May was a good month for restaurants. The industry rebounded from April to post positive same-store sales growth of 1.1 percent, according to Black Box Intelligence (formerly TDn2K)'s Financial Intelligence (formerly Black Box Intelligence). This indicates there is still positive sales momentum despite the stumble in two of the last three months. Once external factors such as bad weather and a shift in holidays were subtracted from the picture, the data shows the restaurant is still growing its same-store sales in a relatively healthy manner.
Guest sentiment data from Guest Intelligence (formerly White Box Social Intelligence) continues to show a guest that is increasingly more positive about their restaurant experiences than they were a year ago. This provides encouraging signs for continued sales growth in the industry.
On average, during the last three months, restaurant guests have expressed higher positive sentiment related to their restaurant food and service experiences than during the same period a year ago. Although positive intent to return dipped slightly on average during the last three months, the overall values for this metric remain high and are not expected to represent a reversal in the guest's willingness to spend in upcoming months.
Research by Black Box Intelligence (formerly TDn2K) into guest sentiment and its link to performance has shown that guests expect great food from restaurants. Top performing brands, however, have not necessarily leveraged great food as an attribute to create differentiation from others in the marketplace. It is almost like food is "table stakes" in this environment and something all brands are constantly innovating or catching up to those advances.
So what drives positive sentiment when it comes to food? What food-related terms had the most positive sentiment during the second quarter of 2019?
Among the top 10 percent of food-related terms based on total number of mentions during the quarter, the following are those that generated the most positive sentiment with restaurant guests.
Seafood was an interesting discovery among the most positive mentions for limited service brands (quick service and fast casual). Although brands in these segments are not typically associated with seafood, those that offer it likely experienced extremely positive guest sentiment during the month. Also, food items associated with the keywords "homemade" or "fresh" were positive with these limited service brands.
For full service brands (casual dining, family dining, upscale casual and fine dining), food preparation rose to the top in terms of positive sentiment. Variations of the term "perfectly cooked" or "prepared" were something guests latched on to and praised online. Consistency in food preparation is key and can lead to strong guest sentiment. "Homemade" and "fresh" also were among the most positive food-related terms in full service.
Regardless of whether grabbing a quick meal to go from a limited service brand or sitting down for a meal at a full service restaurant, guests are craving food that looks and tastes homemade and rewarding brands with positive reviews online.
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.