Guest expectations for quality and service have never been higher in the quick-service industry, and any company that can match those expectations will earn repeat customers who have the potential to become strong promoters of the brand.

As part of its ongoing initiatives to maximize that guest experience, 790-plus-unit A&W Canada realized it needed a more sophisticated method of engaging with guests—whether they were dining in, getting a take-out order, or using the drive thru—and capturing their insights, requests, and comments about all aspects of their visit.  

The company looked for a method that would make the process of providing insight fast and simple for guests. It knew that guests would be unlikely to provide input if they couldn’t do so quickly and with minimal effort. Company leaders also wanted the ability to monitor satisfaction levels in real time during customers’ visits. If the ratings were not overwhelmingly positive in a particular category, A&W wanted to be able to take the necessary steps operationally to get the ratings back to where they needed to be.

Finally, the brand needed a method to provide it with a communications mechanism for collecting specific guest comments and closing the feedback loop on them immediately, even while the guest was still in the restaurant.

A&W ultimately selected Loop Mobile Guest Engagement, a solution from Benbria Corporation. It began deployments of the Loop solution in early 2013 and is in the process of aggressively rolling it out to all of its restaurants. It plans to have the solution installed nationwide by the spring of 2014.

Loop gives A&W’s guests the ability to quickly and easily rate their satisfaction levels based on three key questions: Was your meal delicious? Were employees fast and friendly? Were the facilities clean? The company also gives customers two different methods for providing their Loop ratings, depending on the nature of their restaurant visit. In-store, take-out, and drive-thru guests can enter their ratings on a mobile Web-based app. In-store guests also have the ability to enter their ratings on an iPad located at a kiosk in the restaurant. These kiosks are an optional component of the Loop solution that A&W decided to invest in to make sure guests had more than one option for entering their ratings. Both options are fast and convenient—guests can provide input in three seconds or less.

Regardless of which option they use, customers indicate a positive rating in each category by selecting the “thumbs-up” icon, and a negative rating by selecting the “thumbs-down” icon.

Beyond these ratings, Loop also gives A&W guests the option of commenting on specific aspects of their restaurant experience. For example, if a guest’s meal was not hot enough, she could provide the store manager with the relevant details. On the other hand, if she was delighted by friendly service, she could pass on this important feedback as well.

In either case, Loop immediately relays her comments to the restaurant manager, who is notified by text or e-mail and can access the messages on a mobile device or computer and respond immediately—in effect, closing the “loop” with the guest to ensure their satisfaction.

Another feature of the Loop solution is its live electronic scoreboard, which gives restaurant staff real-time visibility into guest satisfaction metrics. As they go about their responsibilities, the staff is always within sight of a monitor showing these results. This kind of instant and actionable guest insight is instrumental in making employees aware of the guest’s experience at all times. If the staff notices an uptick in negative ratings, they can immediately investigate potential causes and take the appropriate corrective action. Likewise, up-to-the-second positive guest feedback boosts employee motivation and productivity.

Response rates are also a key success metric. To date, more than 15 percent of A&W Canada’s guests are using the Loop system to provide their input, a rate that is 15 times higher than standard industry metrics. It has also noticed that response rates tend to be higher when the scoreboard is made visible to guests, suggesting that transparency and an awareness of being measured adds an important element of gamification that makes guests more likely to provide their ratings.

Loop also provides the company with an at-a-glance “heat map” view, which helps managers to identify specific periods when Loop ratings are unusually high or unusually low.  Managers can use this data to help identify the causes behind these variations over a specific time period, such as a shift, a day, or a week, and devise strategies to replicate success and improve on weak results.

For example, during a recent review of the heat map reports for one of its locations, A&W Canada noticed that there were more service and food quality problems on Wednesdays than on any other day. A call to the manager of the restaurant revealed that the store had often been short-staffed on Wednesdays, which explained the pattern it noticed. When it increased the staff on Wednesdays, it immediately saw a corresponding positive improvement on the heat map.

The early results from its deployment of Benbria’s Loop solution are extremely positive and are making a tangible contribution to the company’s goals of growing market share and increasing its competitive advantage. When its staff acts on guest insight in real-time, they are helping enhance the guest’s experience, mitigate negative online reviews, and foster positive online ratings.

By Nancy Wuttunee, senior director of operating excellence at A&W Canada

Burgers, News, Outside Insights, Restaurant Operations, A&W Canada