CiCi's Pizza is America's favorite pizza chain, according to a national study of more than 7,600 consumers conducted by Market Force, a customer intelligence solutions agency.
Papa John's and Papa Murphy's ranked No. 2 and No. 3, respectively. Sbarro, Pizza Hut, Godfather's, Domino's and Little Caesars also made it onto the list of favorites.
The study, conducted in August, was designed to uncover which pizza chains consumers like most and why they prefer one over another. Market Force first calculated the favorites based on the total number of votes, and then factored in the number of locations for each chain for a more level view of the results.
Pizza Hut garnered the most number of total votes across the country with more than 6,000 locations around the country. When viewed as a calculation of favorite votes per store, regional chain Cici's Pizza took the top spot.
According to Market Force, the Coppell, Texas-based CiCi's Pizza has honed the buffet concept, distinguishing itself from big pizza delivery players by focusing more on the dine-in experience. With approximately 550 locations in 34 states, CiCi's is growing steadily at a pace of about 25 to 30 new locations per year.
CiCi's is also undergoing a brand reimaging effort and recently remodeled a majority of its restaurants. According to CEO Mike Shumsky, part of that makeover includes expanding its smaller, carry-out-focused model to help the brand grow its footprint.
CiCi's has also updated its plates, equipment, uniforms and menu boards, and has changed its color scheme to a softer pallet.
"In a way, this is about taking a brand that's been relevant for 25 years and making it relevant for another 25 years. This is about taking our brand into the future," Shumsky said in a recent interview.
Second-ranked Papa John's credits its success on higher quality ingredients rather than low prices. And Papa Murphy's wins consumer accolades for food quality and taste, cleanliness and overall value. Papa Murphy's was also recently recognized by Zagat for being one of the best restaurant chains for service.
Broken down by region
Market Force also analyzed the results geographically to see which pizza chains are most popular in the four regions of the country – the Northeast, Midwest, South and West.
CiCi's came out on top across all but one region, the South, where Papa Murphy's won over the most consumers, followed by CiCi's. New York-based Sbarro came in second in the Northeast, Godfather's in the West and Papa John's in the Midwest.
Papa John's came in third across all other regions except the Midwest where Papa Murphy's held the number three spot.
Broken down by attributes
Market Force also asked consumers to rank the pizza chains based on various attributes such as food quality/taste, customer service, cleanliness, atmosphere and overall value. Between them, Papa Murphy's and CiCi's Pizza dominated all of the categories.
Papa Murphy's rated first for food quality/taste, cleanliness and overall value. CiCi's Pizza received the most votes for best service and atmosphere and Papa Murphy's came in second in these two categories.
Godfather's, known for its old-Italian atmosphere, also ranked high for all attributes, including second for food quality/taste. Sbarro brought up the rear in all of the categories.
"Its no surprise that Americans love their pizza. In fact, recent data shows that pizza restaurants represent 9.5 percent of the U.S. commercial foodservice market," said Janet Eden-Harris, chief marketing officer for Market Force. "This love of pizza creates huge opportunity for chains to differentiate themselves and win a larger slice of the market, which is what we're seeing with breakout chains like CiCi's, Papa Murphy's and even Little Caesars."
The survey was conducted in August 2012 across the U.S. from a pool of 7,600 respondents.
Read more about trends and statistics.
Alicia Kelso has been a professional journalist for 15 years. Her work with QSRweb.com and PizzaMarketplace.com has been featured in publications around the world, including Good Morning America, Voice of Russia radio, Consumerist.com and Franchise Asia magazine.