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Guest Sentiment in November Offers Insight into Best Performing Menu Items

Restaurant Guest Satisfaction Snapshot™

Top 5 Restaurant Brands

Best Restaurants Rated Socially for Food

Food

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

Service

  • Eddie V's
  • Smoothie king
  • Seasons 52
  • The Capital Grille
  • Chuy's
Best Restaurants Rated Socially for Intent to Return

Intent to Return

  • Smoothie King
  • Eddie V's
  • Seasons 52
  • The Capital Grille
  • Fleming's

Connecting the Dots on Performance

Favorite menu items for limited service, pizza, burger, chicken
Favorite menu items for full service, steak, wings, salad

Considering that restaurant food sentiment is improving among guests, an opportunity is presented to explore their favorite menu items. What foods are they mentioning most often and assigning a positive sentiment? As would be expected, the answer varied widely between different kinds of restaurants.

For limited-service restaurants, the menu item most frequently mentioned when describing a positive food experience in November was by far pizza. The second most mentioned menu items were burgers, followed by chicken (which included chicken sandwiches). This is welcome validation for those restaurants that are having great success selling those items. According to the financial data tracked by Black Box Intelligence, the three restaurant cuisine types that have been outperforming the rest throughout the pandemic are precisely pizza, burgers and chicken. As the rest of the industry struggles, those restaurants specializing in those food items are experiencing strong positive same-store sales growth on average. But overlying this guest sentiment data reveals that while these menu items benefit from being typically associated with limited-service restaurants (which are doing better overall) and the fact that they are well-suited for off-premise sales environment, success is also coming from great execution. Guests are mentioning these menu items the most and when they do, they overwhelmingly describe a positive experience.

For full-service restaurants, the menu item that got the largest number of positive guest mentions during November was steak. And it is relevant to mention that this is not driven by fine dining or even upscale casual. Steak was the most mentioned menu item in casual dining when describing a positive food experience.

The other menu items most commonly mentioned with a positive sentiment during November were wings, followed by salad.

Top DMAS

  • Best Restaurant Food DMA

    Food

    orlando, fl
  • Best Restaurant Service DMA

    Service

    orlando, fl
  • Best Restaurant Service DMA

    Intent to Return

    raleigh, nc
  • Best Restaurant Service DMA

    Beverage

    st. louis, mo
  • Best Restaurant Service DMA

    Ambiance

    los angeles, ca
  • Best Restaurant Value DMA

    Value

    philadelphia, pa

Bottom DMAS

  • Worst Restaurant Food DMA

    Food

    chicago, il
  • Worst Restaurant Service DMA

    Service

    san francisco, ca
  • Worst Restaurant Service DMA

    Intent to Return

    philadelphia, pa
  • Worst Restaurant Service DMA

    Beverages

    nashville, tn
  • Worst Restaurant Service DMA

    Ambiance

    chicago, il
  • Worst Restaurant Value DMA

    Value

    raleigh, nc

There is a sense of normalcy that has returned to restaurant guest sentiment at the local level. Specifically, Orlando, FL topped the list of major markets with the most positive restaurant sentiment, as was the norm before the pandemic. During November, Orlando’s restaurant guests had the most positive sentiment when rating their experiences with the key indicators of food and service.

What is interesting to highlight is the shifts that have occurred in the list of major markets with the most positive restaurant ambiance sentiment. This attribute of the restaurant experience has become increasingly important this year since it includes the highly relevant cleanliness component. In recent months it has been highlighted how much ambiance sentiment boosts are being driven by improvements in cleanliness sentiment.

The markets with the highest ambiance sentiment during November were Los Angeles, Phoenix, Orlando, Minneapolis and Washington DC. Except for Los Angeles, none of these other major markets cracked the top 5 last month. As the number of COVID cases rises, guests may have become more concerned with ambiance and cleanliness. Restaurants in these cities seem to be responding to the challenge and better meeting heightened expectations from their guests.

Black Box Intelligence™ (formerly TDn2K) is the leading data and insights provider of workforce, guest, consumer and financial performance benchmarks for the hospitality industry. The Black Box Intelligence product suite is the industry standard for operators seeking to achieve best-in-class performance results. With the largest and most reliable set of real restaurant data in the marketplace, Black Box Intelligence currently tracks and analyzes more than 290 brands, 2.5 million employees, 50,000 restaurant units and $76 billion in annual sales revenue. Black Box Intelligence is also the producer of the Global Best Practices Conference held annually in Dallas, Texas.

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The Restaurant Guest Satisfaction Snapshot (RGSS) is produced by data from Black Box Guest Intelligence™. Guest Intelligence is tracking over 190 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 data set focuses on six key attributes of the restaurant industry experience: food, service, ambiance, beverage, value and intent to return.

The RGSS algorithm determines the highest ranking brands based on sentiment. 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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