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The Happy Customer Index
happy people in casual dining restaurant.jpg
Nation’s Restaurant News’ Happy Customer Index is back for a second quarter, this time examining the casual-dining segment.

The casual-dining restaurants with the best customer satisfaction

Which brands score highest, and why?

Nation’s Restaurant News is once again striving to find what makes a restaurant customer happy, increasing their chances of returning more frequently and sharing their positive experiences with family and friends. Our Happy Customer Index is back for a second quarter, this time examining the casual-dining segment. In doing so, we are leveraging proprietary data from Merchant Centric, a technology and marketing provider that monitors and measures brand sentiment from millions of ratings, reviews, and comments across sites such as Google, Tripadvisor and others. Merchant Centric collects data from over 1 million restaurant locations, including 1,400 brands with over five locations.

For our index, we have added a deeper look at several key themes — such as food, price/value, speed, staff demeanor, service/accuracy and loyalty/ referral — to help explain why guests rate, in terms of guest satisfaction, these established and emerging casual-dining brands so highly. Merchant Centric calls this measure a brand’s Theme Performance Score (TPS). If a Theme Performance Score for a brand on a theme is higher than one, it indicates that guests mention the brand positively more often than negatively; for instance, a score of 3.5 indicates that guests mentioned that theme positively 3.5 times more than it was mentioned negatively. Conversely, a score of 0.5 indicates the theme is mentioned positively half as much as it is negatively. Interestingly, the guest satisfaction gap between established and emerging brands is not as pronounced in the casual-dining segment as it was in our first Index examining the fast-casual segment. That’s because service and hospitality is a bigger focus for casual dining.

“Unsurprisingly, guests expect more service and hospitality across restaurant segments from QSR to fast casual, to casual and fine dining. Guest value becomes more challenging as service expectations increase, but those that do reap big benefits,” said Adam Leff, cofounder and chief strategy officer of Merchant Centric.

Let’s take a closer look at the casual-dining segment’s performance for the 12 months from February 2022 through January 2023: Emerging and established brands.


Special note: All data and analytics presented in this article are based upon Merchant Centric’s findings and, like all data sets, are inherently limited in scope and nature. Data presented herein may not be comprehensive and may exclude certain brands or brand locations. Data is provided without guarantee as to its accuracy, completeness, or currency, and Merchant Centric expressly disclaims any and all liability resulting from reliance on information or opinions included herein. Brands selected are for illustrative purposes only and data should not be relied on as reflective of or attributable to all brands within a segment or cuisine. Please note that certain brands included herein are clients of Merchant Centric

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