Restaurants posted their second consecutive month of positive same-store sales growth, signaling that despite the slowdown in sales growth, it is too early to declare the current period as the start of the restaurant recession. Furthermore, according to Black Box Intelligence (formerly TDn2K)'s Financial Intelligence (formerly Black Box Intelligence), the two-year sales growth trends remain relatively stable and positive. The unrelenting trend for negative year-over-year growth in guest counts remains unchanged. Same-store traffic declined by 3.1 percent during October. Along with staffing difficulties, these remain the biggest challenges faced by restaurants today. Restaurant sentiment, as tracked by Guest Intelligence (formerly White Box Social Intelligence), reveals guests becoming less positive regarding to their intent to return during October. What may be most telling is that there was a small dip in the percentage of positive mentions based on restaurant service. In recent months, over 50 percent of all service-based mentions were positive. The percentage was slightly less than half in October. Given the great weight guests place on service as a key differentiator for restaurant brands that have continuously been successful at growing their guest counts year over year, erosion in service sentiment does not bode well for an industry already experiencing a slowdown in its sales growth.
Although 2019 has been characterized by lackluster same-store sales growth and the continued erosion in traffic, there are restaurant brands that have experienced sustained success in this environment. Black Box Intelligence (formerly TDn2K) has been studying those brands to determine what they are doing differently. The latest analysis shows that during the first three quarters of 2019, restaurant brands that have been able to grow their same-store traffic had service net sentiment 11.3 percentage points higher than the rest of brands tracked and who experienced negative traffic growth during the period. But within the broad concept of restaurant service, are there any aspects of the service experience that these top performing brands excelled at to further differentiate from their competitors? The data shows two areas in which these brands that are growing their traffic execute particularly well. Restaurants with traffic growth had the widest margin in sentiment based on server knowledge. Server knowledge guest sentiment was 15 percentage points higher for top performing brands compared with the rest. Secondly, they differentiated the most based on keywords related to the overall service experience. When guests of these top performers mentioned "experience" they had a net sentiment almost 14 percentage points higher than their competitors.
Once again, restaurant guest sentiment is mostly positive across all of the country. All regions experienced over 50 percent of all guest mentions and reviews classified as positive during October. However, contrary to what has been reported in recent months, only one region of the country (Florida) was able to achieve over 60 percent positive mentions during the month. The Western region and Mountain Plains region rounded up the list of restaurant guests with the most positive sentiment during October. The latter has persistently retained its position as home to some of the most positive restaurant guests in the country for years. On the other end of the spectrum we find the least positive restaurant reviews and mentions in New York-New Jersey, New England and California.
The Restaurant Guest Satisfaction Snapshot is produced by data from Guest Intelligence™, a Black Box Intelligence Product™. 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 White Box Social 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.