Restaurant Business May be Down, but Customer Satisfaction is Up
Even through these hard times, it’s great to see that restaurants are succeeding at increasing customer satisfaction during COVID. Recently, Black Box Intelligence™, a data and insights provider for the hospitality industry, released a study showing showcasing this.
Here are some of the main takeaways.
Restaurants Show Increased Customer Satisfaction During COVID
The Hard Facts
Fourth quarter of 2020 was no friend to most restaurant businesses. In fact, by December, overall same-store sales growth had dropped -13.3% year-over-year. Traffic growth also fell to -18.6%.
Reasons for the downturn include spiking COVID-19 rates, colder weather, and tighter dining restrictions. In some states, like California, on-premises dining was banned completely for a time, which clearly weighs heavy on these statistics.
It’s also difficult to build consumer trust right now. Restaurants are leveraging social media technology to communicate with diners and humanize the business, but that can only go so far. Without the ability to greet and court customers in person, it’s an uphill battle.
The Bright Spots
But, if there’s a glimpse of sunshine in all of that dark data, it’s this: Black Box Intelligence™ suggests restaurants were able to raise their positive brand sentiment in December.
Without ambience as a focal point for customer satisfaction, the focus has shifted to safety and cleanliness, which has been a priority among restaurants.
Also, not only did brand sentiment increase, but so did positive perceptions of food and service. In fact, 50% of mentions and online reviews spoke of the food received from restaurants in a positive light. This is great news for those F&B businesses working to adapt to the new style of dining.
Who’s Coming Out on Top?
The driver behind the sentiment increases were mainly seen in limited (quick) service restaurants. Quick-service foods tend to withstand the perils of food transport better and the concepts are often built around the convenience and flexibility of ordering.
Many limited-service restaurants were already accustomed to online, drive-through, or window orders, which made the adaptation much easier.
Even more, customers have now come to expect digital ordering technology from restaurants.
According to the Black Box Intelligence™ study, 1 in 4 customers would choose a restaurant that has app-based ordering over another without. For now, the tech is an edge, but soon it will be the expectation.
Interestingly, value was much less important to customers, in relation to satisfaction at least, than safety and food quality. However, that doesn’t mean value isn’t important, just not top of mind for consumers currently.
Value is a tentpole of earning return customers, so it certainly shouldn’t be ignored. But the takeaway here is this: Make high quality food that’s easy to access and provided in a safe environment, then worry about the value. This hierarchy of importance will ensure consistent consumer traffic to the extent COVID will allow.
What About the Future?
With all that being said, 64% of consumers would still prefer a traditional dining experience.
Consumers are adapting to the situation at hand, yet they still yearn for the normalcy of past years. Once socialization returns to a new normal, it’s expected that the restaurant experience will draw folks back into dining rooms.
Unfortunately, there’s no way to know when this will happen. Therefore, it will be important to the success of restaurants to adapt to the current landscape in order to make it back to profitability.
However, keep in mind; in-house dining will likely not return to pre-pandemic levels. At least not for anytime soon. Therefore, having technology, off-premises dining solutions, and safety practices in place will help create a holistic method of success which will drive restaurants of the future.
We’ll Get Through This
Yes, there’s bad news here, but there’s also good news, also. Consumers love their restaurants, and they want them to succeed. Even in hard times, they are willing to spend their money on restaurant food. By making it more accessible, it will ensure consumers will keep supporting restaurants. This reciprocal relationship is the bedrock of ensuring the future of our beloved food and beverage industry.
-Black Box Intelligence. “Restaurants succeed in raising guest sentiment in December, despite downturn in sales and traffic.” January 20, 2021. Accessed January 21, 2o21. https://www.nrn.com/finance/restaurants-succeed-raising-guest-sentiment-december-despite-downturn-sales-and-traffic