDonald’s or a burrito from Taco Bell when we need some morning or evening comfort food? And life often calls for a venti-sized caffeine-rich beverage from Starbucks just to get through the afternoon slog.
But none of those chains has been crowned as the ultimate comfort food purveyor this year, and neither is the reigning champ. For the past three years running, MBLM’s Brand Intimacy Study has found Chick-fil-A to be the fast-food chain with which Americans feel the strongest emotional connection. But this year, that changed in a big way. This year, the top spot has gone to Krispy Kreme.
The Brand Intimacy Study assessed more than 600 brands in things like a customer’s sense of nostalgia elicited by a brand, the level of indulgence a person feels when buying food from a chain, and the sense of fulfillment people feel thanks to the brand.
This year Krispy Kreme jumped up in the rankings, it ranked 145th out of all brands and first in the fast food category. Costa Coffee—a Britain-born coffee company with over 3,000 locations worldwide—and Starbucks ranked second and third in the category. Interestingly, Krispy Kreme ranked the strongest for nostalgia while Chick-fil-A ranked strongest for identity, suggesting, as restaurant-trend predictions have said, that nostalgia will be big in 2023. Also, 1851 Franchise notes, four out of the top five fast-food chains are coffee or dessert-focused spots.
The ranking is especially good news for Krispy Kreme because brands that score high marks in the intimacy category also tend to enjoy greater revenue. Even though the brand saw a strong year with net revenue growing to $377.5 million in Q3, it still had plans to shutter more locations in 2023. Despite some stores closing, the chain announced exciting plans to start selling its legendary donuts at some McDonald’s locations, and execs are optimistic about the future of the brand.
That Krispy Kreme ranks high for nostalgia is not a surprise as it is a trusted and deeply established brand. The chain began back in 1937, thus it’s nearing its 90-year mark. It is older than McDonald’s, Burger King, and many of the other legacy fast-food chains. While Krispy Kreme has had some issues with growth in the past, it appears to be clicking with consumers interested in a quick, sweet treat.