A new trend has emerged - restaurant guest sentiment is becoming more negative regarding satisfaction with food. After a first quarter in which both food and service guest sentiment became more positive year over year, guest satisfaction with food declined during all months of the second quarter. For an industry already challenged by declining guest counts and negative sales growth as it faces growing competition from other sectors, the fact that guests are perceiving food offerings in a less favorable light could spell more trouble ahead. A bright spot can be found in the perception of restaurant service, which has become more positive year over year for every month of the year up to June. However, the most predictive of guest satisfaction attributes, intent to return, has consistently become more negative year over year during each of the months during the first two quarters of 2017.
Recent research by TDn2K™ through White Box Social Intelligence data has shown that guests are very aware of what their service expectations are when visiting a restaurant, regardless of dining segment. In the case of counter service brands (quick service and fast casual), it would be easy to dismiss service as less important. However, the latest data shows that during the second quarter, top performing brands based on same-store sales growth received much more positive service mentions than the median performance for these segments as well as the worst performing brands. Service continues to be one of the key drivers of superior restaurant performance. For table-service brands, service is expected to have a big part in a brand's success (and it does), but what the latest data shows is that other attributes such as value are also key drivers in these segments. During the second quarter, table service brands with the highest sales growth had 15 percent higher guest satisfaction based on value than brands with the lowest sales growth.
Restaurant guests in the Mountain Plains tend to view their restaurant experiences more favorably than in the rest of the country. For the sixth consecutive month, this region had the most positive restaurant guest sentiment. Tied for second in positive sentiment during June were the Midwest and Southwest. Guests in the New York-New Jersey and New England regions continued reporting the least positive sentiment for restaurant experiences during June.
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.