VILLA PARK, Calif.—A quarterly syndicated Quick-Track(R) research program conducted by Sandelman & Associates asked 62,205 fast-food users across 61 U.S. markets during 2003 which chains they liked best. And in nearly every category, pizza chains got strong marks.

According to a news release, the fifth annual Quick-Track Awards of Excellence for the top-rated foodservice chains were led by the industry's fast-casual chains, but "it now appears that many traditional fast-food chains have successfully responded to the Fast-Casual competitive inroads by focusing on some key basics that are still important to fast-food customers—speed of service, order accuracy, value and convenience," said Bob Sandelman, president of the market research firm.

Overall winners were In-N-Out Burger and Panera/St. Louis Bread Co., but close behind was Me-n-Ed's Pizza a 57-unit pizza chain based in Fresno, Calif.

According to the release, Me-n-Ed's was the highest-rated pizza chain on taste, quality and convenience, and was the most improved pizza chain.

While no national pizza chains made the survey's top-10 overall, Papa John's ranked highest in the national pizza chain category. Exact numbers weren't given, but Little Caesars reportedly posted strong gains over its 2002 performance.

Overall, Mexican chains and pizza chains showed the most improvement in total ratings over 2002, the survey found.

Papa Murphy's Take 'N' Bake Pizza twice finished in a three-way tie: one for cleanest chain; the other for order accuracy. For more information on the research, visit www.sandelman.com.

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