Online Customer Engagement Helps Restaurants

Amid the news of an unprecedented 6.6 million Americans filing unemployment claims last week, Black Box Intelligence released a weekly summary of data it has gathered about the restaurant industry's performance. The news was mostly grim.  Yet among its insights are few bright spots on the consumer sentiment front. 

Some of its findings: 

  • YOY Guest check growth for the industry slowed to 0.5% during week-ending 3/22, after averaging +2.5% for the previous 4 weeks.
  • Most full-service restaurants were able to increase off-premise sales, but the offset of lost dine-in sales is slow.
  • Mid-afternoon sales daypart is holding up the best; late night is the worst.
  • Full-service in all states posted comp sales growth of -60% or below. Limited service had a wider range in comp sales performance.
  • Grocery sales are up 73% compared to the same week last year. Consumer visits are declining for restaurants and increasing for all forms of grocery stores. 
  • Consumers with higher income have reported the greatest declines in restaurant spending. Gen-Z YoY restaurant spend is down -22% compared to Baby Boomers (ages 65+) spend, down -43%.

Among the bright spots: Consumers seem to be cutting the restaurant industry some slack, responding to their efforts to engage the community online, as measured against pre-coronavirus attitudes:

  • Off-premise guest sentiment 3x more positive in March for full-service restaurants (compared to February).
  • Takeout net sentiment jumps to 11.6 after months of negative scores.
  • Restaurants that promoted #TheGreatAmericanTakeout campaign on March 24th received 3x the
    amount of chatter and 2x higher net sentiment scores.

The full report is available online here. 

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