Restaurant sales lost some momentum during May, but continued showing some signs of relative strength when compared with the results for recent years, according to Black Box Intelligence (formerly TDn2K)'s Financial Intelligence (formerly Black Box Intelligence). Year-over-year same store sales were flat during the month (the third consecutive month of positive or flat sales growth).
To provide some context around this sales recovery, year-to-date same-store sales growth by the end of May has been 0.3 percent. This is compared with -1.0 percent sales growth for each of the two previous years. While sales performance has improved, so has guest satisfaction with their restaurant experiences.
The online guest sentiment most closely correlated with same-store sales growth according to Guest Intelligence (formerly White Box Social Intelligence) is guests' stated intent to return. And the positive sentiment for this metric has been soaring in recent months. May of 2018 posted a new record in terms of positive "intent to return" guest sentiment. The month saw the highest percentage of positive guest mentions for this guest sentiment attribute in the last three years. Additionally, May's intent to return recorded the highest year-over-year improvement in percentage of positive mentions during that same period. This very positive outlook from restaurant guests fuels optimism for continued improvement in restaurant sales throughout the rest of 2018.
A word of caution for chain restaurants comes in the form of declining positive guest sentiment based on service. Guests have continuously shown that one of the key components of their restaurant experience, and one they are willing to reward with their future business, is service. Restaurant operators should be focusing on those service scores as a way to extend the positive sales momentum and improve their traffic results.
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 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.