guestXM – by Black Box Intelligence

Tell Us How You Really Feel: Using Unsolicited Guest Feedback to Become Best-in-Class

Jill McFarland of Stellar Digital Marketing discusses how top brands are winning the market share by using unsolicited guest feedback.

Unveiling the Power of Unsolicited Guest Feedback

Turning Voices into Value: Leveraging Unsolicited Guest Feedback for Restaurant Success

When restaurant brands want to understand performance, they rely on experts for the most relevant data and insights. It was exciting to see the weight given to online guest feedback, reviews, and ratings at this year’s Black Box Intelligence (formerly TDn2K) Global Best Practices Conference.

Restaurant brands spend a lot of money and considerable effort on consumer research, guest surveys, and focus groups to understand opinions and behavior around their brand. They commission research because they want to make decisions based on facts. Guests call, email, or write a letter to give feedback, often assuming they might be compensated.

Online reviews from sites like Facebook, Google, and Yelp! provide unsolicited and unfiltered feedback that isn’t given in return for compensation. It is what your guests want others to know about their experience: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Using unsolicited feedback from guests of hundreds of restaurant brands, helps operators understand what is contributing to sales or traffic decline at low-performing locations. Additionally, learning what is contributing to happy guests at top-performing locations helps to identify the gaps.

Guest Feedback Identifies What Separates the Best from the Rest

According to 2018 Black Box Intelligence (formerly TDn2K) data, best-in-class restaurant brands (top quartile) had double the intent to return scores of bottom quartile brands. The real differentiator for brands that had high intent to return scores was service. These brands got credit for accuracy, attentiveness, knowledge, and experience.

“The best-in-class brands, those winning in the marketplace, service is where they stand out. It is the one sustainable key differentiator. The best of the best and the rest can all have great food and great beverage, but if you don’t have exceptional service you’re not sustaining that advantage.”

Spread between top quartile and bottom quartile brands on …

  • Sales: 7.2 percentage points
  • Traffic: 6.9 percentage points


It would come as no surprise that these best-in-class brands also have the lowest turnover. Black Box Intelligence (formerly TDn2K) continues to connect the dots through data points.

Spread between top quartile and bottom quartile brands on …

  • Management turnover: 14 percentage points
  • Hourly turnover: 14 percentage points


Data Solutions Streamline the Collection Process

Combing through review data can be tedious. Fortunately, Guest Intelligence (formerly Guest Intelligence (formerly White Box Social Intelligence)) streamlines the process by pulling data from Facebook, Yelp!, Google, and more. From one dashboard, you can see what guests are saying overall, by region or even by location. You can also keep tabs on a new location, menu rollout, remodel, or how a marketing campaign is resonating at the local level. This platform helps identify the differences in what guests are saying between top and bottom-performing franchisees.

Jill McFarland is the founder of Stellar Digital Marketing. Stellar Digital helps brands connect with audiences from a brand level, all the way down to a local level. Connect with Jill on LinkedIn.

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