Positive Sentiment Poised to Carry through New Year; Phoenix Shakes up DMAs

Restaurant Guest Satisfaction Snapshot™

Top 5 Restaurant Brands

Best Restaurants Rated Socially for Food

Food

  • Eddie V's Prime Seafood
  • The Capital Grille
  • Fish City Grill & Half Shells
  • True Food Kitchen
  • Seasons 52
Best Restaurants Rated Socially for Service

Service

  • Trulucks
  • Eddie V's Prime Seafood
  • The Capital Grille
  • Fish City Grill & Half Shells
  • True Food Kitchen
Best Restaurants Rated Socially for Intent to Return

Intent to Return

  • Fish City Grill & Half Shells
  • True Food Kitchen
  • Mi Cocina
  • Firebirds - Wood Fired Grill
  • Eddie V's Prime Seafood

Connecting the Dots on Performance

Top performing restaurant brands in Q3 2018 had same-store sales growth 10.5 percentage points higher than bottom performers.
Food guest sentiment for top sales performers' in Q3 2018 was only 2.6 percentage points more positive than for bottom performing brands

The industry may be going through its strongest period of sales expansion in the last three years, but there are huge gaps in same-store sales performance between top and bottom performers in the marketplace. In the third quarter of 2018 according to Black Box Intelligence, top performing restaurant brands (those among the 25 percent with the highest sales growth) had same-store sales that were an astounding 10.5 percentage points better than bottom performers (those brands among the 25 percent with the lowest sales growth).

There is obviously a huge sales premium obtained by those brands at the highest levels of performance. But what makes those brands different? The most obvious place to start looking is studying what guests say about them when it comes to their food. After all, that is what comes to mind as the primary product offered by restaurants. What White Box Social Intelligence has been revealing over the past year, remarkably, is that guests don't rate food of those top performing brands much different than how they perceive food from those brands that are underperforming in sales.

Yes, guest sentiment based on food is higher for top performing brands based on sales (as would be expected), but the difference is surprisingly small. Net sentiment for the food of top performing brands was only 2.6 percentage points higher than for the food of the brands underperforming the most. The difference in sentiment for beverages was only slightly greater.

So what parts of the restaurant experience seem to matter the most and are driving such big gaps in sales performance? The data indicates that currently it is superior ambiance and service that are being rewarded by guests with incremental sales and traffic. Furthermore, this is a trend that has sustained for well over a year. The gaps in net sentiment centered on ambiance and service averaged 20 percentage points between top and bottom performers in the third quarter of 2018.

*top performers are 25% of brands with highest same-store sales growth; bottom performers are 25% with the lowest sales growth.

Top DMAS

  • Best Restaurant Food DMA

    Food

    orlando, fl
  • Best Restaurant Service DMA

    Service

    orlando, fl
  • Best Restaurant Service DMA

    Intent to Return

    phoenix, az
  • Best Restaurant Service DMA

    Beverage

    philadelphia, pa
  • Best Restaurant Service DMA

    Ambiance

    phoenix, az
  • Best Restaurant Value DMA

    Value

    phoenix, az

Bottom DMAS

  • Worst Restaurant Food DMA

    Food

    los angeles, ca
  • Worst Restaurant Service DMA

    Service

    boston, ma
  • Worst Restaurant Service DMA

    Intent to Return

    minneapolis-st paul, mn
  • Worst Restaurant Service DMA

    Beverages

    los angeles, ca
  • Worst Restaurant Service DMA

    Ambiance

    charlotte, nc
  • Worst Restaurant Value DMA

    Value

    los angeles, ca

There seems to be one constant when it comes to restaurant guest sentiment among the 25 largest markets in the country: people in Orlando are simply more positive than the rest of the country while reviewing their restaurant experiences. December saw this DMA lead the country in positive guest sentiment based on food and service.

However, there was one surprise in the latest results. Phoenix rarely appears in the list of highest restaurant guest sentiment, but it topped the country for ambiance, value and intent to return during December. Ambiance and intent to return have been found to be key differentiating factors for top performing brands in the industry. The top performing market among the 25 largest DMAs in the country was also Phoenix, based on average same-store sales growth for the last three months of 2018.

Another long-standing trend regarding geographic differences in guest sentiment was present again in December. Guests in Los Angeles tend to be less positive than guests in other major metropolitan areas when discussing their restaurant experiences online. During the last month, they were the least positive based on their descriptions of restaurant food, beverages and value.

Best & Worst Regions

Best
  • florida62.3% Positive
  • western60.7% Positive
  • texas58.2% Positive
Worst
  • southeast55.5% Positive
  • ny-nj55.4% Positive
  • new england53.8% Positive

The strong restaurant sales growth achieved during December was widespread from a geographic standpoint. All ten regions of the country except for Florida had strong positive same-store sales growth of 1.0 or better during December. In the case of Florida, sales growth was essentially flat.

Guest sentiment during the month also reflected this sense of restaurant optimism across the country. For the second consecutive month, all eleven regions of the country had over half of all of their online restaurant mentions classified as positive.

As was the case starting with November, Florida now not only has some of the DMAs with the highest marks for restaurant guest sentiment, but also the region as a whole leads the country in positive restaurant satisfaction.*

Rounding out the list of top three regions with most positive restaurant net sentiment during December were both the Western region and Texas.

The regions with lowest positive sentiment were the Southeast as well as New York-New Jersey and New England, two regions continuously characterized by guests that tend to be less positive when describing and rating their restaurant interactions according to White Box Social Intelligence.

*Due to its size, Florida is considered one of the regions of the country in TDn2K reports. California and Texas are also classified as regions.

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The Restaurant Guest Satisfaction Snapshot is produced by White Box Social Intelligence™, a TDn2K Product™. 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.

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