Customer Experience

The Modern Guide to Restaurant Customer Satisfaction

April 16, 2019

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Cultivating a high level of customer satisfaction is a priority for all restaurant brands because foodservice is one of the most competitive industries

The 2018 American Customer Satisfaction Index (ASCI) reported that American now spends more than half of their food budget on dining out, which puts the annual sales projection for the restaurant industry at nearly $800 billion.

If you’re not able to deliver a high level of customer satisfaction, chances are that a competitor will do so and reap the benefits.

Satisfying customers is increasingly challenging because customer have new expectations for the restaurant experience thanks to third-party platforms like Grubhub and non-traditional dining experiences like curbside pickup.

To understand the restaurant customer satisfaction, you’ll need to understand how behavior has shifted. In this guide, we’ll cover.

  • How the rise of new technology shifted customer expectations
  • Which consumer habits have changed
  • How to remap the customer journey
  • What you can do to optimize the in-house experience for the modern diner

The Rise of New Technology in Food Orders

A major force in the push for technological advancements in dining is the rise in spending power of the millennial demographic. The ASCI report shows that millennials want new ways to “order and deliver their food” and restaurants responded to that demand.

Today’s restaurateurs are adapting their business to suit younger audiences in two main ways: online ordering and automated kiosks.

Online Ordering Increases Customer Satisfaction

Easy access to a smartphone or laptop makes it even more likely for consumers to place an order online instead of calling the restaurant or making a face-to-face order.

The convenience of online ordering even pleases customers to the point that they are willing to spend more money. A 2017 survey from Statista showed 34 percent of consumers who were willing to order online spent up to $50 per order.

One restaurant chain that benefited heavily from online ordering was Red Robin. By implementing multiple changes to its service, including the addition of online ordering, the company increased its customer satisfaction points in the ACSI rankings by 8 percent, which is the highest increase of any restaurant group in the report.

Automated Kiosks Matches Millennial Preferences

Just like online ordering, automated kiosks make the ordering process easier and more convenient for consumers. Major franchises including Panera Bread, McDonald’s, and Shake Shack already have a few of these kiosks in multiple locations, and it’s becoming a popular trend.

A 2017 survey from American Express revealed that while only seven percent of restaurant owners and managers use kiosks or table-side ordering in their businesses, 39 percent of millennials prefer to go to a restaurant that uses those digital platforms.

A Change in Consumer Habits in Dining and Delivery

The shift to digital engagement also signified a change in the way people acquire meals from restaurants. Some customers still prefer to sit down and dine at a restaurant, but there are growing trends towards delivery services and curbside pickup.

Red Robin also benefited from these “off-premise” services. On top of happier customers, the ASCI reported said that the franchise gained a 40 percent increase in off-premise sales year over year in the first quarter of 2018.

Delivery Services

The idea of food delivery isn’t new, but the growth of companies moving into that industry has increased dramatically over the past few years. Groups like Grubhub, Eat24, Uber Eats, and DoorDash (in addition to traditional delivery services) make it easy for any consumer to get food from restaurants.

Delivery options also contribute to additional revenue for participating restaurants. The ACSI report showed that restaurant revenue increased by 20 percent over the past five years.

customer satisfaction in restaurant industry

Adding these delivery options to any restaurant not only attracts new customers, but it also makes it easy to create loyal diners. Instead of going out and finding a new restaurant, these consumers will be happy to place a delivery order from your restaurant from the comfort of their own home.

Curbside Pickup Drives Increase in Customer Loyalty

In contrast to delivery, curbside pickup involves customers driving to the restaurant, but it’s different than the traditional pickup system. Instead of customers getting out of the car to get their food, a staff member will walk out of the restaurant and hand deliver the food to them.

That difference between the traditional food pickup and curbside pickup is small, but it’s enough to make an impact on customer satisfaction. In a QSR Magazine article, Curbside CEO Jaron Waldman said that curbside pickup – when paired with mobile ordering – increased customer loyalty and satisfaction. In addition, businesses that used curbside pickup had a sales increase of 45-75 percent.

Adding curbside pickup to any restaurant only increases the level of convenience for customers when they order online or through their phone. Based on Waldman’s report, customers that like the pickup experience are happy to do it again, which means more revenue and loyal customers.

Remapping the Customer Journey

In addition to these operational changes restaurants need to adapt to a new version of the customer journey. Thanks to digital channels, there are now multiple ways – such as curbside pickup and deliveries – to literally consume the food produced at most restaurants.

This means that there are now even more reasons for customers to display their displeasure of the food at the restaurant via reviews even if the fault might lie with the delivery system or other factors beyond your control.

This is where review monitoring and feedback response come into play. In addition to monitoring online listings on sites like Google, Yelp, and Facebook, you’ll need to utilize review management software to efficiently track sites like Grubhub to make sure that these customers are satisfied with the service.

You’ll also need to have a review response plan in place to address any negative reviews left on these sites. Doing so not only helps the restaurant save face and find new ways to improve the service but it also shows customers that you care about their feedback.

Optimizing the In-House Experience

The multi-channel mentality towards customer satisfaction also means that the customers’ standards for your in-house dining experience are higher. Customers who come to your restaurant are now choosing to dine in instead of choosing one of the competing options (curbside pickup, delivery, kiosk, etc.), and they expect more.

This may sound intimidating at first, but you can easily incorporate a few changes to improve the customer experience such as better engagement efforts between the staff and customers, which is something highly rated by customers when they visit a restaurant.

You can also emphasize a personalized experience for each customer. Being attentive to each customer’s needs not only impresses them, but it’s also enough to convince 95 percent of diners to become repeat customers.

Satisfied Customers Leave Reviews

If you’re able to walk the tightrope and meet these changing demands, you’ll see a payoff in the long run in the form of rave reviews.

An online reviews survey showed that 55.5 percent of customers view online reviews as influential when choosing a restaurant. By making diners happy with convenient digital engagements, you increase the chances of a customer leaving a positive review of your restaurant.

In fact, the percentage of people who leave a positive review of a restaurant increased between 2017 and 2018. Placing customer satisfaction as the main priority leads to better experiences and happy diners, who will gladly leave rave reviews that attract more customers and bring in more revenue.

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