- Restaurant brands are eager to keep diners coming back but may be surprised to find that it’s not always price that sends customers away.
- Diners have little patience for longer wait times, but upfront communication can help alleviate their frustration.
- Table-service operators should consider the value equation — improving the overall experience can help offset price sensitivities.
Yelp recently released data indicating that customers are starting to notice price increases. As we develop pricing strategies for more than 100,000 restaurant locations around the world, we’re noticing, too. RMS’ recent analysis of the pain points affecting customers‘ dining behavior today found that factors beyond price are also at play.
Among the more than 800 US consumers in our survey, the majority were “not dissatisfied” with their dining experience. Surprisingly, among those who were unhappy, price was not the primary concern. RMS found:
- About 4 in 10 respondents believe the overall restaurant experience improved in 2021 compared to 2020.
- Specifically, among full-service customers, 41% believe the restaurant experience has improved YOY. (QSR customers saw only a 36% improvement.)
- While table-service guests are more satisfied with the food away from home (FAFH) experience, 26% cited longer wait times (not higher prices) as the leading reason for their dissatisfaction.
Full-service guests dish about their experiences. Here’s what you should know.
Based on RMS survey responses, here’s a quick look at what full-service brands should consider when it comes to customer sentiment and behavior, along with suggestions for overcoming these pain points. Want a deeper dive? You can get the complete report here.
Compared to QSRs, table-service restaurants are faring more favorably with diners. Among survey respondents, 74% reported that they have been pleased with their experience at full-service restaurants. However, not all was rosy. Guests did cite long wait times, poor customer service and higher prices as factors that led to their dissatisfaction.
Table-Service Insight: We recorded two points of contention among diners when they dine in: the wait time associated with being seated and long waits to place an order and receive the meal.
RMS Tip: Incorporate technology-driven solutions to counter any potentially negative impacts from diminished staff. RMS COO Mark Kuperman says mobile ordering (such as QR codes at the table) and other contactless ordering and payment solutions put the customer in charge. Not only do these solutions lessen the burden on staff, but they can support overall satisfaction among restaurant guests.
Table-Service Insight: Consumers associate poor customer service with staffing issues.
RMS Tip: Just like posting mask requirements on the entrance doors when necessary, set expectations for what guests can expect when they do come inside. If wait times are longer due to labor shortages, communicate this clearly to your customers.
Educate hosts to gently let diners know upon arrival. Don’t leave it up to the guest to discover slowed service on their own when they encounter an unexpected wait. They will appreciate and respect the courtesy. If they choose to leave, it won’t be due to an unpleasant situation they paid for.
Table-Service Insight: Only 14% of respondents said they were dissatisfied with the rising prices of menu items — but given that inflation remains high, it’s almost a sure bet that this sentiment will grow.
RMS Tip: Consumers are aware that cost pressures will continue to squeeze operators, which will dictate an ongoing need to raise prices. To compensate, RMS suggests considering alternative pricing tactics. Adding or deleting menu items, bundling or rearranging the menu can drive ROI without causing sticker shock.
Finally, Kuperman urges full-service operators to consider the value equation. If 26% of survey respondents were dissatisfied with their table-service visit, for example, restaurants that work to decrease wait times and improve the overall customer experience are less likely to lose diners due to higher prices.
“By focusing on the overall experience, such as atmosphere, service and order accuracy, restaurants can meet guests’ needs and help ease price sensitivity,” he adds.
If your restaurant or franchise is interested in learning how to simplify your menu, options for pricing or insights on many other topics, reach out to learn more about how leveraging your data can generate a plan for profit.