guestXM – by Black Box Intelligence

Restaurant Consumer Trends Post-Pandemic

These trends should provide a good starting point for your restaurant in regards to monitoring current restaurant consumer trends.

What are Restaurant Consumer Trends?

Consumer trends are the overarching shared sentiments expressed by restaurant consumers. Consumer trends are often uncovered through gathering, aggregating, and continuously tracking restaurant customer feedback.

BBI can and does track restaurant customer feedback across various platforms with our guest intelligence tool. This tool searches reviews for mentions of certain things and can be customized to monitor mentions of certain words, like particular restaurant features and menu items.

This tool is how we’ve aggregated data and discerned some of the top post-pandemic industry-wide restaurant consumer trends. Some might surprise you, so read on for current insights on the sentiments of your consumer base.

Restaurant Consumer Trends

Good Ambience

If you’re looking to drive up restaurant customer satisfaction, start by cultivating a good restaurant ambiance.

The ambiance is determined by the quality of the physical environment in which diners find themselves. Things like dirty dishes, disrepair of furniture, unclean bathrooms, and unpleasant smells are all things mentioned in various reviews that negatively affect the ambiance.

Additionally, the ambiance is partially relative, as it has to match the expectations of the restaurant customers who fill up a space. For example, the expectations for the ambiance of a McDonald’s are going to be wildly different from those for a Ruth’s Chris steakhouse. So make sure to take the characteristics of your restaurant into account when it comes to improving your ambiance.

Decrease in Restaurant Customer Satisfaction

BBI has also seen a general decrease in overall restaurant customer satisfaction, and this decrease is due to several different but interrelated factors influencing the restaurant industry at the moment: supply chain issues, staffing issues, and check growth.

Supply chain issues mean certain items consumers might be used to seeing are now not on the menu anymore, and quality might not be as consistent as it used to be; thus, you might get dishes with varying sizes of chicken breasts, for example.

Staffing issues exacerbate these problems with quality because not only are restaurants experiencing more irregularity in their food deliveries, but they also don’t have enough cooks in the kitchen to prepare food quickly, or else food is prepared by those without proper training.

Furthermore, due to economic constraints, the average check size at restaurants has been continually growing. It is the result of a cycle of falling customer satisfaction and value sentiment due to increased check growth making dining out seem not worth it. Because of this decrease in customers, restaurants have had to raise their prices so they meet their margins. Overall, BBI has found that the bigger the average check increase, the lower guest sentiment and customer satisfaction becomes.

Negative Sentiment Around Certain Restaurant Technologies

QR codes, particularly since the onset of COVID-19, have been very popular and convenient restaurant technology for many restaurant brands. They require no printing fees and don’t get dirty as traditional menus do.

Restaurant customers, however, do not necessarily share the same favorable outlook on QR code menus as many restaurants do for several reasons. Firstly, if a restaurant is in an area with no wifi or a bad internet connection, something that should be simple (browsing dining options) becomes frustrating for a guest.

Another restaurant technology that is a bit of a toss-up regarding restaurant customer satisfaction is paying when you want with kiosks at a table. In reviews, some people have expressed difficulties in regards to figuring out how to work them. They have also expressed concern for their cleanliness, as well as the fact that children can play with them and can easily accidentally add more charges to a bill.

Increased Mentions of Speed and Accuracy of Service

In recent reviews, BBI has seen increased complaints of long waiting times for food and tables, which is partially responsible for driving down guest sentiment. So make sure that your restaurant servers are setting customer expectations if you are expecting wait times. This can help mitigate disgruntled mentions of the speed of service because guests know what they’re getting.

BBI has also noticed a rise in mentions of forgotten items in off-premise orders. Comments like “I had no utensils with my order”, or, “They forgot our appetizers”, are becoming more commonplace. To ensure more restaurant customer satisfaction when it comes to off-premise orders, consider adding a position to focus particularly on off-premise sales.

Older Diners Still Not Returning

Last on our list of trends concerns the demographic makeup of the current dining population. While current diner demographics do not match those of pre-pandemic, as most older diners have not returned to restaurants, there are still ways to cater to that group to ensure that you still get their business.

The older generations want the ability to truly utilize a curbside pickup option—given that they can have mobility issues and are the most at-risk group for COVID-19. Thus, a dining-out option that would be best suited to that age group would be off-premise, truly curb-side service. If you are looking to cater more to the older generations, consider altering how you do your off-premise sales.

Who Should Pay Attention to Restaurant Consumer Trends?

The people who should be primarily interested in restaurant consumer trends are those involved in marketing efforts, as well as restaurant operations leaders. Marketing leaders should be aware of consumer trends, as they are an integral part of planning an effective and relevant marketing strategy for your restaurants.

Operations managers and leaders at regional or multi-unit levels should be closely monitoring changes in restaurant consumer trends to make sure their current operations match up with the sentiments of the consumers coming in their doors.

Track Consumer Trends with BBI

These trends should provide a good starting point for your restaurant in regards to monitoring current restaurant consumer trends, but nothing compares to data that shows consumer sentiment about your restaurants specifically.

BBI’s Guest Intelligence tool gives you access to real data detailing not only your food, beverage, service, ambiance, value, and intent to return sentiments, but also gives you visibility into your competitors, segment, and industry data to give you a baseline for more accurate analysis.

Click here to sign up for a free demo of this powerful tool.

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