To Move Sales Past Ambient Territory, Restaurants Must Meet Evolving Guest Expectations

Restaurant Guest Satisfaction Snapshot™

Top 5 Restaurant Brands

Best Restaurants Rated Socially for Food

Food

Best Restaurants Rated Socially for Service

Service

Best Restaurants Rated Socially for Intent to Return

Intent to Return

Connecting the Dots on Performance

There was a 12.7pp spread between top performers and the in around ambiance sentiment
Restaurant appearance and cleanliness drove bigger differences in guest sentiment than restaurant decor

Out of all aspects of the restaurant experience, ambiance is the attribute that has risen to the top as the one that most differentiates guest perception of those brands that are winning in the marketplace and those that fall to the middle of the pack. Restaurant brands that have consistently posted same-store sales growth leading the industry for the last three years have ambiance guest sentiment 12.7 percentage points higher than the average for the rest of the industry. No other attribute saw a larger spread in guest sentiment. Guests are signaling that, much more than food or beverage, a restaurant's ambiance is what will make them return and thus, reward that restaurant with incremental sales dollars.

But even within the larger concept of "ambiance," there are components of the restaurant experience that guests seem to be favoring. The spread in guest sentiment between brands doing consistently better on sales growth and the rest of the industry was bigger based more on restaurant cleanliness and overall appearance than the restaurant's decor. This suggests that the workforce component of the business goes beyond service, which is the second leading attribute based on differentiating the best from the rest. Attention to detail on cleanliness and maintenance, things like keeping tables bussed and the restrooms fresh, carry a lot of weight in the guest's mind. And operational discipline along those areas may be among the most important things a restaurant needs to focus on to succeed in the marketplace.

This data comes from the newly released "Best vs. the Rest" case study from the 2020 Restaurant Industry Planning Guide

Top DMAS

  • Best Restaurant Food DMA

    Food

    orlando, fl
  • Best Restaurant Service DMA

    Service

    orlando, fl
  • Best Restaurant Service DMA

    Intent to Return

    tampa, fl
  • Best Restaurant Service DMA

    Beverage

    orlando, fl
  • Best Restaurant Service DMA

    Ambiance

    orlando, fl
  • Best Restaurant Value DMA

    Value

    orlando, fl

Bottom DMAS

  • Worst Restaurant Food DMA

    Food

    san francisco, ca
  • Worst Restaurant Service DMA

    Service

    san francisco, ca
  • Worst Restaurant Service DMA

    Intent to Return

    san francisco, ca
  • Worst Restaurant Service DMA

    Beverages

    los angeles, ca
  • Worst Restaurant Service DMA

    Ambiance

    san francisco, ca
  • Worst Restaurant Value DMA

    Value

    los angeles, ca

As has been typically the case, Orlando proved once again it is where the most positive restaurant guests in the country are dining. Guests in this market rated their restaurant experiences the highest based on food, beverage, service, ambiance and value. Tampa rounded off the list of the most positive major DMAs for restaurants based on intent to return guest sentiment.

On the other end of the spectrum, restaurant guests were the least positive about their restaurant interactions during August in San Francisco, California. This market saw the lowest positive sentiment scores based on restaurant food, service, ambiance, value and intent to return. Their neighbor to the South, San Francisco, had the least positive guests based on beverage sentiment in August.

Although operational factors such as staffing levels may be impacting those results, a key driver of how guests rate restaurant experiences seems to be simply different expectations and attitudes.

Best & Worst Regions

Best
  • florida62.9%% Positive
  • western60.1%% Positive
  • mountain plains58.3%% Positive
Worst
  • california53.9%% Positive
  • southwest53.7%% Positive
  • ny-nj52.3%% Positive

"Another persisting trend has been for much less positive restaurant guests in the New York-New Jersey region. Competition is high in that region, expectations may be harder to meet as a result and guests seem to be more comfortable rating their restaurant experiences lower in this region when those anticipations are not met.

Restaurant guest sentiment was over 10 percentage points less positive in New York-New Jersey than it was in Florida during August.

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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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