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What Matters Most to Restaurant Customers?

What are customers looking for when they decide whether or not to eat at your restaurant? A new study by Mintel found that cleanliness (cited by 96 percent of survey respondents), a wide menu selection and variety (94 percent) and comfortable seating (91 percent) are the most important things people look for when deciding where to eat out.

While these general factors mattered most to customers of all ages and ethnicities, Mintel also found that different demographic groups have different things they look for when choosing a restaurant. For example, about 93 percent of those aged 65 and up say noise level is important to them when dining out, compared to 82 percent of respondents overall. And while only 40 percent of respondents overall say the kind of music played over the sound system matters, more than half (52 percent) of those aged 18-24 say it makes a difference in where they choose to eat.

Hispanic diners are more likely than their non-Hispanic counterparts to say that decor (70 percent vs. 65 percent), dress code (54 percent vs 44 percent), music (50 percent vs 39 percent) and children’s activities (40 percent vs. 24 percent) matter when choosing a restaurant.

Do you own a sit-down restaurant? Then you need to know that a whopping 92 percent say it’s important not to feel rushed when dining there.

More than two-thirds (71 percent) of consumers say coupons or special pricing are a deciding factor in where to eat.

A similar number (68 percent) care less about the atmosphere than about the food when choosing a restaurant.

What turns customers off from ever returning to your restaurant? Dirty table settings (76 percent), rude wait staff (74 percent) and dirty bathrooms (57 percent) were the top offenders.

What does this study mean to your restaurant?

  • Start by addressing the issues that matter most to customers in general–cleanliness, menu selections and comfortable seating—before drilling down to specific customer demographics, such as seniors or Hispanics.
  • Investigate customization options. For instance, can you dim the lights and turn up the music during dayparts that attract younger customers, and turn the lighting up and the music down during times when seniors make up most of your patrons? If you haven’t already done so, different soundtracks for different times of day can work wonders. Or maybe you can break your dining room into different areas, some with more sound-baffling elements and brighter lighting and others that are noisier and dimmer.
  • With Hispanic customers making up a big segment of the restaurant-going population, consider offering children’s activity books or placemats in Spanish as well as English to appeal to Spanish-speaking families.

Image by Flickr user dalbera (Creative Commons)

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