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"Subway's consistently high ranking in the Harris Poll EquiTrend study clearly indicates that consumers are graduating from just saying they're interested in better nutrition choices in restaurants to actually changing their purchase behavior," said Mary Bouchard, vice president of consumer goods, retail and restaurant Research at Harris Interactive. "For some time, the media spotlight on obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, and the importance of making better meal choices away from home, has driven growth in the range and number of lower calorie/better nutrition dishes being offered in all types of restaurants. These study results show just how strongly Subway's positioning around fast and healthy meal choices is resonating with consumers."
Dairy Queen and Wendy's retain their spots to keep this year's Top 3 rankings consistent with 2011. Two study newcomers -- Five Guys Burgers and Chick-fil-A -- round out the Top 5 followed by McDonald's and Burger King respectively.
Papa John's Pizza made a strong showing by unseating Pizza Hut in the retail pizza brands category to be named Pizza Brand of the Year for 2012. It is the first time in the eight years that the Harris Poll EquiTrend has been measuring brand equity for retail pizza that Pizza Hut has not come out on top, according to a news release related the study. While many consumers are not as familiar with Papa John's as with Pizza Hut or Domino's, the brand's quality scores have been strong for many years. But 2012 marks the first year that consumers say they are more likely to purchase pizza from Papa John's than from Pizza Hut.
The study added a new category for 2012, Coffee & Quick Service Restaurants, with Einstein Bagels edging out Dunkin' Donuts to take the title. Einstein Bagels edged out Dunkin' Donuts on two key attributes of brand equity: quality and purchase consideration.
As for casual dining, Panera Bread ranked as the top American Casual Dining Restaurant for the second year in a row and Maggiano's Little Italy took the lead as top-rated Italian Casual Dining Restaurant, edging out Olive Garden, according to the study.