Opinion: Part I – Customer Feedback in the Restaurant Industry

There have been many articles written about customer feedback in restaurants. One feedback mechanism for restaurant customers is tipping, however recent research from the Cornell Hotel and Restaurant Administration Quarterly said that "The connection between service quality and tip sizes is tenuous at best, as shown by an analysis of 14 studies that examined the relationship between service and tips."

Another feedback mechanism is asking customers at the end of the meal, however an article in Entrepreneur Magazine states:

"The truth is, most people just don't complain. Conversations with your customers are most likely similar to this standard restaurant interaction: The waitress stops by your table to ask, "Is everything all right?" "Fine, fine," you mumble through a mouthful of cold potatoes and rubbery meat. But why don't you say anything? Because complaining is tough on everyone, including the complainer. So you just swallow (literally) the bad service or awful food and vow never to go back to that restaurant again."

source: "Getting Customers to Complain" by Andrea Obston (Entrepreneur Magazine, Oct.18, 2004)

Do restaurants really care about customer feedback? Here is one extreme example:

"One of my friends ordered ‘prime beef’ and received a cremated forequarter chop surrounded by an unappetising mulch of nondescript vegetables — for $17.50!

Shortly after, the maitre’d popped the question, and we politely told him. His reaction was interesting to say the least. He said, ‘Yeah, I agree. The management here doesn’t care. They know that you’ll be gone in a couple of days and a new bunch will arrive to take your place.’ I wondered why he bothered to ask."

source: "If You Ask The Question…Listen To The Answer!" by Tony Eldred (Restaurant Report)

It will be difficult to determine which method is the most effective, however each has its own set of challenges. Here is how each method of customer feedback will be tagged:

  • Instant vs. Delayed
    When does the restaurant elicit customer feedback? At the table, right after the dining experience, or later after the customer leaves the restaurant?
  • Pro-Active vs. Passive
    How does the restaurant elicit customer feedback? Is the restaurant pro-active and the customer passive, or vice-versa?
  • Restaurant vs. Customer
    Who is assuming more of the expenses (cost, effort) in the customer feedback transaction? Is it more expensive for the restaurant or the customer?
  • Expense vs. Return on Investment
    How much expense [monetary (cost) and non-monetary (effort)] is involved for both the restaurant and the customer? Does the return on investment justify the expense?

Part II will be an overview on the types and costs of methods restaurants use to solicit customer feedback, and then we will look at the challenges facing each method.


One Response to “Opinion: Part I – Customer Feedback in the Restaurant Industry”

  1. Empowered Dining: WaiterBell and Restaurant Customer Service » Opinion: Part II - Customer Feedback in the Restaurant Industry Says:

    […] Part II is an overview on the types and costs of methods restaurants use to solicit customer feedback, Part III will look at the challenges facing each method. To review the classifications used below, please click here for Part I. This Part II will cover two common methods, and another set of methods will be covered next time.  […]

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