Despite the arrival of the Polar Vortex in January, restaurant guests seemed to brave the elements in order to get to their favorite eateries. January’s TDN2K’s Restaurant Guest Satisfaction Snapshot revealed some interesting statistics that bare favorably for the industry at large. Let’s take a look.
The five cornerstones of a restaurant include food, beverage, service, ambiance, and value. Of these five, the one that received the best performance was service. According to their report, it was the only factor that received over 50 percent positive online mentions and reviews.
Where were guests the most satisfied? Orlando, Florida topped the list in terms of food, service and value while Los Angeles took the lead in terms of ambiance and the highest intent to return. On the downside, guests in Atlanta were the least satisfied with food, value, and intent to return.
So, the question becomes, how do restaurants get their servers and the awesome service they provide mentioned in reviews? As with most things in life, one needs only to ask. Train your servers to ask their regular or extremely satisfied customers for a quick mention in one of the major review portals, be it Yelp, Eat24, OpenTable, or Zagat. According to a study by UC Berkeley economists, a half-star improvement on Yelp resulted in a 30 to 49 percent better chance of a restaurant being fully booked during peak hours. That’s pretty impressive.
The other two attributes that drove the biggest gaps between top performers and those that struggled were intent to return and ambiance. It was interesting to note that ambiance was defined by many guests as cleanliness and the appearance of the table. Cleanliness should, of course, be a restaurant’s first concern. Make sure you have enough well-trained staff who can keep up with the required cleaning during busy shifts.
Attention to Details—The Table
Guests are not impressed when a dirty table is swiped once with a rag and considered clean because there are no remaining crumbs. Consider the following method when cleaning restaurant tables: Use three different cloths—one contains the cleaner, the other is a rinse with clean water, and the remaining contains a food-grade sanitizer solution.
You’ve got your table clean, now how do you make it welcome your guests?
Here are a few recommendations: A few seasonal flowers in an unusual vase that goes along with your brand is appreciated and can be accomplished in such a way so as not to break your budget. If changing flowers weekly is not an option, consider dried flowers and herbs in small wooden or ceramic vessels. Adding a small tealight candle in a unique holder will create a feeling of warmth.
Intent to Return
Intent to return was the other attribute that differentiated top contenders from underperformers. To stress the importance of this feature, consider a Harvard study that found that restaurants that increased repeat visits by 5 percent had the potential of increasing profits by 25 to 125 percent. In addition, repeat customers account for about 1/3 of your revenue.
The good news? Taking stock of a few key elements and ensuring that they are top notch will keep your customers coming back. These include great service, high quality and consistent food preparation, a clean restaurant, and an attitude that makes customers feel appreciated. A study conducted by Thanx, Inc revealed that 70 percent of retail and restaurant customers never make a return visit, and yet, customer retention is seven times more cost effective than customer acquisition. Make sure your staff knows that every guest that enters your establishment offers the opportunity to create a frequent customer and a brand ambassador.
Curious about which brands stood out? Three made the top five in food, service, and intent to return: The Capital Grille, Eddie V’s, and Fish City Grill.
The Capital Grille’s website tag line: “We use only the freshest ingredients for our artfully prepared dishes.”
Eddie V’s: “Eddie V’s is a prime quality seafood restaurant providing you with the finest fresh seafood and prime steaks. Join us for an exceptional dining experience.”
Fish City Grill: “Our bar is welcoming, relaxed & friendly—just what a neighborhood bar should be!”
You’ll notice that each enterprise focuses on key elements slightly different than the others—what makes them special. Consider visiting one of these restaurants, take a look at their websites, and get to know just what makes them stand out from the crowd.