What segments of the food service world are earning the attention of customers? Well, those that know how to treat customers and cook up delicious food (attention to atmosphere certainly doesn’t hurt). Likewise, recommendations and reviews from others figure highly in whether new customers visit your restaurant (and social media practically guarantees that your restaurant will be the subject of at least some chatter).
Forty-one percent of diners polled also used some form of social media to become familiar with the restaurant’s reputation prior to eating there. The connections between diners are currently so strong with social media allowing instant access to opinions and feedback that one diner’s review can certainly influence the decisions of other diners (even some time after the review appears online).
This fact must be on the minds of franchise operators and their teams to build a realistic picture of how customer service affects profitability, especially with technology enabling so much interaction between potential, existing, and former customers. Understanding the importance of this is critical for franchisors and franchisees because the success of brands rely on not only the loyalty of repeat customers to keep profits up, but also on positive feedback that those customers share as they venture into virtual and non-virtual realms alike.
The power of recommendations from among family and friends is also highlighted in the poll results, with nearly forty percent trying a new restaurant only after it was recommended. Perhaps these new customers see a location while passing by and consider visiting in the future, perhaps they read about it, and perhaps these two factors in addition to the recommendation spur their initial visit. What’s perhaps more likely though is that new customers first hear about a restaurant and decide to visit when they are told about the great experience friends or family members had there, hence the power of loyal customer feedback.
Yet customers at some stage visit restaurants prompted simply by curiosity and a pursuit of something new, delicious, local, and potentially enjoyable. Surely not every customer receives a recommendation or goes online to research in detail prior to stopping by. These are simply trends that are now a part of the way the food service industry operates in the lives of consumers. Nonetheless, the responsibility lies with restaurant operators to wow their guests into returning, whether it’s initially through grand opening marketing or through feedback from previous patronage.
Recommendations from those we trust absolutely influence our views, our propensity to act, and our outlook on an establishment. How many restaurants would you say you’d visit if your dearest friend or family member mentioned they had become ill after eating there, or received horrible service, or simply a boring plate of sub-par food prepared and served by unhappy people? Surely reviews of this kind are not soon forgotten and yet apparently applause linger just as long (or longer!) in the minds of potential customers hearing recommendations from those they trust, as many actually do go to check the eatery out for themselves.
What food service professionals in all segments of the franchise industry can count on is building a reputation with time, and the quick spread of that reputation, especially online. How important is it then that food service pros build a comprehensive plan for managing their reputation through stellar service and menu items along with focused team training? Hugely. It’s not necessarily one’s reputation that matters initially. It’s the quality of the food and services offered that steal the show and naturally negotiate a reputation all on their own, for better or worse.