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Restaurant Guests Remain Hyper Focused on Cleanliness and Safety

Restaurant Guest Satisfaction Snapshot™

Top 5 Restaurant Brands

Best Restaurants Rated Socially for Food

Food

  • Season's 52
  • Eddie V's
  • Cooper's Hawk Winery
  • The Capital Grille
  • Fish City Grill & Half Shells
Best Restaurants Rated Socially for Service

Service

  • Season's 52
  • Eddie V's
  • Cooper's Hawk Winery
  • The Capital Grille
  • Tupelo Honey Cafe
Best Restaurants Rated Socially for Intent to Return

Intent to Return

  • Season's 52
  • Eddie V's
  • Tupelo Honey Cafe
  • The Capital Grille
  • Bonefish Grill

Connecting the Dots on Performance

Since the summer, an emerging theme in online social data related to restaurants was how ambiance net sentiment started to improve year over year. But it was not the usual components that usually come up when discussing restaurant ambiance that were driving this improvement in guest sentiment. Rather, it was something as unglamorous as cleanliness that guests cared about more than anything else. Given that a global pandemic had just hit our country it was obvious these were not normal times and guests were rightfully hyper-focused on their safety when visiting restaurants.

Nine months into the pandemic, guests have learned to live and adapt to their new conditions. Has their perception on restaurant ambiance changed? Have they gone back to focusing on other, more elevated aspects of the restaurant’s atmosphere when they discuss their restaurant experiences online?

Recent data from Black Box Guest Intelligence™ reveals not much has changed. Guest sentiment based on restaurant ambiance became more positive by 7.5 percentage points year over year during the fourth quarter of 2020. But the two subcomponents of ambiance that saw the biggest improvements in net sentiment were cleanliness, which improved by 18.3 percentage points year over year, and the newly tracked “safety” category, which became 17.3 percentage points more positive during the period.

The good news is overall, restaurants keep doing a good job at implementing and executing on their policies to keep their restaurants clean and safe as we continue to face this health crisis. Instead of restaurants showing fatigue due to the length of the pandemic and safety practices slipping up, guests continue to be increasingly satisfied with what they see once they decide to dine out or order some food for off-premise consumption. Cleanliness and safety continue to be at the forefront of their concerns, and for the most part restaurants are succeeding in meeting those expectations.

By comparison, ambiance sentiment based on restaurant appearance only improved 7.2 percentage points year over year during the fourth quarter, while ambiance based on restaurant décor declined 5.0 percentage points during the same period.

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

    orlando, fl
  • Best Restaurant Service DMA

    Ambiance

    raleigh, nc
  • Best Restaurant Value DMA

    Value

    raleigh, nc

Bottom DMAS

  • Food

    seattle, wa
  • Worst Restaurant Service DMA

    Service

    detroit, mi
  • Intent to Return

    seattle, wa
  • Worst Restaurant Service DMA

    Beverages

    cleveland, oh
  • Worst Restaurant Service DMA

    Ambiance

    philadelphia, pa
  • Worst Restaurant Value DMA

    Value

    sacramento, ca

Among the top 25 largest markets in the country, Orlando, FL and Raleigh, NC were the leaders in restaurant guest satisfaction during January. Orlando was the metropolitan area with the most positive guests based on restaurant food, beverage and service. The most positive guests based on restaurant ambiance, value and intent to return were in Raleigh, NC.

For major markets with the lowest restaurant guest sentiment during January we find some that have been among the most hurt by the sales downturn in recent months. Seattle was the major market with the biggest decline in same-store sales year over year in January, and it is also the DMA with the lowest guest sentiment based on restaurant food and intent to return during the same month. Detroit was the major market with the lowest guest sentiment based on restaurant service during January, while Seattle had the lowest net sentiment based on restaurant value. Both were among the 5 worst performing major markets in January based on same-store sales growth.

To further illustrate the relationship that exists between restaurant sales and guest sentiment at the local level, the top 10 major markets based on their same-store sales growth in January had guest sentiment 12.3 percentage points more positive based on restaurant food than the 10 markets with the worst sales growth results. The differences were also 12.3 percentage points based on ambiance sentiment and 9.6 points based on service. Especially under this environment, in which market performance is largely driven by how much restaurant operations continue to be disrupted due to health risks and associated restrictions, it not surprising to discover the restaurant experience being delivered to guests in those places that are facing the most challenges is likely less than ideal and not what restaurant operators work hard to provide 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 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 (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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