Industry News | May 8, 2013

Cleanliness, Menu Selection Most Important to Customers

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As restaurants across the nation gear up for a busy Mother’s Day weekend that promises to make those procrastinators sorry they didn’t make reservations, it’s worthwhile to consider what attracts customers to a particular establishment, as many will be offering specials in honor of moms’ special day.

According to a new report from Mintel, cleanliness (96 percent), menu selection and variety (94 percent), and comfortable seating (91 percent) are the most important components of creating a visit-worthy atmosphere at a restaurant.

“Because the vast majority of consumers find cleanliness, menu selections, and comfortable seating most important, it is vital that restaurants address these areas first, before looking at the needs of specific demographics,” says Julia Gallo-Torres, foodservice manager at Mintel. “Once these areas meet the standards of general consumers, operators can consider the specific demographics that make up their core customer base, as well as the groups in which they would like to target.”

While cleanliness, menu selections, and comfortable seating are most important to all age groups and ethnicities, different demographics start wanting different things.

Some 93 percent of those aged 65 and older say noise level is important to them when dining out versus 82 percent of all respondents. On the other hand, more than half (52 percent) of those aged 18–24 think the kind of music played in the dining room is important versus only 40 percent of all respondents.

Meanwhile, Hispanic diners are more likely to find decor (70 percent vs. 65 percent), dress code (54 percent vs. 44 percent), music (50 percent vs. 39 percent), and children’s activities (40 percent vs. 24 percent) important compared to their non-Hispanic counterparts.

With increased technology, restaurants are better equipped to offer customized experiences for consumers. Décor and music can be easily altered through projection screens, accent lighting, and tabletop stereos.

Additionally, restaurants that often serve Hispanic guests can provide children with activity booklets in Spanish.

Aside from the ambiance of a restaurant, it is important to the majority of patrons (92 percent) to not feel rushed when dining at a sit-down restaurant.

Some 71 percent of restaurant-goers say coupons or special pricing attract them to certain restaurants, and more than two-thirds (68 percent) say the food itself is more important than the atmosphere of the restaurant.

People are most likely to be deterred from returning to a restaurant if the table or setting is unclean (76 percent), if the server is rude (74 percent), or there is a dreaded unclean bathroom (57 percent).

“Both of these leading reasons only speak to three-quarters of Mintel’s respondents, showing that restaurant patrons tend to return to an establishment despite a less than desirable experience,” Gallo-Torres says. “However, in the weak economy, competition is tough and these issues must be addressed by restaurants in order to ensure that the consumers they do attract will want to return.”