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Despite Stalled Growth in Sales, Restaurants See Strong Sentiment in October

Restaurant Guest Satisfaction Snapshot™

Top 5 Restaurant Brands

Best Restaurants Rated Socially for Food

Food

  • Seasons 52
  • Eddie V's
  • True Food Kitchen
  • The Capital Grille
  • Cooper's Hawk Winery
Best Restaurants Rated Socially for Service

Service

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

Intent to Return

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

Connecting the Dots on Performance

As COVID cases surged 10X in October, restaurant guest mentions of COVID decreased 70%
October guests mentioned masks 14% more often than cleanliness and 25% more than

Another interesting insight present in the last data is how much restaurant guests have adapted to the current landscape. Dealing with COVID is something they seem to have gotten used to and is not as big a factor when discussing their restaurant experiences as it used to be at the beginning of the pandemic. Perhaps more than adaptation, we may also be witnessing the result of COVID fatigue. People may not want to think or talk about it anymore, even though the number of cases is surging dramatically.

The number of new COVID cases registered during October is about 10 times greater than the number in March. And by the end of October the daily number of confirmed cases surpassed anything seen in this country since the pandemic began.

With the virus surging at this rapid pace, it would have been understandable to find a surging number of COVID-related mentions among the online restaurant chatter in October. But the data shows the opposite pattern. The largest number of COVID-related online mentions in restaurant comments and reviews occurred in March, as the virus hit national news and fear and uncertainty grasped the attention of the public. But since then, the number of COVID mentions tied to restaurants has dramatically decreased. By October, the number of online restaurant comments and reviews that had terms directly related to COVID decreased by 70% compared to the number of mentions during the March peak. The virus has not gone away, but it has disappeared in many of the online conversations centered around restaurants.

Furthermore, the latest data from October revealed masks were the most recurrent and visible manifestation of COVID-related concerns. The fact that it is a highly controversial topic probably doesn’t hurt. Among those restaurant comments and reviews that include terms related to the virus or mention the pandemic itself, guests mentioned masks 14% more often than they mentioned terms like “clean” or “cleanliness.” Additionally, masks were mentioned 25% more times than they did terms like “safe” or “safety.” A reason for the high occurrence of mask mentions may be simply that they are the easiest and quickest way to make a judgement call on whether health practices are being followed. Plus, it is a practice that is required not only of the restaurant staff but also of fellow restaurant patrons, which adds complexity to the topic.

Top DMAS

  • Best Restaurant Food DMA

    Food

    orlando, fl
  • Best Restaurant Service DMA

    Service

    orlando, fl
  • Best Restaurant Service DMA

    Intent to Return

    new york, ny
  • Best Restaurant Service DMA

    Beverage

    orlando, fl
  • Best Restaurant Service DMA

    Ambiance

    miami, fl
  • Best Restaurant Value DMA

    Value

    raleigh, nc

Bottom DMAS

  • Worst Restaurant Food DMA

    Food

    san francisco, ca
  • Worst Restaurant Service DMA

    Service

    raleigh, nc
  • Worst Restaurant Service DMA

    Intent to Return

    philadelphia, pa
  • Worst Restaurant Service DMA

    Beverages

    nashville, tn
  • Worst Restaurant Service DMA

    Ambiance

    sacramento, ca
  • Worst Restaurant Value DMA

    Value

    st louis, mo

The geographic differences in guest sentiment for the restaurant industry have returned to normal. In recent years, restaurant guest in Florida’s major markets have led the country in strongest positive sentiment based on multiple attributes of the restaurant experience. After some disturbances in this trend due to the pandemic, Orlando was once again the major metropolitan area with the most positive sentiment based on restaurant food, beverages and service in October. Miami topped the list as the major market with the most positive restaurant ambiance sentiment during October.

Another interesting trend has been for guests rallying around restaurants in areas that have been most heavily impacted by the pandemic, as reflected in high intent to return guest sentiment. During October, the market with the highest intent to return score was New York, which also happens to be one of the four major markets in the country with the biggest losses in restaurant sales during the month. Also included on the list of markets with the biggest year-over-year sales loss was Los Angeles, which ranked as the fourth highest intent to return sentiment among major metropolitan areas.

Restaurant guests may not be dining out as much in those markets due to the restrictions in place and concerns about COVID, but they have a strong sentiment for supporting the restaurants in their cities.

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, 2.3 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 Black Box Guest Intelligence™. Guest Intelligence 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 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. DMA rankings consider only the largest 25 areas.