Restaurant consumer sentiment on the decline: Black Box

New York market sees increase in intent-to-return sentiment

According to a new report from Black Box Intelligence, restaurants hit a wall with sales in March as they faced issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic—and now customer sentiment is slipping, also. Comparable restaurant sales dropped 70 percent overall by the end of March and quick-service restaurants decreased sales by 30 percent. The latest challenge: positive customer sentiment, particularly around service, also decreased and positive food mentions were at their lowest since 2018.

Positive mentions regarding food and related to COVID-19 were on the rise until March 20, notes Black Box Intelligence, but then dropped by 30 percent from peak level as of April 15.

Quick-service restaurants (fast food and fast casual) saw a “small initial improvement in net sentiment based on delivery orders and to-go orders. But by the second week in April, most of that improvement in sentiment had disappeared. Net sentiment for off-premise (QSR) restaurant meals remains very low, meaning about the same percentage of positive and negative reviews,” noted Black Box Intelligence.

Guest sentiment for takeout, including delivery and pick-up orders, in full-service restaurants saw drastic improvement near mid-March. Those levels have been steady even a month later. Over the last 30 days, net customer sentiment for full-service restaurant pick-up orders increased by 12 percentage-points. Full-service restaurant delivery orders also improved. These increased customer sentiment by10 percentage points.


In New York City and the surrounding region, which has been the epicenter of the corona virus outbreak, intent-to-return sentiment has been on the rise. This is good news, according to Black Box, because the New York City market is typically quite critical in restaurant reviews.

Meanwhile, Orlando remains a top market overall with the most most positive customer sentiment related to the restaurant experience. However, it’s important to note that Florida implemented business restrictions and stay-at-home ordinances much later than was the case in other markets.

Guest Intelligence from Black Box tracks over 192 brands to benchmark customer satisfaction. The data analytics firm uses an online tool to integrate with operational performance data “to validate the impact on financial performance.” Brand must have at least 250 mentions and there are other criteria that have to be met to include the data in its analysis.

Photo credit: Victor Aldabalde

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