The importance of customer satisfaction in the restaurant industry does not discriminate. It can make or break the success of any restaurant, regardless of its size, location, demographics, or even the quality of the cuisine.
However, restaurant owners can find it increasingly difficult to identify the major contributing factors to customer satisfaction, especially when they disagree with what customers feel that they need.
It’s not about what restaurants need to feel satisfied, it’s about what guests feel restaurants need to do to satisfy them.
The more satisfied guests are, the more likely they are to spend more, visit repetitively, share their positive experiences, and recommend restaurants to friends, families, and strangers online.
It’s important not to inconvenience guests at a restaurant’s convenience.
Why is Restaurant Customer Satisfaction Important?
There are a variety of reasons customer satisfaction is important, but let’s sum it up to these powerful statistics:
- 7 out of 10 U.S. consumers say they’ve spent more money to do business with a company that delivers great service. (American Express)
- A moderate increase in customer experience generates an average revenue increase of $823 million over three years for a company with $1 billion in annual revenues. (Temkin Group)
- A Harvard Business School researcher found that a one-star increase in a restaurant’s Yelp rating correlated with a 5-9% increase in revenue.
- 25 percent more people turn to consumer reviews on sites like OpenTable, Yelp, and TripAdvisor than those who rely on reviews by professional food critics. 60 percent read reviews before going out for a meal, a habit that takes precedence over getting directions to a restaurant or looking at food photos. (OpenTable)
- Diners say that complimentary extras (69 percent) and seating preferences (65 percent) would go far in increasing customer loyalty. (OpenTable)
- 75 percent of consumers will not visit or patronize a restaurant with negative reviews about its cleanliness. (Harris Poll for Cintas Corporation)
- 38% of all customer complaints are on social media and review sites. Restaurants get only 14% of all complaints. (Jay Baer, Food Service Magazine)
- After one negative experience, 51% of customers will never do business with that company again. (New Voice Media)
What Contributes to Poor Customer Service?
Neglecting the fundamentals of running a business
It can be easy for new and old businesses alike to neglect the fundamentals of running a restaurant. Let’s get back to the basics. Every restaurant owner should not only have a written system that works, but every employee should follow the system. Management should create checklists and ensure they follow them repetitively. Checklists should remind team members that bathrooms need to be cleaned multiple times daily, staff should turn music on, open signs should be lit, inventory procedures have checks and balances, and internal operations are followed daily.
Misunderstanding what customers want and need
A lot of restaurant owners assume that since they created the restaurant, and customers agree with them when they provide their own opinions, a majority of their customers feel the same way. There is power in restaurant surveys. The ability to find out what customers want, but may not have been sharing with you, is important. When utilizing this data effectively, businesses can increase restaurant customer satisfaction easily.
Lack of cleanliness
No one likes a dirty restroom, peeking into a dirty kitchen, stepping on dirty floors, or eating on dirty tables.
Non-versatile menu options
Worldwide, allergies affect up to 30% of the population. Allergies can range from peanuts, meats, gluten, and milk. This should be enough of a cause to create menu versatility, and it doesn’t even include the limitations that restaurant-goers experience with diets due to ethical or health reasons. It’s important to not only provide menu items that differ between diets but also to create menu versatility for guests that ask for the removal of ingredients.
Underestimating the power of unhappy customers
The statistics supporting the power of an unhappy customer are staggering. 96% of unhappy customers don’t complain. 91% will leave and never come back. A dissatisfied customer shares their experience with between 9-15 people. 13% of unhappy customers tell 20 people or more.
Not creating enough reasons for customers to come back
Without a loyalty program, community involvement, a unique brand atmospheric experience, or exceptional customer service, customers will leave without coming back.
Poor food quality
Many fast-food restaurants are struggling to keep up with the desire for fresh foods. Moving away from the days when speed was everything, now it’s all about quality and brand experiences.
Lack of brand consistency
According to smallbizgenius, Consistently presented brands are 3.5 times more likely to enjoy excellent brand visibility than those with an inconsistent brand presentation. Brand consistency statistics published by Demand Metric suggest uniformly presented brands are 3.5 times more visible to customers.
No incentives/Poor Incentives
A RetailMeNot survey found that almost three-fourths of Americans say offers are a top factor when deciding where and what to buy online. Four out of five Americans say finding a great offer or discount is on their mind throughout the entire purchase journey.
High-value brands like Starbucks have learned long ago that loyalty programs bring customers back again and again. In fact, according to CNN, super-loyal customers who use Starbucks’ membership program account for about 40% of sales at the company’s US stores.
“Starbucks Rewards continues to be a powerful enabler of loyalty,” CEO Kevin Johnson said while discussing that quarter’s earnings in a call with analysts.
According to eMarketer, Free Wi-Fi is the most important restaurant tech offering among US internet users deciding where they should dine. In fact, 70% of consumers cited the availability of guest WiFi as an important factor in deciding where to dine.
According to Small Business Trends, businesses that offer WiFi marketing to increase sales had a success rate of 72 percent. 50% of guests spend more money when they stay and use guest WiFi, and this doesn’t even include the percentage of guests that come back when they receive email communications.
WiFi marketing drives new traffic, increases the amount that visitors spend when they visit restaurants and improves customer loyalty which can drive revenue up by at least 25%.
Bad customer service
Did you know that after one poor experience with a brand, 71% of guests won’t visit ever again? Losing just one customer can be costly, so it’s important to look at the bigger customer experience picture. If one puzzle piece is missing, a restaurant could receive significant losses.
Even if a location is popular and business is booming, customer satisfaction should be taken seriously. Regardless of the food, drinks, and atmosphere, customer experience is the most important component to improve your restaurant customer satisfaction.
If a location is outdated, amplifies sound too much, has music that is too loud, or has no music at all, consumers classify it as a bad environment.
These are the top factors to improve a restaurant’s environment:
- Updated interior design: A restaurant’s physical environment will immediately evoke positive or negative feelings about a restaurant’s brand.
- Ambient light: While rarely mentioned, ambient lighting that is too bright or too dark has a high likelihood to become a deterrent and a silent brand detractor.
- Colors: The colors of a restaurant will immediately and subconsciously showcase the quality of a brand. They also evoke specific feelings. For example, red and yellow stimulate appetites, and blue decreases appetites but increases feelings of calmness and comfort. Blue creates the appearance that time passes faster. Red restaurants create the appearance that time passes by slower for guests.
- Music: Multiple studies show that music has a direct impact on the amount the guests spend when visiting restaurants. Music should match a brand’s image. Slow music increases a customer’s willingness to spend more money, while faster music can contribute to more alcoholic beverage sales and creates a more casual environment.
- Background noises: Restaurants should have a medium sound level. Customers in quiet restaurants spend more money and eat more of their food. But they can also contribute the low sound levels to a low-quality restaurant with high-cost food. Guests in noisy restaurants both spend and eat less. So, if traffic is high it’s important to have interior soundproofing present.
- Aesthetics: Not only do guests prefer a positive overall brand interior appearance, but attractive restaurants are also an additional social media marketing tool.
It’s important to create menu pricing that matches customer expectations while providing a significant return on ingredient investments. Below is a graph that shows the average amount that guests spend (per person) at fast-food restaurants, takeout restaurants, food delivery services, and full-service restaurants according to Statista.
Lack of future planning
In the restaurant industry, one year you could be popular, and the next year you could experience a downturn. It’s important not to dwell too much on current successes. Evaluate what competitors are doing, and utilize innovative ways to improve satisfaction and profits.
No competitive differentiation
While it’s never advisable to mirror your competition, tracking what’s working and not working for competitors provides brands with the opportunity to create positive differentiation.
Poor future planning creates poor location decisions. When brainstorming a new location, it’s important to pay close attention to local demographics to ensure brand integrity and profitability. It’s important to remain agile if a location’s demographics change.
What’s your favorite way to increase restaurant customer satisfaction? Leave us a comment below!
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