While same-store sales, traffic, and revenue remain drivers for restaurant performance, customer satisfaction could be the key to predicting the future. Simply, are guests satisfied? And are they coming back? The TDn2K company, White Box Social Intelligence, launched its “Restaurant Guest Satisfaction Snapshot” on Tuesday, which reveals insights based on consumer feedback and satisfaction from more than 193,000 units and 620 brands.

The report highlights top performers from the following metrics: “Food,” “service,” and “intent to return.” Top and bottom performing designated market areas are also broken down for “value,” “beverages,” and “ambiance.”

The first report showed, when it comes to food, Qdoba, Papa Murphy’s, Freebirds, SweetFrog, and Legal Sea Foods are the top brands in the business.

For service: Wawa, Papa Murphy’s, Seasons 52, Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar, and Wienerschnitzel topped the list. Qdoba, Carvel, Wawa, Raising Cane’s, and SweetFrog rounded out the top five for intent to return.

“We are excited to bring a new perspective on consumer feedback, 100 percent fueled by online, unsolicited guest comments and sentiment,” says Wally Doolin, chairman and co-founder of TDn2K. “In addition, the ability to highlight the correlations between online reputation and workforce and financial performance is incredibly exciting.”

The data also provided insight into year-over-year trends. During April, it showed, restaurants experienced a decline in guest satisfaction for two of the three attributes. While food and service sentiment were rising in previous months, it dropped in April. Intent to return continued to report less positive among chain restaurants guests compared to a year ago, as it has in recent months.

“Additionally, the rate at which intent to return positive sentiment is declining accelerated during April compared with the previous two months. This continues to be bad news for an industry starved for growth in their number of guest visits. Same-store traffic has declined 3.6 percent year-over-year during the first fourth months of 2017,” the study said.

Making sense of the data, White Box Social Intelligence showed a correlation between what guests are saying online regarding their intent to return and same-store sales performance. Brands with 30 percent or less positive intent to return mentions experienced a 4 percent drop in lower food sales growth than the industry average.

Intent to return online sentiment proved to be the biggest guest satisfaction differentiator compared with worst performing brands. In other words, when guests aren’t announcing their intent to return online, it’s likely the brand’s sales are dropping as well.

When it came to designated market areas, Tampa reported a sunny outlook. The Florida city turned in the highest marks for satisfaction with service and meal value in April compared to every other major market in the U.S. Guests in Philadelphia reported the most positive intent to return.

“Furthermore, this superior intent to return seems to be translating into improvements in Philadelphia’s sales performance. Out of the largest 25 markets in the country, Philadelphia ranked in the top ten in terms of improvement in same-store sales growth rate during the last month,” the study said.

Atlanta showed the least positive sentiment based on value for the second time since the beginning of the year. Not surprisingly, the city also was the worst performer based on same-store sales growth among the top 25 markets during April.

Here were the top DMAs:

Food: Phoenix

Service: Tampa

Intent to return: Philadelphia

Beverage: Dallas Fort Worth

Ambiance: Los Angeles

Value: Tampa

Here were the bottom finishers:

Food: Boston

Service: Miami

Intent to return: Detroit

Beverages: Miami

Ambiance: Detroit

Value: Atlanta

Regionally, Mountain Plains guests were the most satisfied for the fourth consecutive month. The Western region was No. 2 for the second straight.  The Midwest was third.

New York/New Jersey has been among the three regions with the least positive sentiment during three of the last four months, while the Southwest has been grouped in for each of the months this year. New England came in second for April.

Customer Experience, News