Data tells us what customers really want from their restaurants

There's a lot of online platforms and technology available to transform the dining experience today, but does anyone know what customers really want?
24 July 2018

Does your restaurant provide you with the best experience? Source: Shutterstock

When you think about restaurants and dining out, what is it that drives you to choose one restaurant over another?

Do you always seek new experiences? Or is there value in familiarity with the menu, space, and staff? To find out, SevenRooms recently surveyed 1,108 individuals and produced a report based on the findings.

According to SevenRooms CEO Joel Montaniel, Americans have experienced a major shift in priorities when it comes to what they expect out of a restaurant experience in recent years.

“Their dining preferences have taken a sharp turn to focus not just on food, but on the overall experience with the restaurant – from making a reservation, to leaving at the end of the night and beyond,” said Montaniel.

With this shift in expectations, the restaurant industry can no longer succeed without understanding guests’ preferences and implementing a fully customized experience for each diner every time they visit the restaurant.

The report, aptly titled Turning a Meal into an Experience, says that guest data is taking center stage now, and therefore, it is essential that restaurants are able to gather the necessary information to personalize each diner’s experience.

“Understanding their perspective will allow restaurants to better accommodate the modern diner and implement the specific details and technology that can convert a one-time guest into a regular for years to come,” according to Montaniel.

The fact is, today, customers want to feel special and small actions can have a larger impact on guests’ experiences than restaurants think.

Fifty-one percent Americans said that a waiter or waitress simply remembering them from a previous visit would make their dining out experience stand out. That’s a full one percent more than those who said a complimentary birthday dessert would make them feel special.

The report also found that the reputation a restaurant has built up also plays a significant role in whether consumers choose to visit, as do reviews on social media. Among the respondents, 37 percent said reputation was a deciding factor, while 22 percent said images and reviews on social media played a role in their decision making.

Finally, it’s when making reservations that customers want more technology to play a stronger role – and while there are a multitude of platforms available, each has his own role to play.

Guests who fall into the baby boomer generation are twice as likely to call a restaurant to book a reservation than millennials, found the study. However, 23 percent made reservations online and another 14 percent said they would make a reservation online in the coming months.

The fact that customers would like a great degree of personalization indicates the significant role that technology can play in the future.

Imagine if there was a way to identify diners based on reservations linked to social media profile – and if they could check in on social media to let the host know they’ve arrived, who would know what they looked like, be able to greet them by name, and probably even know if it’s their birthday or a special occasion.

Maybe AI could analyze their social media feed and make recommendations about the kind of food they’d like to be served?

Payments too, could be more seamless than they are today, if restaurants think about customization and personalization with end-users in mind.

The truth is, the time is now for those looking to make a change and better appeal to customers. More technology will definitely lead to a better experience, at least in the case of most restaurants.