Restaurant Guest Surveys 101
Surveys have been around for hundreds of years, perhaps most commonly as a census tool historically. As technology has become increasingly sophisticated, collecting and collating information has likewise improved. While it varies why survey feedback is solicited, generally it affords insights to businesses into what works, what doesn’t, and how and where improvements may be warranted. For restaurateurs, using survey data can help increase your profitability, while enhancing your guests’ experience.
What Is A Survey
Modern surveys merge quantitative and qualitative methods, which is a way of gathering information and then putting it into context. For most operators conducting surveys, that data is obtained through some sort of direct contact, a personal transaction where the respondent – the survey participant – is asked directly for their feedback on any given subject. In some instances, you might ask questions pertaining to a respondent’s experience, namely what they do and don’t like and what they’d like instead.
For restaurateurs, surveys are useful in gauging the efficacy of anything from the taste to the aesthetics of your fare. Surveys are powerful tools to calculate the effectiveness of your staffing too, namely who is satisfying your patrons and who may struggle. Coupled with sales stats, those insights can help inform operators how to best manage their employees, who to bring out to engage with customers, and who may better serve in different roles.
Implementing Restaurant Guest Surveys
There are a lot of ways that restaurateurs and operators can employ guest surveys. In many instances, surveys are distributed as part of the closeout process, as patrons are settling their bill. Many kitchen display systems or restaurant reservation systems can serve as data collection devices as well, which can be used as a compare and contrast against the information you collect.
Using the insights you get from these systems, you can understand how many diners visited, your total sales, and the overall performance of your kitchen, all static figures that you can use to compare against the qualitative data of guest surveys. By saving that information, you can set benchmarks to measure your growth and direct your efforts. If particular dishes aren’t working out, you can consider menu engineering. You can also use your survey feedback to direct your marketing efforts by offering incentives as necessary to increase guest engagement in surveys.
Getting to Know Your Guests Through Restaurant Surveys
Having the opportunity to learn more about your guests is invaluable. Guest surveys can not only give you insight into what particular items and experiences individual patrons crave but can paint a broader picture of your clientele in general. Knowing your customers can help you understand how to engender loyalty by showing that you care about your product and your guests. It can help you grow and identify your brand.
How long do they stay? How often do they come back? What factors influence that? It’s easy to see how this information can be used to your advantage.
Restaurant Guest Survey Questions
Choosing the right set of questions is imperative to your survey strategy. Using quantitative and qualitative survey methods can be challenging, but it yields robust results. As a refresher, quantitative data is any kind of hard info, something that can be measured, where qualitative data is information that provides context. For example, you might ask about a patron’s overall experience and rate that on a scale. You might follow that up by asking what informed that decision; why was their diner a good, bad, or neutral thing.
When possible, make sure that your questions are written with the intent of gauging value, rather than as a yes/no binary option as that limits the amount of actionable data you can get. You may consider some of the following:
- How often do you eat here?
- How was the service?
- On a scale of 1 to 5, how did we do it?
- Would you recommend us to a friend?
- What did you get?
- How would you rank your dish?
- Did everything come out quickly?
- Was your order accurate?
- Was the restaurant clean?
Remember that before you ever conduct a survey, that you test it out first to ensure that you are getting the information that you need, and for quality control. The last thing you want to do is to lose your guests’ trust. With that in mind, proceed with caution if you’re asking for any sort of personal information to avoid running off potential respondents. A good rule of thumb is to offer some incentive or reward for completed surveys, perhaps with free offers or a chance to enter into a contest.
Restaurant Survey Tools
There are a handful of tools and methods out there to use for your survey. The tried and true method has been paper surveys, whether they are part of your receipt or conducted by a host or manager as time allows. Between limited time for everyone involved and an increasing push towards convenience, many businesses utilize software to conduct their surveys. Those surveys are often pushed through websites or social media as a means of working with customers on their schedule respective to their time.
You can find a list of a few of the most common below:
- Survey Monkey
- Zoho Survey
- WorldApp KeySurvey Review
These range in cost and ease of use pretty dramatically, and some can get particularly granular. Ultimately finding the right choice is what works best for you, and is easiest for the customer.
How Restaurant Surveys Work
Once you’ve picked your tool and set up your survey, it’s time to get to work. Most survey tools will integrate with various point of sale platforms, kitchen display systems, and waitlisting apps to help correlate data from the restaurant perspective. As systems like ConnectSmart® Host and ConnectSmart® Kitchen continue to evolve, functionalities related to surveying and analytics will help you develop a robust dataset.
For example, if you poll 100 customers to rank speed of service during a time of night, you can calculate a median response based on feedback. Say it was on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 as the lowest response and 5 as the highest praise. If 5 people rated the dish like a 1, 10 at 2, 25 at 3, 35 at 4, and 25 at 5, then the median ranking is 4. You can find the median by ordering the ranked scores and identifying the middle, like the island in a road.
In the above case, you can see that the majority rated their speed of service favorably for the most part. Combined with information about who is working, traffic extrapolated from sales, and kitchen bottlenecks, you can make informed decisions on how to address these issues. Perhaps you need to reevaluate your staffing needs or even look into bin management or other logistics tools to improve your turnaround time.
Which Diner Should You Survey?
Ideally, you want a wide cross-section of data from all demographics and customer types, identifying that information where possible to segment your respondents. That said, there are at times patrons who may be less than receptive to respond. In those cases, that sort of feedback may prove as biased, whether it’s because of a customer’s experience in or out of the restaurant space that colored their opinions.
Fortunately, your front of house staff from host to waitstaff will have valuable insights as to who may be most willing to work with you and why. Relying on your staff in this way can streamline your data by making sure that you are talking to people willing to answer as honestly as possible, the information you need to make the best decisions.
Whatever you do, make sure that you take negative feedback with a grain of salt. Sites like Zagat or Yelp are review sites meant for the consumer, and while that data is useful at times, the intended goal of those sites is as a platform to compare you to other restaurants rather than for you to learn from.
Satisfying the customer is job number one, but at times it is out of your hands to control. What you can do, however, is to look at the things that you can effect in your restaurant, and make informed decisions based on collected empirical data. Surveys are the first step to contextualizing what you know anecdotally with what happened at the moment.
This article was originally published on April 26, 2019. To keep it relevant, we updated it on January 27, 2021.
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About the Author
Syd is a content marketing specialist, which are fancy words for writing pretty to tell a good story. He likes writing things about food, drinks, and music. He’s a musician himself, a father of two, and loves his wife a whole lot.