During September, year-over-year guest sentiment for food became more positive for the first time since March. Also, the trend for service guest sentiment improved once again during September. However, the net sentiment scores* for both service and value are still the lowest net sentiment scores for any of the attributes tracked by White Box Social Intelligence (food, beverage, service, ambiance and value). White Box has found these two attributes to be key differentiators between top and bottom performers based on same-store sales growth. These low satisfaction scores could be resulting in other adverse effects. During the third quarter, intent to return also fell year over year and restaurants reported abysmal same-store sales.
*Net positive guest sentiment is the percentage of positive mentions minus the percentage of negative mentions.
Value is emerging as a key metric that differentiates top performing brands in the marketplace. Restaurants have been facing tough competition from grocery stores recently as prices drop year over year. From this perspective, it makes sense that those brands that have the highest same-store sales growth rates tend to have much higher guest sentiment scores based on their value. In fact, during the second quarter of 2017, brands that achieved the highest same-store sales had about 40 percent more positive than negative value mentions online. For the worst performing brands, the percentage of net positive value mentions was only 27 percent. Similarly, top performing brands also continue to post better guest sentiment scores for service. During the second quarter, top performing brands had 10 percent more positive service mentions than their underperforming counterparts. On average, all restaurant brands only achieved only 31 percent positive service mentions during the quarter. So, a 10 percent difference in service scores is pretty significant.
Restaurant guests in the Mountain Plains are by far the most positive in the country about their restaurant experiences. They also shared the most positive mentions of service and value for restaurant brands they visited during September. Restaurant guests in the Western region, California and the Midwest were also more positive than most. These regions, except for the Midwest, reported the highest same-store sales growth in September. By contrast, the restaurant guests with the lowest percentage of positive restaurant mentions during the month were from the Southeast, the Mid-Atlantic and New York/New Jersey. Restaurants in the New York/New Jersey area are likely used to the negative outlook of their guests, as this region consistently ranks among least positive regions regarding its restaurant guest sentiment.
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.