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In order for restaurants to deliver a great guest experience, it’s useful to understand the characteristics of its potential and existing guests.

While it’s unlikely that you will satisfy all the expectations and needs of all of your customers, having an idea of who your guests are and how they live their lives will help you better understand how to create a positive, enjoyable and memorable guest experience.

How Millennials Dine 

Imagine there’s a restaurant on the corner of your street that only has community seating. It’s an open, well-lit eatery that serves brunch and dinner with a classic but modern take on American food. The “five cheese mac ‘n cheese” and “quinoa bowl” are just some of the menu items, highlighting the restaurant’s food variety. A restaurant such as this one might be the type of eatery targeted specifically toward the Millennial generation.

Sometimes, though, it’s not enough simply to be able to identify demographic characteristics; you must study specific purchase behaviors and consumption attitudes, too.

For example: while Millennials are different from generations that came before them when it comes to food preferences, their food selections are also different within their own generation. According to a study by the Corn Refiners Association conducted by Ipsos and Buzzfeed, there are four different Millennial subgroups, of which restaurants need to particularly focus on two.

Balance Seekers:

  • 16 percent of the Millennial population
  • Of the subgroups, they spend the most money of dining out
  • Spend 47 percent of money on eating out and delivery
  • Adopt food trends early

Bon Vivants:

  • 28 percent of the Millennial population
  • 44 percent of their food money is spent at restaurants
  • Interested in discovering new restaurants
  • Interested in an exciting experience at a restaurant
  • Avoid particular ingredients and food the least out of the Millennial subgroups

The Rise of Dining Alone

Another key trend in the restaurant industry is the rise of the solo diners. Despite the popular thinking that dining out is awkward, more people are becoming comfortable with the experience of eating at an eatery alone.

Reservations for one person have increased by 62 percent across the U.S., according to restaurant reservations platform OpenTable.

As more diners start to eat alone, they might turn to reviews more than friends for restaurant recommendations; the OpenTable list of the Top 25 restaurants is based on overall reviews of the restaurant in addition to recommendations by experts.

The rise of solo dining might cause an increase of reviews about your restaurant. Theoretically, more guests will write reviews while at your restaurant, while on their phones waiting for their food to arrive – or paying attention to what is happening on their iPhones or tablets – as opposed to having conversations with other diners or restaurant staff.


Use Online Reviews as a Tool to Understand Customer Feedback

To improve the customer experience, you have a simple tool at your fingertips – online reviews.

There is significance in the words of online reviews. The words customers string together are more than just words – they are a form of customer feedback to improve your business.

Have a review management system in place to see every review within a reasonable amount of time, and respond quickly to show the customer you care.

You will know if customers’ expectations are being met by analyzing online reviews. How are customers responding to your menu items? Are they enjoying the atmosphere?

It’s important to understand the experience customers go through. Are you seeing patterns in your restaurant’s online reviews referencing the delicious mozzarella sticks? Or the quality of the ingredients?

In contrast, are customers writing about the mediocre hamburgers?

If you have a deeper understanding of what your customers are responding positively to at your restaurant – whether it’s the food, the customer service, or the atmosphere – then you will be set for success in the long term, as customer’s preferences and food choices change over time.

Online reviews are one way to keep up with what your customers are thinking about your restaurant. Maybe today, they are Millennials who enjoy the variety of food. It’s also possible that Generation Z will soon represent the majority of guests who frequent your restaurant, and they’d expect to see an image of every single item on your menu.

The point is, you need to be on top of what your guests are saying online, and you must understand who your guests are. That way, you have the information essential to consistently delivering a great guest experience.

The world-famous Gibsons Restaurant Group is a company that understands the crucial role that online reviews and customer feedback play in driving customer experience and the success of a restaurant operation.

Learn more about the tools and processes Gibsons has in place. To download the exclusive case study, enter your information in the form below:

Let reviews make — instead of break — your reputation. Demo ReviewTrackers for free:

Megan Wenzl

Megan is the Associate Editor for ReviewTrackers. She's a writer who is committed to finding useful information to help your business succeed. Megan holds an M.A. in journalism from Columbia College Chicago.