Guest Satisfaction Surveys – The Right Questions to Ask and How to Deliver It

Brady Thomason, NetSuite Solution Manager, Restaurant & Hospitality

March 7, 2019

5 Reasons Restaurants Must Do a Guest Satisfaction Survey

Restaurants can improve the quality of their restaurant and guest service if they get serious about satisfaction surveys.

  • Gain honest feedback about your business with answers to specific questions.
  • Measure your progress as you make changes at your restaurant.
  • Engage a loyal customer base that feels like you care.

As a restaurant owner, you know what the two most important ingredients for a successful business are: good food and happy guests. While you’ve probably mastered your list of recipes and food suppliers, happy guests can be tricky. Guest satisfaction surveys are an easy way to measure how well you’re doing in all aspects of your service.

Think of surveys as a tool(opens in new tab) to help you understand the guest experience more deeply and how you can improve it. They also provide new opportunities for you to engage repeat guests and promote events or new aspects of your business so you can be more profitable.

Before you create a guest satisfaction survey, check out these five reasons why you should do a guest satisfaction survey with some examples of the right questions to ask(opens in new tab) to achieve your goals.

1. Get honest and measurable feedback

Feedback from a survey is usually less biased and more honest than reviews on and social media for two reasons. First, reviews and comments are usually heavily influenced by emotions and specific experiences that inspired guests to post them. However, surveys prompt them to consider their experiences, rather than waiting to hear them in one extreme way or another.

Second, surveys can be anonymous and private. If you simply put the survey with your guest’s bill, they can quickly and privately share feedback while the experience is fresh without feeling the pressure of confrontation from the server or identifying information on social media or Yelp.

If you want honest answers and lots of participants, the survey must be short, easy to fill out and measurable with quantitative and qualitative questions(opens in new tab). You want to have only a few questions with one or two that are measurable over time with ratings like:

  • 1 – I will not recommend your restaurant.
  • 10 – I’m going to tell everyone I know about your restaurant!

How would you rate the quality of your service today?

  • 1 – Terrible. I will not come back.
  • 10 – Best experience ever – I’ll be back again.

How was your meal?

  • 1 – I did not enjoy my food.
  • 10 – I loved every bite.

By associating a numbered rating for a piece of data in your survey, you have a direct number to point to once you implement a change and host another survey. This way you have a concrete data point to measure your progress over time.

2. Find ways to improve

In addition to getting honest, measurable feedback from as many guests as possible, you’re going to want tangible ways to improve your restaurant. If you’ve never done a survey before, you can simply ask:

How was your experience at our restaurant, today?

This open-ended question(opens in new tab) will allow guests to provide direct feedback about what they liked or disliked about eating at your restaurant.

If you want to know exactly what they liked or disliked you can break it into two questions.

What did you like most about dining with us, today?

What would you like to see improved for next time?

Or you can do a follow-up question to a rating question.

What can we do better for next time?

In addition to open-ended questions and follow-up questions for ratings, you can also ask about specific experiences, facilities or menu items.

If there is something new about your restaurant, such as a menu item or serving style or you want specific advice on areas you feel you can improve, you can ask a more detailed question.

For example, let’s say you just opened a new patio dining area, you can ask what guests liked and disliked about it.

What do you think of our new patio dining area?

  • Loved it.
  • It was ok, but you still need (provide space for a response, here).
  • I did not use the patio dining area.

You can also ask questions about servers, food quality or menu.

How was your server, today?

Were you happy with your meal choice, today?

Did your meal meet your expectations based on the menu description?

Ultimately, you have to figure out what needs to be changed, how it can be bettered and be okay with hearing feedback about your services.

3. Discover who your guests are and what they need

Another key data point you should know as a restaurant owner is who is your guest? By asking how frequently(opens in new tab) a diner has eaten at your restaurant, you will get a good idea for who this person is and how well they know your restaurant. It will also help you gauge who’s coming back.

Have you dined with us before?

  • This is my first time.
  • Yes, I’ve been here a few times.
  • I’m a regular – you practically have a menu item named after me.

You can also inquire why they chose your restaurant or whether they came with kids if you’re concerned about being family-friendly.

What inspired your visit, today?

  • Our menu
  • Our location
  • Positive reviews
  • Our website
  • It’s date night
  • We needed a family-friendly restaurant

4. Choose the best format for your brand

If you’d like guests to do a survey, consider which delivery method is best for your restaurant. According to OpenTable, 1 in 8 restaurant diners will post a review after dining. Since many people are inclined to share their opinion, implementing a survey is a good idea.

There are several ways you can serve a survey. Most commonly restaurants use a paper insert with the bill. More recently restaurants use a tablet(opens in new tab). Other methods include email and SMS text message.  

Many restaurants use SMS text messages to alert you when your table is ready. It would be a natural fit to send a survey after the meal is complete. In fact, 1 in 3 diners is open to SMS marketing, according to stats by Review Tracker and Franchise Help(opens in new tab).

You could also encourage Yelp and Facebook reviews. eMarketer reports(opens in new tab) that direct engagement of only 1 percent can lead to a boost of 25 percent in positive online sentiment. 

No matter which method you choose, you have to select what is best for your restaurant.

5. Promote special events, new menu items and coupons

Getting the word out about special events and new menu items can be tough without a strong repeat customer base. Sure, you can advertise online, but being able to email guests directly can increase your business and allow for more opportunities.

Offering coupons or other incentives will entice diners to complete your surveys, share their experiences, or come back to dine. Sixty-nine percent of diners said(opens in new tab) that complimentary extras will encourage them to return to a restaurant.

For example, maybe guests will receive 10 percent off their next meal, get a free drink or appetizer or get a certain amount of points in your new rewards or loyalty program. 

If this is the case, you can also collect contact information so you can send emails or newsletters for promotional events or new surveys in the future.

If you’d like to know what type of events your guests would attend, or new menu items they’d like to see, ask them. Be sure to use multiple choice for things you’d like to offer that way you’re in control of the events or new menu items you’d like to host.

What type of event would you attend at our restaurant?

  • Special Valentine’s Day Dinner and Menu
  • Live Music Night
  • Happy Hour

What are we missing on our menu?

  • Vegan, Vegetarian, or Gluten-Free Food Options
  • Appetizers
  • Desserts
  • Kids Menu

Finally, make sure your survey is free from typos and is easy to read. Think of the survey as promotional material, so it should be on brand with your restaurant with your logo, colors and the overall vibe of your restaurant.

When the server comes with the bill, have him or her make sure the guests know it’s there and that it’s private. This will ensure your guests fill it out and provide honest answers that will help you take your business to the next level.

Next Steps: Once you review the data from your survey, save the information in a spreadsheet so you can make a prioritized list of improvements and have a way to compare your data to the next survey you do once the changes are in place. And, if appropriate, share the results of your survey with staff in order to help them improve, too.

NetSuite has packaged the experience gained from tens of thousands of worldwide deployments over two decades into a set of leading practices that pave a clear path to success and are proven to deliver rapid business value. With NetSuite, you go live in a predictable timeframe — smart, stepped implementations begin with sales and span the entire customer lifecycle, so there's continuity from sales to services to support.

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