The 2017 ENG 397 Food Research Team has spent the semester studying opinions of french fries across Elon’s campus. The following results are based on a survey of 116 Elon students of varying genders, ages, and geographies.
We found that brand loyalty and reputation, both at fast-food and sit down restaurants, was of moderate significance to an individual’s overall opinion of a specific french fry. On a scale of 1-5, one being not at all important and five being extremely important, brand loyalty and reputation received an average importance of 2.9.
Aside from brand, our survey found that several other aspects of french fries matter to an individual’s overall opinion of them. These include: crispiness vs. softness (on a scale of 1-5, 1 being very crispy and 5 being very soft, our respondents had an average score of 2.2) and shape (ie: curly fry, waffle fry, shoestring, steak fry, etc).
Whe then asked for opinions of the following fast-food french fries: Bojangles, Cookout, Chick-Fil-A, McDonald’s, Wendy’s, and Burger King. East establishment’s french fries were rated on a scale of 1-5, one being the worst and 5 being the best. Overwhelmingly, our results indicate that Chick-Fil-A is the most popular fast-food restaurant among Elon students (average rating of 4.0). This came as a surprise to us, as most of the survey respondents are not from the south, and therefore were not raised on Chick-Fil-A french fries. While the following cannot be said with confidence, we do believe that the shape of Chick-Fil-A’s fries, waffle fries, plays into the french fries’ popularity. As aforementioned, 88.8% of survey respondents noted that the shape of the french fry does affect their overall opinion of it. Chick-Fil-A is the only fast-food restaurant on our list that offers french fries that deviate from the traditional shape, which could account for its popularity over the other fast-food choices.
Our survey also set out to gather data about french fries from sit down establishments. When asked if they prefered french fries from sit-down establishments versus fast-food restaurants, a near even split occurred in the data: 51.3% of respondents prefer sit-down french fries, while 48.7% prefer fast-food. We further asked our respondents to list the name of their favorite sit-down restaurant to order fast food fries from. While answered varied–Hop’s Burger Bar, Red Robin, etc.–the majority of respondents said that The Root in Elon, NC was there favorite sit-down restaurant for french fries. While this finding is interesting, we are aware of the possible bias, because The Root is located on Elon’s campus. Respondents might have thought that they needed to list a restaurant on campus, or some might eat most frequently at The Root because they don’t have a car to travel to other restaurants.