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Online Sentiment Reflects Convergence of Employee and Guest Values

Restaurant Guest Satisfaction Snapshot™

Top 5 Restaurant Brands

Best Restaurants Rated Socially for Food

Food

  • Chili's Grill & Bar
  • Fleming's
  • Firebirds Wood Fired Grill
  • Seasons 52
  • Eddie V's
Best Restaurants Rated Socially for Service

Service

  • Chili's Grill & Bar
  • Smoothie King
  • Fleming's
  • Lazy Dog Restaurant & Bar
  • Firebirds Wood Fired Grill
Best Restaurants Rated Socially for Intent to Return

Intent to Return

  • Smoothie King
  • Fleming's
  • Firebird's Wood Fired Grill
  • Maggiano's Little Italy
  • The Capital Grille

Connecting the Dots on Performance

Cleanliness is the new ambiance - from April to June, net sentiment for
Social advocacy is the latest theme in online channels

As restaurants began reopening to dine-in and guests returned, restaurant ambiance sentiment became much more positive. This naturally makes sense, considering it is unlikely that guests had much to say about ambiance when their interaction with restaurants was limited to picking up something through curbside pickup or the drive-thru window. Back in April only 34% of all ambiance-related mentions online were classified as positive. By May, restaurants in many states started to reopen their doors to dine-in and ambiance sentiment started to improve. Of all ambiance mentions in May 43% were classified as positive. The percentage of positive mentions during June improved again to 45% of all ambiance-related mentions.

The component of restaurant ambiance that stood out the most was cleanliness. From April to June net sentiment based on terms related to cleanliness improved by almost 20 percentage points. This is especially important today, given the hypervigilance from consumers regarding safety and sanitation as a result of the pandemic. Social media data tracked by Black Box Guest Intelligence ™ indicates that guests have high expectations in terms of what they see when visiting a restaurant. An area that stands out in this regard is the usage of masks, which at the end of the day is directly tied to the perception of cleanliness and safety. The fact that restaurant cleanliness net sentiment has improved so much is a good sign the efforts by restaurants to provide a heightened level of cleanliness and sanitation is being well received by guests. The stakes around cleanliness couldn’t be higher and restaurants are rising to the task.

The latest trend that has emerged based on social chatter related to restaurant brands has been an awareness and concern for social advocacy themes related to racism, injustice and the Black Lives Matter movement. Despite online conversations largely focused on COVID-related themes for months, social advocacy grew in momentum and became very relevant starting at the end of May.

Through their online posts, consumers have made clear these are causes they care about. Plus, they are being extremely vocal about what they expect from the restaurant brands they support. Many have made clear that beyond just looking for a good meal or service experience, they will favor only those restaurant companies that align with their values. And they are expecting those companies to make those values clear.

Equally important has been listening to the employee voice through their statements on social advocacy. These topics discussed today are especially close to the heart of many restaurant employees given the industry’s diverse employee population. Restaurant employees are going to social media to set their expectations of what they want to see and hear from their employers. Much like guests, many employees are looking for a clear stance from their employers on social issues.

Top DMAS

  • Best Restaurant Food DMA

    Food

    los angeles, ca
  • Best Restaurant Service DMA

    Service

    los angeles, ca
  • Best Restaurant Service DMA

    Intent to Return

    philadelphia, pa
  • Best Restaurant Service DMA

    Beverage

    philadelphia, pa
  • Best Restaurant Service DMA

    Ambiance

    los angeles, ca
  • Best Restaurant Value DMA

    Value

    raleigh, nc

Bottom DMAS

  • Worst Restaurant Food DMA

    Food

    boston, ma
  • Worst Restaurant Service DMA

    Service

    chicago, il
  • Worst Restaurant Service DMA

    Intent to Return

    raleigh, nc
  • Worst Restaurant Service DMA

    Beverages

    new york, ny
  • Worst Restaurant Service DMA

    Ambiance

    raleigh, nc
  • Worst Restaurant Value DMA

    Value

    detroit, mi

At the DMA level there were also some interesting shifts in sentiment during June. Orlando is typically found topping the biggest markets in the country based on highest restaurant net sentiment. But, in June, Orlando slipped from the top position during the month. In its place, Los Angeles was the market with the most positive restaurant sentiment on the what arguably are the most important attributes in the COVID-19 recovery period: food, service and ambiance (considering the latter is where cleanliness related mentions are classified).

Rounding up the list of markets with most positive restaurant sentiment is Philadelphia, which had a strong intent to return net sentiment during June. This market was also the strongest in restaurant beverage sentiment.

The good news for restaurants is that sentiment is in their favor. Guests are sensitive to the challenges restaurants are overcoming and, if they continue to meet expectations for cleanliness and sanitation, they will continue to receive support from their customers.

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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.