Top 20 Drivers of Restaurant Loyalty (What keeps guests coming back?)

On October 14, 2014, at Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration’s 3rd Cornell Hospitality Research Summit, Coyle Hospitality Group unveiled its long awaited study revealing the top 20 drivers of restaurant loyalty. In its presentation entitled, Empirical Models in Experience Measurement: Touch Points that Drive Restaurant Guest Loyalty, Coyle described its research objective, methodology and results.  Without any further ado, here is a summary of the study.

Objective + Methodology

  • Objective: Restaurant owners/operators are busy and resource starved.  What are the most important factors in determining guest loyalty?
  • 488 respondents reported on restaurant experiences at full service, US restaurants in July and August 2014.
    • Respondents were asked their overall feelings, emotions, and reactions.
    • Total results are accurate +/- 4.4% assuming equal proportions.
    • Analysis was conducted using Relative Importance modeling.
  • Coyle accounted for the different reasons why diners select restaurants by using a composite loyalty index composed of the following three questions:
    • How satisfied were you with this experience?
    • How likely are you to return to this restaurant?
    • How likely are you to recommend this restaurant to a friend, family member, or colleague?
    • All questions are answered on a zero to ten point (0-10) scale with ten being the highest possible score.
Top Drivers of Restaurant Loyalty

Top 20 Drivers of Restaurant Loyalty  (c) Coyle Hospitality Group

What To Do Now

  • It is no surprise that food taste matters, a lot. Yes, you knew that but make sure servers and menus/printed collateral are on message about how great the food is. There’s a reason your mom said, “Mmm….goood!” as she fed you a spoonful of mashed peas.
  • Restaurant goers appreciate value aka the price meets expectations.  Another no brainer, right?  Well, your wine list, cocktail menu, or a $3.50 cup of coffee might be shouting out loud you offer a poor value.
  • The final farewell received before leaving a restaurant is 7X more important than the arrival welcome. How many of your guests last night walked by an empty podium when they left?  Or, a bartender on a cell phone or a server staring at the POS terminal.
  • Server attentiveness, inclusive of meal pacing and timing is a big factor.  If timing is off, it is almost impossible to get the rest right.
  • Where’s the manager??? While management presence does not have a significant direct impact on loyalty. There’s more to the story.  Mystery shop data clearly shows a higher overall compliance to all the ‘little things that drive loyalty’.  When managers are on the floor, scores for staff friendliness, cleanliness, and timing are higher in the aggregate.  At the very least, a present manager ensures that all guests receive a meaningful farewell.
Key Takeaways - Restaurant Loyalty Drivers (c) Coyle Hospitality Group

Key Takeaways – Restaurant Loyalty Drivers  (c) Coyle Hospitality Group


Coyle Hospitality Group provides intelligently designed mystery shopping programs to the world’s top restaurants, hotels, and businesses that value the customer experience.  To find out how Coyle can help your company gain actionable customer insights, contact us today.
© 2024 Coyle Hospitality Group. Reproduction of any material without written authorization is strictly prohibited.

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