Even though there was little actual change in July, guest sentiment based on food did become slightly less positive during the month. This drop in positive food sentiment was measured for both the month and the rolling three-month average, which speaks to the ongoing trend in slipping food satisfaction which started in April. What continues to be a bright spot for the industry is service.
For 2017 year-to-date, guest satisfaction with restaurant service has become more positive year over year. Another encouraging sign is that even though July was a very bad month for the industry based on same-store sales growth, guest intent to return was flat when compared with July of 2016. In recent months, there had been significant drops in positive guest sentiment around their intent to return to the restaurant brands they visited during the month.
The latest TDn2K™ analysis revealed that the key guest satisfaction differentiator between table service brands that achieved top same-store sales performance and those that only obtained median sales growth, was service in the second quarter. Top performing brands also tend to have better guest sentiment associated with their other attributes, such as food, beverage and value, but service continues to be the attribute that drives the biggest differential for top performers.
In the case of counter service brands (fast casual and quick service), service is virtually tied with ambiance as the two attributes that most differentiated top performers based on same-store sales. Guests seem to be rewarding those counter service brands that provide good service in appealing, clean locations.
Additionally, White Box Social Intelligence data continues to support the theory that online guest mentions, both positive and negative, can be accurate reflections of restaurant brand performance. Contrary to conventional wisdom, even brands with lowest sales growth performance had net positive guest sentiment in the second quarter. However, top performers based on same-store sales growth had net positive sentiment that was seven percentage points higher than those in the bottom sales performance category.
A solid trend that continued through July was that restaurant guests in the Mountain Plains region tend to rate their restaurant experiences as the most positive out of all the regions in the country. Restaurant brands operating there should expect better satisfaction scores there than anywhere else in the country. Guest satisfaction fell during July in Texas and California, surpassing New York/New Jersey and New England as the least satisfied restaurant guests in the country. New York/New Jersey and New England had been the least positive in recent months.
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.