Industry on Track to First Year of Positive Sales Growth Since 2015, Restaurant Guest Experience Takes Center Stage

Restaurant Guest Satisfaction Snapshot™

Top 5 Restaurant Brands

Best Restaurants Rated Socially for Food

Food

  • Seasons 52
  • Eddie V's
  • The Capital Grille
  • Dave & Busters
  • Bahama Breeze
Best Restaurants Rated Socially for Service

Service

  • The Capital Grille
  • Mi Cocina
  • Abuelo's
  • Il Fornaio
  • Trulucks
Best Restaurants Rated Socially for Intent to Return

Intent to Return

  • The Capital Grille
  • Seasons 52
  • Mi Cocina
  • Eddie V's
  • Firebirds Wood Fired Grill

Connecting the Dots on Performance

Although Black Box Intelligence has revealed there is some recovery in the chain restaurant sector and sales are better now than they were a year ago, this improvement is small and only relative. In many cases, data has shown sales are still down when compared with restaurant performance two years ago. Furthermore, almost half of the brands tracked are still reporting negative same-store sales growth year over year. The underlying message seems to be: average performance is not good enough in this environment.

So the question becomes, what can we learn from top performing brands? During the third quarter of 2018, restaurant brands that were in the top quartile of sales growth performance among full service brands (casual dining, family dining, upscale casual and fine dining) reported same-store sales growth that was 10.0 percentage points better than those brands in the bottom quartile. The stark difference in sales performance is astounding. Additionally, the gap between top and bottom performing brands has been expanding in recent years.

Research from TDn2K recently revealed that service is the attribute that frequently most differentiates top performing brands from the rest of the industry. When guests discuss their restaurant experiences online, the word “experience” is most commonly associated with best performing brand service sentiment.

But how are top performing brands delivering on this superior service experience? One way is through their focus on people practices leading to better employee retention. Those same top performing brands based on sales growth achieved hourly employee, non-management turnover rates that were almost 30 percentage points lower than those brands with the lowest same-store sales growth. It is not surprising that having an engaged, trained and tenured employee base seems to lead to better service perception by guests, which in turn rewards those brands with repeat business and positive word of mouth.

Top DMAS

  • Best Restaurant Food DMA

    Food

    orlando, fl
  • Best Restaurant Service DMA

    Service

    philadelphia, pa
  • Best Restaurant Service DMA

    Intent to Return

    philadelphia, pa
  • Best Restaurant Service DMA

    Beverage

    los angeles, ca
  • Best Restaurant Service DMA

    Ambiance

    philadelphia, pa
  • Best Restaurant Value DMA

    Value

    orlando, fl

Bottom DMAS

  • Worst Restaurant Food DMA

    Food

    raleigh, nc
  • Worst Restaurant Service DMA

    Service

    houston, tx
  • Worst Restaurant Service DMA

    Intent to Return

    minneapolis, mn
  • Worst Restaurant Service DMA

    Beverages

    houston, tx
  • Worst Restaurant Service DMA

    Ambiance

    raleigh, nc
  • Worst Restaurant Value DMA

    Value

    charlotte, nc

As has been the norm in recent months, Orlando, FL was home to the most positive restaurant sentiment during October based on several of the restaurant attributes tracked by White Box Social Intelligence. Among the top 25 largest markets, restaurant guests in Orlando rated their experiences the most positive based on the food and perceived value of their meals.

Guests in Philadelphia were also extremely positive during October. This market led the country in positive sentiment for service, ambiance and intent to return.

Restaurant guests in North Carolina, on the contrary, were not very satisfied during the month. Raleigh had the least positive sentiment based on restaurant food and ambiance, while guests in Charlotte seem to be the least satisfied with their meals' perceived value.

Completing the list of DMAs with the least positive sentiment was Houston. Restaurant guests there ranked their experiences as the least positive based on the dimensions of beverage and service.

Best & Worst Regions

Best
  • mountain plains50.3% Positive
  • florida50.0% Positive
  • western48.5% Positive
Worst
  • california42.6% Positive
  • texas41.2% Positive
  • mid-atlantic40.2% Positive

After a small slip during September, the Mountain Plains region returned to its usual place as the most positive in the country in terms of restaurant sentiment. This is nothing new. Since the beginning of TDn2K's Restaurant Guest Satisfaction Snapshot, guests in that region have demonstrated they tend to rate their restaurant experiences more positively than the rest of the country. In fact, during October, only two regions had over 50 percent of their online restaurant guest mentions classified as positive: Mountain Plains and Florida.

In the past, it has been a constant for markets such as Orlando and Tampa to appear in the list of DMAs with the highest positive sentiment based on the restaurant attributes tracked (food, beverage, service, etc.). But now, a new trend is emerging in which the entire state appears to have a more positive outlook on chain restaurants compared with the rest of the country.

Sentiment from restaurant guests in New York-New Jersey was much more positive, representing a change from historical results. This region is frequently the least positive in the country, but it showed some improvement in its sentiment during October.

The regions with the least positive restaurant sentiment during the month were Texas and the Mid-Atlantic.

Be the first to know of future snapshots

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

The Restaurant Guest Satisfaction Snapshot is produced by White Box Social Intelligence™, a TDn2K company™. WBSI is tracking over 192 brands to benchmark customer satisfaction and is the only online tool that integrates with operational performance data to validate the impact on financial performance. The algorithm determining ranking brands is based on sentiment and determined by White Box Social Intelligence. Brands included in this monthly snapshot must have a total of at least 250 mentions for the month. Restaurants must have a minimum number of units to be eligible as well. DMA rankings consider only the largest 25 areas.