post image

3 Key Focus Areas for Improving Guest Satisfaction

In the ever-evolving, competitive restaurant industry, guest satisfaction has emerged as the cornerstone of success. Delivering exceptional dining experiences goes beyond offering delicious dishes. While a complex combination of factors keeps diners coming back for more, restaurant operators can start with the following three steps to elevate the customer experience.

1. Focus on Food Quality and Taste

When it comes to eating out, the importance of food quality and taste remains unparalleled.

The top decision driver for consumers when choosing a restaurant is “taste and flavor of the food,”1 and the vast majority (80%) of consumers said that “great taste” was a top consideration when choosing a restaurant.2

In fact, food quality, including taste, temperature, and freshness of ingredients, is one of the American Customer Satisfaction Index benchmarks.3 Prioritizing the quality of ingredients, taste, and flavor profiles of dishes is imperative for any restaurant aspiring to excel in guest satisfaction.

Operators should consider how they can optimize for better quality across the menu where customers are looking for it. For example, according to Technomic, better-quality soup occasions are rising.4 This could be an excellent opportunity for restaurants looking to zero in on a core menu area where customers crave higher quality.

Another way to ensure high marks on food quality is to incorporate on-trend flavors on your menu. The increasing desire for global cuisine, particularly among Gen Z and millennial diners, underscores the need for restaurants to offer diverse and on-trend menu options. As revealed by Technomic’s 2023 State of Restaurant Guest report, a significant portion of these demographics now gravitates toward global flavors, emphasizing the importance of incorporating such offerings into the menu.5

Prioritizing food quality and crafting on-trend menus will be essential for operators looking to boost guest satisfaction.

2. Optimize Takeout and Off-Premise

Off-premise dining took off during the pandemic and remains a popular way for consumers to dine out today. More than half of Americans would rather order takeout or delivery than sit down and eat at a restaurant, according to a survey by US Foods.6

Creating a seamless takeout dining experience that is convenient for customers is critical since convenience is the primary reason people choose takeout.6 To create a standout experience, operators should focus on quality of execution.5 For example, high-quality packaging can make a significant difference. While 78% of customers said overall takeout capabilities were very important in limited-service restaurants, 72% said the quality of takeout packaging was also very important.5

In addition, consider foods that are inherently portable and easily reheatable, such as soup. Since 2017, the importance of soup’s portability has risen 10 percentage points.7 The ability to eat soup on the go is especially important to younger consumers, who have shifted their foodservice soup orders more strongly toward takeout and delivery.7

Creating a menu with foods that will travel well and offering packaging that will help maintain quality are two essential elements of a successful off-premise dining experience.

3. Master Efficiency for Speed of Service

Efficiency in takeout and delivery is a quintessential factor in guest satisfaction. Eighty-five percent of consumers rated speed of visit as a top consideration in limited-service restaurants, and 82% in full-service restaurants.5 Long wait times and delays can significantly impact the overall dining experience, potentially leading to customer dissatisfaction.

Streamlining operations to provide prompt and seamless service is a strategic imperative for restaurants. Ruby Slipper, one of the top-rated emerging restaurant chains in guest satisfaction according to NRN’s Happy Index,8 focused on efficiency as a pillar of their growth strategy.9

“We are now able to serve over 1,000 guests in eight hours in some of our smaller restaurants,” former CEO Peter Gadrau said in an interview with Nation’s Restaurant News.9 “The past three years have provided us with a lot of opportunity to refine our tools, from table management programs to kitchen throughput efforts with [kitchen display systems] and more.”

In addition to new equipment and operational procedures, using strategic, value-add ingredients back-of-house can make a huge impact, considering that 90% of operators expect the labor shortage to persist throughout 2023.10 Consider versatile and speed-scratch ingredients, such as proteins, grains, and soups, that can be used in a variety of dishes to help you save time and labor.

Creating an efficient kitchen can help increase speed of service, another key factor in guest satisfaction.

Keeping Customer Satisfaction High

While the tenets of customer satisfaction may seem obvious, executing on all three isn’t easy. Fine-tuning the small details, such as finding the perfect take-out packaging or the most efficient way to structure your kitchen, can add up to big results. Remember to focus on the food, the portability, and speed of service. These three goalposts will be your guiding light in the journey for customer happiness.

Content courtesy of Campbell’s Foodservice

1Key Foodservice Trends to Know, Technomic, 2023

2June 2023 Table Stakes Report, Datassential

3Full-Service Restaurants, American Customer Satisfaction Index

4Serving Better Soups, Technomic, April 2022

5State of the Restaurant Guest, Technomic, 2023

6The Diner Dispatch: 2023 American Dining Habits,” US Foods

7Soup & Salad Category Menu Insights, Technomic, 2022

8Kelso, Alicia, “10 emerging casual-dining restaurant chains consumers love,” The Happy Index, Nation’s Restaurant News, July 7, 2023

9Kelso, Alicia, “Why Ruby Slipper is poised to become one of the strongest brunch concepts,” Nation’s Restaurant News, Feb. 8, 2023

10Labor Deep-Dive Operator Check-in, Datassential, 2023