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The methodology behind the Nation's Restaurant News 2020 Consumer Picks during the pandemic.

How the 2020 Consumer Picks report was put together during the pandemic

The methodology behind and frequently asked questions about the annual report

Nation’s Restaurant News’ Consumer Picks report is presented in partnership with Chicago-based market research firm Datassential. Each quarter, Datassential surveys 16,000 consumers via an online platform for its Brand Fingerprints data platform. The data shown in the NRN Consumer Picks report reflect surveys for the year ended April 2020, with the sample balanced to the general population overall. A follow-up to collect COVID-related data was conducted in June 2020.

The survey includes both open-ended questions and closed-ended questions. An open-ended question might include: “If this restaurant was closed, which other restaurant would you have been most likely to visit instead?”

Each surveyed consumer, or “panelist,” is then asked about their visitation habit for 40 chains located in their designated market area, or DMA. The DMA lists include brands based on number of units in that area. A responding panelist’s list of chains visited within the past six months for full service and three months for limited service is then randomly narrowed down to two brands, about which the panelist is asked deeper closed-ended questions. An example of such a closed-ended question might be, “The very last time you visited [CHAIN], did you do so because you …  a) are a loyal customer and go there because you really like that place, not just because it’s convenient, or b) it’s convenient; you don’t really consider yourself loyal to that place.”

It is from the answers to such closed-ended, brand-specific questions that the report’s True Loyalty scores are generated.

For rankings on “best in class” foods and individual brand attributes — such as value, service and ambience — respondents were asked to rate brands in specific areas. Each brand is given a score that represents the percentage of people citing a brand as “best in class” or “above average.” Brands were then ranked by score from highest to lowest. In the case of ties, brands are listed in alphabetical order.

Why wasn’t my chain included?

The chains included in the Consumer Picks report are those mentioned by consumers surveyed in the manner explained above, with a sample of more than 600 responses per brand on average. The individual brands in this year’s report range from more than 2,100 responses to just under 200, with regional brands generally having fewer responses because of their smaller reach.

In order to paint a broader picture of consumer perception of the industry, brands with relatively few responses are included. But any brand with fewer than 500 survey responses is noted with an asterisk throughout the report.

Datassential reviews the list of chains surveyed for Brand Fingerprints annually and strives to add brands when possible. However, due to balancing the sample by census region, it can be harder to gain the sample size needed to include regional chains. For example, with the current sample, if a chain’s units are mainly in the Northeast Region, the sample Datassential is going to be using will be roughly a quarter of the 16,000 sample.

To find about more detailed information about how the Consumer Picks data is compiled and analyzed, Kelley Fechner contact [email protected].

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