Guest Return Intent Drivers in the Restaurant Experience

Young couple in restaurant

The business attribute with the highest correlation to profitability is loyalty.  Loyalty lowers sales and acquisition costs per guest by amortizing these costs across a longer lifetime – leading to some extraordinary financial results.  However, the question remains, what service attributes drive guest loyalty?

To answer this question from a behavioral standpoint Kinesis conducted 400 restaurant mystery shops with the purpose of determining which service attributes/behaviors drive guest return intent.  Forty-six service attributes were observed across five dimensions of the guest experience: environment, food & beverage quality, greeting, personal attention and timing of food and beverage delivery.

The attributes measured grouped into these five dimensions as follows:

Environment

  • Table maintained appropriately throughout the meal
  • Dining room clean, organized and well maintained
  • Exterior building, parking lot, walkways and planters clean
  • Silverware, china, glassware and your table clean
  • Men’s restroom clean and stocked with supplies
  • Lighting fixtures clean and working
  • Lobby area clean and organized
  • Menus clean and in good condition
  • Women’s restroom clean and stocked with supplies
  • Bar clean, organized and well maintained
  • Room temperature level comfortable

Food & Beverage Quality

  • Entrees presented attractively, and tasted good
  • Appetizer presented attractively, and tasted good
  • Drinks attractively presented, and tasted good
  • Dessert presented attractively, and tasted good

Greeting

  • Greeting made feel welcome
  • Prompt greeting
  • Staff members greet with a friendly smile as being seated
  • Thanked and encouraged to visit again
  • Ask specific questions about your experience upon leaving

Service: Personal Attention

  • Server attentive and prompt throughout the meal
  • Server discuss the beverage menu, suggest an item or ask about your preferences
  • Server discuss the appetizer menu, suggest an item or ask about your preferences
  • Server promote daily specials
  • Host carry on a conversation as being seated
  • Server discuss the beverage menu or ask about preferences
  • Receive appetizer in a timely manner
  • Manager engage guests in conversation
  • Server smiling and enjoying time with all the guests
  • Acknowledged by a server in a timely manner
  • Attentive to needs while in the bar area
  • Server discuss the dessert menu, suggest an item or ask about preferences
  • Server knowledgeable and confident when responding to questions
  • Manager present
  • Server try and entice you to order their favorite appetizer(s)
  • Resolve any service, food or beverage issues

Service: Timing

  • Food and beverage service timed well
  • Receive entrees in a timely manner
  • Receive starter soup/ salad in a timely manner
  • Receive appetizer in a timely manner
  • Manager engage guests in conversation
  • Receive drink orders in timely manner
  • Receive dessert in a timely manner
  • Cashed out in a timely manner
  • Acknowledge and get order in a timely manner
  • Drinks arrive in a timely manner

 

In order to determine the relationship of these attributes to return intent, Kinesis asked mystery shoppers if, based on the guest experience, they intended to return to the restaurant.  This independent variable was then used as a basis for cross-tabulation to determine the frequency with which the behaviors were observed in shops with positive return intent and negative return intent.

The results of this cross tabulation is as follows:

Environment Shops with …
Positive Return Intent Negative Return Intent
Table maintained appropriately throughout the meal 96% 73%
Dining room clean, organized and well maintained 100% 90%
Exterior building, parking lot, walkways and planters clean 100% 94%
Silverware, china, glassware and your table clean 98% 94%
Men’s restroom clean and stocked with supplies 96% 91%
Lighting fixtures clean and working 98% 95%
Lobby area clean and organized 100% 98%
Menus clean and in good condition 99% 97%
Women’s restroom clean and stocked with supplies 93% 92%
Bar clean, organized and well maintained 99% 98%
Room temperature level comfortable 95% 94%

 

Food & Beverage Quality Shops with …
Positive Return Intent Negative Return Intent
Entrees presented attractively, and tasted good 98% 58%
Appetizer presented attractively, and tasted good 97% 88%
Drinks attractively presented, and tasted good 97% 88%
Dessert presented attractively, and tasted good 97% 97%

 

Greeting Positive Return Intent Negative Return Intent
Thanked and encouraged to visit again 95% 63%
Ask specific questions about your experience upon leaving 35% 8%
Greeting made feel welcome 93% 70%
Prompt greeting 93% 76%
Staff members greet with a friendly smile as being seated 60% 44%

 

Service: Personal Attention Positive Return Intent Negative Return Intent
Server attentive and prompt throughout the meal 93% 45%
Server discuss the beverage menu, suggest an item or ask about your preferences 80% 43%
Server discuss the appetizer menu, suggest an item or ask about your preferences 68% 33%
Server promote daily specials 64% 33%
Host carry on a conversation as being seated 70% 41%
Server discuss the beverage menu or ask about preferences 63% 35%
Manager engage guests in conversation 73% 47%
Server smiling and enjoying time with all the guests 97% 73%
Acknowledged by a server in a timely manner 96% 73%
Attentive to needs while in the bar area 92% 72%
Server discuss the dessert menu, suggest an item or ask about preferences 81% 65%
Acknowledge and get order in a timely manner 94% 80%
Server knowledgeable and confident when responding to questions 98% 86%
Manager present 43% 31%
Server try and entice you to order their favorite appetizer(s) 64% 57%
Resolve any service, food or beverage issues 53% 67%

 

Service: Timing Positive Return Intent Negative Return Intent
Food and beverage service timed well 92% 51%
Receive entrees in a timely manner 92% 59%
Server promote daily specials 64% 33%
Receive starter soup/ salad in a timely manner 91% 60%
Receive appetizer in a timely manner 93% 65%
Receive drink orders in timely manner 96% 73%
Receive dessert in a timely manner 95% 77%
Cashed out in a timely manner 97% 81%
Acknowledge and get order in a timely manner 94% 80%
Drinks arrive in a timely manner 98% 85%

 

Putting all this together, the ten attributes with the largest difference between shops with positive and negative return intent are:

Top 10 Attributes
Dimension Attributes Difference
Service: Personal Attention Server attentive and prompt throughout the meal 48%
Service: Timing Food and beverage service timed well 41%
Food Entrees presented attractively, and tasted good 40%
Service: Personal Attention Server discuss the beverage menu, suggest an item or ask about your preferences 37%
Service: Personal Attention Server discuss the appetizer menu, suggest an item or ask about your preferences 35%
Service: Timing Receive entrees in a timely manner 33%
Service: Personal Attention Server promote daily specials 31%
Greeting Thanked and encouraged to visit again 31%
Service: Timing Receive starter soup/ salad in a timely manner 30%
Service: Personal Attention Host carry on a conversation as being seated 29%

 

Of the ten attributed with the strongest relationship to return intent, five belong to the personal attention dimension, three belong to the timing dimension, the food & beverage quality and greeting dimensions round out the top ten with one attribute each.

Directing our attention from specific attributes to broader dimensions, the following chart shows the average difference in shops with positive return intent to shops with negative return intent:

Return Intent Gaps

Outside of the timing of food and beverage delivery, the dimensions of the customer experience with the strongest correlation to return intent are the greeting and personal attention, followed by food and beverage quality and the physical environment.

Click Here For More Information About Kinesis' Research Services

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About Eric Larse

Eric Larse is co-founder of Seattle-based Kinesis CEM, LLC, which helps clients plan and execute their customer experience strategies through the intelligent use of customer satisfaction surveys and mystery shopping, linked with training and incentive programs. Visit Kinesis at: www.kinesis-cem.com

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