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Americans were disappointed in chain restaurants even before the pandemic

June 30, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JUNE 26: Customers sit at tables separated by dividers outside Boucherie restaurant in the West Village as New York City moves into Phase 2 of re-opening following restrictions imposed to curb the coronavirus pandemic on June 26, 2020. Phase 2 permits the reopening of offices, in-store retail, outdoor dining, barbers and beauty parlors and numerous other businesses. Phase 2 is the second of four-phased stages designated by the state. (Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images)

The coronavirus pandemic dealt a devastating blow to restaurants.

US customers were less satisfied with their restaurant experiences in the 12 months from April 2019 to March 2020 compared to the year before, according to a report released Tuesday by the American Customer Satisfaction Index, which surveys consumers across different sectors.

That could hurt restaurants' ability to draw customers back in as they reopen.

"Before the pandemic hit, customer satisfaction with both full-service and limited-service restaurants was heading in the wrong direction," the report states.

The scores, measured on a scale of 0 to 100, showed that customers at full-service restaurants like Olive Garden and Red Lobster were slightly less satisfied with nearly every aspect of dining out in the period when the survey was conducted.

Satisfaction fell from 81 to 79 at full-service restaurant chains overall.

Chick-fil-A, the highest-rated restaurant in the survey, fell from 86 to 84.

Overall, satisfaction for fast food restaurants fell from 79 to 78 — the category's lowest score since 2015.

The lower scores could make it even harder for struggling restaurants to recover, according to the report.

"The more satisfied customers are, the more willing they are to increase their restaurant spending in the future. "

For months, restaurants tried to stay afloat on delivery and takeout orders: From March to May, sales at eating and drinking establishments were more than $94 billion below expected levels, according to the National Restaurant Association.

Only one-third of respondents in a recent survey said they plan to eat at restaurants as often as they did before the pandemic, Wells Fargo analysts wrote in a June note.

About 21% said they'd eat at restaurants half as much as they used to.

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