What Customer Feedback Questions Should You Ask in a Restaurant?
We have a variety of different food service businesses using our product to manage customer experience (CX) and no two brands have an identical CX survey. That’s not at all surprising because a quick service restaurant will have a different service setup to a fine dining restaurant and different management teams will have varying areas of focus.
However, there are also plenty of commonalities so I’ve tried to summarise them here. I provide numerous sample questions to help you shape your survey and maximise the benefit you get from it. They cover both dine-in and delivery survey questions as delivery has become an increasingly important source of revenue for many restaurants (and the origin of many of their complaints). And finally, I have included a basic restaurant customer feedback survey template that would work pretty much anywhere.
Three Types of Survey Question
Broadly speaking we see three types of survey question:
- Operational Compliance Questions
- Customer Experience Questions
- Discovery Questions
Most surveys contain a mix of all three.
These categories can be further broken down into quantitative and qualitative questions. As a rule, we would recommend limiting qualitative questions (typically open-ended free text questions) to one or two maximum. These questions take more effort for customers to answer and for that reason, they drive survey abandonment. We recommend asking qualitative free form questions towards the end of the survey so that if a customer does abandon you have already captured the desired quantitative feedback from them or at least the core metric that you’re most focused on.
I could also have broken the questions out into themes like service, hygiene, food quality and atmosphere but these themes will be obvious to anyone familiar with running a food service business.
The goal of this article is to provide some ideas for those looking to implement a CX survey in a restaurant for the first time or get more value from an existing one.
Operational Compliance Survey Questions for Restaurants
Operational compliance questions, as the name suggests, help head office to determine the effectiveness of staff training across the network of restaurants and if franchisees/staff are following procedures. They are frequently used in cases where the survey is replacing or complementing a mystery shopper program. These questions often have “Yes/No” answers, because the staff member either did what they were supposed to do or they didn’t.
The following are some examples:
Were you greeted by a staff member when you entered the restaurant? Yes/No
Was your table clean when you were seated? Yes/No
Did your server recommend any specials from our menu? Yes/No
Were you offered tea or coffee at the end of your meal? Yes/No
Were you invited to join our loyalty program by a staff member? Yes/No
Did your food arrive within 30 minutes of placing your order? Yes/No
Was the packaging seal still intact when you opened it? Yes/No
Was your order correct? Yes/No
One of the big advantages of these types of questions is their simplicity and the clarity of the data they produce. Consumers don’t have to think too hard so the abandonment rate is likely to be lower. From the business side, assuming your survey is getting decent levels of engagement, it is so much fairer to judge a restaurant on this data rather than the snapshot experience that mystery shopper reports are based on.
The simplicity of the questions also causes some disadvantages. Firstly, you get very little background information or context around the answers. Secondly, a consumer might have had a minor issue with something and therefore feels compelled to answer negatively even though their satisfaction level is high. The key is to use this type of question when the answer truly is a choice between “yes” or “no”.
Customer Experience Survey Questions for Restaurants
Customer experience (CX) survey questions focus on how the customer felt during their visit. That means answers will be more nuanced than a simple “yes” or “no”. Questions like Net Promoter Score (NPS) and Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) have evolved in order to measure experience levels. We have explained the likes of NPS and CSAT and how to calculate them in a previous article, so here I’m going to focus more on the content of the questions and their intended purpose.
Net Promoter Score (NPS)
NPS has become the yardstick by which most chains track and compare performance across their locations. It is a standard question that should not deviate much from the following template:
“How likely is it that you would recommend [insert brand/product/service] to a friend or colleague? Where 0 is not at all likely and 10 is very likely.”
The purpose of this question is to gauge customer advocacy. The idea is that a high score should indicate that a significant amount of word-of-mouth marketing is taking place to the benefit of your business. Personal recommendations are so much more powerful than ads or social media posts. That is particularly true in the restaurant business, so serving food and providing service that really impresses people should create a virtuous circle whereby more and more customers want to experience what you have to offer.
I would strongly recommend following up the NPS question with an open-ended question like:
“Why did you give that rating?”
Using the right software, this will help you pull your qualitative content together with the quantitative metrics you’ve recorded. That should make it easy to figure out what’s making your customer feel good about your business or an individual restaurant and what is doing the opposite.
Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) Questions
CSAT questions attempt to determine how satisfied customers are with particular aspects of your business. A typical CSAT question might look something like the following but they can be asked in a number of different ways (e.g. using “Very Satisfied”, “Satisfied” etc or a numeric rating scale for each term).
Picking two or three areas where you want to track satisfaction, such as hygiene, service and food quality is pretty standard.
The least complicated measurement system is a simple rating out of 3, 5 or 7. This is often done with stars and is widely used across food service. One of the primary advantages over NPS and CSAT is that most staff members get it straight away so there is no confusion when it comes to explaining results.
Customer Discovery Questions for Restaurants
Finally, we have questions that help you, the restaurateur, learn more about your business. The purpose of these questions ranges from learning more about what type of customers frequent your restaurants or how customers first learn about your existence to trying to find out how a new menu item is going down or what is missing from your menu. They are typically multiple choice or open-ended free form questions and can be particularly useful in a new opening or new menu situation.
How did you find out about [your brand] restaurants?
What age range do you fall into? Under 18/18–30/31-40/41-55/Over 55
Is there anything else you would like to say about your visit?
They can generate very valuable insights when paired with other questions. For example:
Were you happy with our menu options? Yes/No
If “No” the next question should fire.
That’s disappointing to hear. What else were you looking for?
How frequently do you visit [your brand] restaurants?
First Time/Occasionally/Once a Month/Weekly
If they answer “First Time” or “Occasionally” the next question should fire.
Is there something we could do to encourage you to visit more often?
Which delivery platform did you use to place your order?
Doordash/Deliveroo/GrubHub/JustEat/[Your Brand Delivery]
If they used a third party app the next question should fire.
Is there any particular reason why you didn’t use our own delivery platform (there’s a 20% discount on the first order)?
Hopefully, you’ll see some patterns in the answers you get that will help you make better decisions going forward. And in an ideal situation, where you may already be doing what was suggested by the customer (e.g. offering student discounts), you’ll immediately follow up with the customer to provide them with more information. That can have a very positive impact on an individual customer basis.
Sample Customer Survey Template for Restaurants
- Were you greeted promptly by a member of staff when you entered the restaurant?
- How satisfied were you with the service you received from our staff today?
- How satisfied were you with the quality of the food and beverages you were served today?
- How satisfied were you with the overall cleanliness of the restaurant?
- Were you offered a dessert menu and/or tea or coffee at the end of your meal?
- How likely is it that you would recommend The Demo Diner to a friend or colleague? Where 0 is not at all likely and 10 is very likely.
- Finally, why did you give that rating?
In many cases, you will find NPS questions appear first. This is because it is often considered the most critical piece of information. The problem with doing that is the flow of the survey can be clunky and asking the free-form question so early can increase abandonment rates. Consider for example a situation where a customer has already told you they gave a low score because of poor service and then you ask about their satisfaction with the service in the very next question. That might prompt a negative reaction. As long as you keep the survey short, I recommend asking your critical metric and an associated free-form question at the end of the survey.
This may seem extremely short and simple, but it covers all the critical aspects of the business. Questions 1 and 5 might not be appropriate for every business, so pick questions that you really want answers to and by all means change these questions throughout the year. Keeping it simple is hugely important if you want to get people to fill in the survey more than once in their lifetime which is important.
Question 7 should provide you with all the context you need in order to improve customer experience, while questions 2, 3, 4 and 6 lend themselves to league tables that can be posted in staff rooms to show how each individual restaurant sits within the change. Breeding CX competition among different locations should be high on the list of objectives of any operations director.
Hopefully, these questions have been helpful and provide some inspiration to choose questions that help you get the most out of your own restaurants' customer experience survey. However, I would caution against trying to cover too many bases and ending up with a long survey that may actually antagonise customers. We strongly recommend not going over 10 questions in total where possible. If you want to ask more than that, consider rotating the last few questions on a quarterly basis so that over the course of the year you’ve captured data on all the areas you’re interested in.
There are other options available to businesses now such as capturing feedback via video (available from ServiceDock). This type of feedback is going to be much less structured than a typical survey but advancements in speech to text technologies mean you can now search these videos and plot the content on word clouds and graphs. There’s also the enormous benefit of actually being able to see how you’re making your customers feel, which transforms a CX program from a numbers-based analysis activity to a reality TV show like experience. Guess which is going to appeal more to your millennial workforce?
It’s also important to note that deciding on what questions to ask is not the real challenge you’ll face… getting customers to engage with your survey and answer questions is (read more here). After that, it’s actually putting the data to work so you start to see CX improvement (read more about that here). In any case, it’s very difficult to improve something you’re not measuring so capturing customer feedback is a great starting point in any CX program. The sooner you start the better.