I have installed the latest version 2.3.1, but i can't find the option your describing "show featured locations first or exclusively".
I have found the option "Result order - Featured then distance" with i have interpeted as show me first the featured items and after that the rest based on the distance. This options doesn't seem to work that way.
As you can see there is only one featured item and it's all the way at the bottom because it's in France and the rest is in the Netherlands. I wan't to always show this France item on top. What you have described with "show featured locations first or exclusively" should do just that i think. Am i not looking at the right place. I have looked at the component options, the search module and de menu-option settings.