Guest Sentiment Rises Despite Sales and Traffic Decline

Restaurant Guest Satisfaction Snapshot™

Top 5 Restaurant Brands

Best Restaurants Rated Socially for Food

Food

  • Eddie V's
  • The Capital Grille
  • Seasons 52
  • Fish City Grill & Half Shells
  • Ted's Montana Grill
Best Restaurants Rated Socially for Service

Service

  • Abuelo's
  • The Capital Grille
  • Mi Cocina
  • Eddie V's
  • Fish City Grill & Half Shells
Best Restaurants Rated Socially for Intent to Return

Intent to Return

  • Ninety Nine Restaurants
  • The Capital Grille
  • Eddie V's
  • Fish City Grill & Half Shells
  • Seasons 52

Connecting the Dots on Performance

Limited service restaurants in the top quartile of sales performance saw 10.18% higher comp sales than those in bottom quartile in Q4 of 2018.
The same group of limited service restaurants also saw a 13.6 pt higher net sentiment score for ambiance mentions over the same time period.

February's slowdown notwithstanding, sales performance of chain restaurants has been improving dramatically over the last year. Not all brands are sharing the same on this sales turnaround, however. Black Box Intelligence data has revealed that sales growth between the top performing brands and those at the bottom has tended to widen in recent quarters.

During the fourth quarter of 2018, limited service brands with the top performance based on same-store sales growth (25 percent of quick service and fast casual brands with the highest sales growth rate), outperformed those in the lowest 25 percent of sales performance by a huge margin of 10.4 percentage points in their same-store sales.

The data from White Box Social Intelligence has revealed that ambiance is one of the primary ways that top performing brands are differentiating themselves and delivering on a superior restaurant experience to their guests. Net sentiment based on ambiance for those same top performing brands was almost 14 points higher than for those brands underperforming.

Once guests decide they are spending their time and money on dining at a restaurant, or even picking up some food to go, they have a clear expectation of what the restaurant should look and feel like. Even when it may be a faster interaction at a lower price point, like those typically at limited service brands.

But even if ambiance may sound like an attribute that requires a big investment in time and money to improve, TDn2K research has found that typically it is the people side of the business who can greatly influence the ambiance perspective. Issues around ambiance are frequently related to cleanliness and appearance that is part of the day-to-day restaurant operation.

Top DMAS

  • Best Restaurant Food DMA

    Food

    orlando, fl
  • Best Restaurant Service DMA

    Service

    orlando, fl
  • Best Restaurant Service DMA

    Intent to Return

    los angeles, ca
  • Best Restaurant Service DMA

    Beverage

    raleigh, nc
  • Best Restaurant Service DMA

    Ambiance

    orlando, fl
  • Best Restaurant Value DMA

    Value

    raleigh, nc

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

    charlotte, nc
  • Worst Restaurant Service DMA

    Beverages

    los angeles, ca
  • Worst Restaurant Service DMA

    Ambiance

    los angeles, ca
  • Worst Restaurant Value DMA

    Value

    los angeles, ca

The most enduring trend since the inception of the Restaurant Guest Satisfaction Snapshot has been markets in Florida tending to have some of the most satisfied restaurant guests in the country. Orlando has led the country among the 25 largest DMAs in terms of positive guest sentiment. During February this trend continued strong. Orlando had the highest guest sentiment based on restaurant food, service and ambiance.

Raleigh led the country on beverage and value sentiment during February.

During February, guests in major markets of California seem to have enjoyed their restaurant experiences the least. San Francisco, which is frequently found in the list of lowest guest sentiment markets, had the least positive sentiment based on food and service. Guests in Los Angeles expressed less than stellar satisfaction levels with restaurant beverages, ambiance and value.

Best & Worst Regions

Best
  • florida64.7% Positive
  • western60.1% Positive
  • mountain plains60.0% Positive
Worst
  • ny-nj55.0% Positive
  • california54.8% Positive
  • new england54.1% Positive

From a regional standpoint, improved guest sentiment is widespread, yet another positive sign encouraging continued optimism in the restaurant industry's future sales performance. Even if February brought declining same-store sales year over year, it also became the fourth consecutive month in which all eleven regions of the country saw over half of their online restaurant mentions classified as positive.

Three of the country's regions had over 60 percent net sentiment during the month: Florida, the Western region and Mountain Plains. The latter being among the regions with the most satisfied guests is nothing new; this has been a constant since the beginning of the Restaurant Guest Satisfaction Snapshot in 2017.

Although finding New York-New Jersey and New England at the bottom of the list for regional restaurant guest sentiment is common, there is a silver lining that net sentiment there has been rising. Guests there may not be satisfied as easily from their restaurant experiences, but from a relative standpoint perception of recent restaurant visits has been improving.

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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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