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Despite Downturn in Sales and Traffic, Restaurants Succeed in Raising Guest Sentiment in December

Restaurant Guest Satisfaction Snapshot™

Top 5 Restaurant Brands

Best Restaurants Rated Socially for Food

Food

  • True Food Kitchen
  • Fish City Grill & Half Shells
  • Eddie V's
  • Seasons 52
  • Fleming's
Best Restaurants Rated Socially for Service

Service

  • Smoothie King
  • Fleming's
  • Season's 52
  • The Capital Grille
  • Eddie V's
Best Restaurants Rated Socially for Intent to Return

Intent to Return

  • Smoothie King
  • Fish City Grill
  • The Capital Grille
  • Season's 52
  • Eddie V's

Connecting the Dots on Performance

Food was the attribute with the most positive sentiment for limited service brands in December
Service was the attribute with the most positive sentiment for full service brands in December

Limited-service continues to achieve much better sales and traffic than full-service but there are some wide ranges in performance at the brand level. Sales growth rates for companies in the top quartile of sales performance were almost 30 percentage points better than those in the bottom quartile. Analyzing guest sentiment by attribute for top performing limited-service companies offers insight into what guests value the most in this environment.

Top performing limited-service brands during the fourth quarter found food rated as their most positive attribute*. With over 80% of all sales in limited-service currently occurring through off-premise channels, one can conclude that food quality is separating the best performers from the rest right now.

Value was the lowest net sentiment for these top performers. Even though the difference in net sentiment between food and value was a surprising 25 percentage points, this does not mean that value is not important in limited-service. Guests of top performing brands would not frequent the restaurant if they did not have an appealing value proposition. But the data is showing that once those guests are there, value is not what they highlight the most as part of their experience.

For full-service restaurants, net sentiment for top performing brands was a lot more consistent across all attributes of the restaurant experience. Here, the attention and importance guests placed on each is a lot more balanced than in limited-service. Only 9 percentage points separated the attribute with the highest and the lowest net sentiment. Value also had the lowest sentiment for full-service. However, value sentiment is much more positive for full-service than for limited-service.

*Attributes tracked by Black Box Guest Intelligence: food, beverage, service, ambiance, value and intent to return.

Top DMAS

  • Best Restaurant Food DMA

    Food

    orlando, fl
  • Best Restaurant Service DMA

    Service

    orlando, fl
  • Best Restaurant Service DMA

    Intent to Return

    tampa, fl
  • Best Restaurant Service DMA

    Beverage

    raleigh, nc
  • Best Restaurant Service DMA

    Ambiance

    orlando, fl
  • Best Restaurant Value DMA

    Value

    philadelphia, pa

Bottom DMAS

  • Food

    seattle, wa
  • Service

    seattle, wa
  • Worst Restaurant Service DMA

    Intent to Return

    minneapolis, mn
  • Beverages

    seattle, wa
  • Worst Restaurant Service DMA

    Ambiance

    chicago, il
  • Value

    seattle, wa

Guest sentiment remained consistent across most designated market areas. Metropolitan areas in Florida topped the rankings for the most positive sentiment in the country. The Orlando market once again hosted the most positive restaurant guests when it came to rating restaurant food, service and ambiance. Restaurant guests in Tampa-St. Petersburg were the most positive based on intent to return.

The latest data also revealed what aspects of the restaurant experience are most impacted by the effects of the pandemic. In December, a clear connection emerged between restaurant food and service net sentiment and sales performance. Markets with the biggest drops in sales experienced much lower guest sentiment around food and service. The opposite is true for markets that retained restaurant sales dollars at a better rate.

Among the 25 largest DMAs, the worst performing markets still had same-store sale losses approaching 50% year-over-year. In this environment, there is little doubt that the virus is the main driver behind this sales downturn. Food sentiment for those same underperforming markets was 16 points lower than DMAs with the best sales results. For service scores, the difference was 17 points.

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 nearly 300 brands, 2.4 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 is produced by data from Guest Intelligence™, a Black Box Intelligence Product™. 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 algorithm determining ranking brands is based on sentiment and determined by Black Box Guest 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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