“How’s the Food?”

Coyle Hospitality recently collected data from 2,469 diners worldwide, exploring the impact of attributes such as food, staff attitude and atmosphere on their likelihood to recommend a restaurant to others. In today’s first segment, we examine the impact that the quality of the food itself has on the likelihood that diners will recommend a restaurant.

 Food is the most powerful positive and negative dependent variable in the restaurant experience.  When food is superior, respondents rave about a restaurant, and when it’s not, their recommendations can turn negative. 

What constitutes “bad” food?  In the chart of the top food complaints across all markets (below), the number-one issue across all segments is that food is not served as ordered. In general, this complaint indicates dishes that are undercooked, overdone or arrive with items missing. But how does the importance of food quality vary according to segment?

Casual: Accurate Order, No Frills

In the casual market, we can deduce that accurate preparation and temperature are most important.  At this price range, the consumer knows what the quality of the food will be and simply wants it presented as expected, with no major frills.  This is reflected in one of the many respondent statements: “My wife ordered a fish entree that was served nearly cold and its sauce had separated.  My steak was overdone (ordered medium, received well).”

 In the casual market, guests are trading a meal cooked at home for a meal out.  While expectations are not high, they must be met consistently and with speed. Based on our results, casual restaurants need to focus on accurate food preparation.

Upscale: Taste Moves Into the Equation

While food preparation and temperature still come up most frequently among complaints in the upscale market, taste also moves into the equation. We can surmise that the upscale diner is seeking unique, high-quality food.  Upscale restaurants need to focus more closely on food, since the quality of the dish is measured more subjectively.  It becomes more a measure of taste and creativity than an objective measurement of proper preparation. 

 Luxury: Taste, Selections, Creativity

In the luxury segment, satisfaction with food is the number-one driver.  If the food is outstanding, every other aspect can be low and guests will still recommend the restaurant. 

Taste becomes a more prominent concern in this segment, and “limited selection” becomes a top complaint. The latter may be a reaction to the shift toward fewer options at restaurants that embrace regional, seasonal menus.  As restaurants shrink menus, however, they should note that for 23% of luxury restaurant diner respondents, limited menus equal limited satisfaction.  To accommodate the luxury diner’s need for variety and taste, menu flexibility and variation appear to be key. Says one luxury diner: “There were only a few choices on the menu, so we were pretty much forced to order from these options with very little alternative.”

 Since diners are often not very specific about what constitutes “great food”, it may be that it’s ultimately unquantifiable and truly in the taste of the beholder. Still, it makes perfect sense that every operator should be making specific and meaningful inquiries about food quality. 

 Tomorrow we’ll explore how staff attitude affects restaurant recommendations across segments.

© 2024 Coyle Hospitality Group. Reproduction of any material without written authorization is strictly prohibited.

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