During April, restaurants experienced a decline in their guest satisfaction for two of the three guest sentiment attributes featured. While food and service sentiment had been improving year-over-year in previous months, positive food sentiment dropped during April. As has been the case in recent months, intent to return sentiment has become less positive among chain restaurant guests when compared to the same period a year ago. Additionally, the rate at which intent to return positive sentiment is declining accelerated during April compared with the previous two months. This continues to be bad news for an industry starved for growth in their number of guest visits. Same-store traffic has declined 3.6 percent year-over-year during the first fourth months of 2017.
White Box Social Intelligence data has shown there is a correlation between what guests are saying online regarding their intent to return to the restaurant brands they visited and these brands' same-store sales performance. In fact, for top performing restaurant brands based on same-store sales growth over the last three years, "intent to return" online sentiment emerged as the biggest guest satisfaction differentiator compared with worst performing brands. Recent research has shown that those brands that have lower percentages of positive "intent to return' mentions tend to significantly underperform their peers based on same-store food sales. When a brand does not have many of their guests saying online they plan to visit their restaurant again, it can be a leading indicator that sales performance is declining.
Restaurant guests in the Mountain Plains region continue to be the most satisfied with their restaurant experiences. For the fourth consecutive month, this region has established itself as having the most positive guest sentiment. For the second consecutive month, the Western region has emerged as the second most positive based on restaurant satisfaction. On the other hand, New York/New Jersey has been among the three regions with least positive sentiment during three of the last four months, while the Southwest has been in this group for each of the months in 2017 as of April.
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.