A new report shows customer satisfaction took a bit of a hit at just about every restaurant type during 2021.
The report, an analysis of reviews across the franchise space, was compiled by reputation management and analysis firm Merchant Centric—and the results aren’t great.
Using thousands of restaurant guest reviews pulled from top review websites between January and June 2021, the data showed every segment of the restaurant industry saw declining guest satisfaction.
Best performing was fine dining, which out of five stars saw just 0.02 decline. Worst was fast casual. Across the 199 brands and 26,242 restaurants in the report, the segment saw a 0.21 decline from 4.06 to 3.85 stars. The industry average decline came in at negative 0.10.
In the casual dining space, reviews dipped 0.05 overall, but it was the brightest spot across the restaurant industry. The leader was non-franchised Mission BBQ, which saw reviews stay flat at 4.63 out of five stars. Twin Peaks was the leader among franchised chains. It saw review ratings tick up 0.05 to 4.42. Chili’s and On The Border both sank, the former dipped .16 to 3.86 and On The Boarder Mexican Grill declined 0.17 to 3.85 out of five stars.
In the fast-casual segment, Chicken Salad Chick was the top rated at 4.55 stars, representing a 0.01 decline in reviews. Burger chain Mooyah was the singular review grower, as it edged up 0.01 to 4.50 stars. Average reviews across the fast-casual space were 3.85 stars, according to the Merchant Centric survey.
Among the major QSR brands, Chick-fil-A maintained the top review spot with 4.39 stars, well ahead of the 3.73 out of five average. But even the chicken juggernaut saw reviews decline, ticking down 0.11 in 2021. Runza, as seen in the chart below, was the only review grower with a 0.02 bump to 4.35.
What drove the decline is not completely clear, but the most likely leading culprit is labor. The QSR space saw an incredible 144 percent turnover average, up 10 percent from 2019, according to Black Box Intelligence. That comes even as pay at QSRs ticked up 10 percent.
It’s similar across the restaurant space; anyone operating today sees historic labor difficulties. Skeleton crews and rapid turnover generally means poorer operations and lower guest satisfaction.