Meeting the needs of your diners is critical to turning them into regulars — dubbed “the lifeblood of any restaurant business” by celebrity chef Tom Colicchio. Which begs the question: How do you know what your restaurant customers are looking for so you can give it to them? The answer is simple: Ask them. The good news? There are many ways to get this information beyond leaving printed forms on tables. Read on for a roundup of five methods for collecting feedback from your diners.
1. Social media
Did you know that restaurants are the most-searched industry by consumers through both mobile apps and web browsers? Not only that, but according to a joint study by market research firm Chadwick Martin Bailey and SinglePlatform, a whopping 81 percent and 92 percent of consumers have searched for restaurants via apps and browsers, respectively. Meanwhile, 75 percent say they often choose where to dine based on these search results.
The takeaway? Encouraging customers to leave feedback on social media doesn’t just give restaurant owners valuable information, but it can also be an effective marketing tool.
It’s also important, however, for restaurants to respond to social media comments. This means thanking diners for favorable reviews as well as addressing the concerns expressed in less-positive ones.
2. Focus groups
Focus groups are widely used in market research to gain real-world insights into the customer experience. Many restaurants use focus groups to get feedback on concepts, menu items, competitors and other relevant topics. Open-ended and free-form questions are the best way to spur discussions that truly inform decision-making.
One way to get more customers to participate in your focus group? Offer them incentives, such as a discounted or free meal.
3. Mobile POS feedback management systems
Mobile POS systems offer many advantages for today’s busy restaurants, including everything from customizing menu items to splitting checks. They’re also a terrific way to elicit feedback from your guests in real time. Today’s feedback management systems gather intel from diners about food, ambiance, service and more. Some even let you set alerts for negative reviews, so you can take immediate corrective action. Plus, this information can be used for future promotions.
The best part? It’s as simple as handing the mobile POS system to the diner.
4. Online customer surveys
Email is far from over. In fact, according to a survey by content and demand generation services provider WBR Digital and e-marketing marketing automation service provider Emarsys, more than 80 percent of retailer respondents reported that email marketing drives customer acquisition and retention. Therefore, using email to send customers links to questionnaires on websites like surveymonkey.com is a win-win.
Again, the best way to motivate recipients to take the survey is to offer a reward, such as a coupon for free drinks or appetizers.
5. Face to face
This method may not be cutting edge, but the reality is that there’s no substitute for good, old-fashioned human interaction. Train your staff to develop a rapport with guests in order to elicit their likes, dislikes and expectations for the dining experience. This also has dual benefits: In addition to producing actionable information, it also builds relationships — another way to cultivate regulars.
Ultimately, the more you understand your diners, the better you can position your restaurant to meet their needs. These five feedback-collecting techniques will help you determine what you’re doing right and what you could be doing better — creating happier diners and a better bottom line.