Quick-service restaurants are drowning in customer feedback. From in-store receipt surveys to surveys in the mobile application, 90 percent-plus of quick-service restaurants collect customer feedback. 

But so much feedback creates a lot of noise. It can be difficult to parse the signal from all the feedback you’re receiving. And without those signals, you can’t really generate insights or take effective action. 

Open text analysis (OTA) is a powerful solution that takes unstructured feedback found in open text and essay boxes, analyzes the feedback on multiple levels, designating each feedback segment with sentiment like positive or negative. Advanced OTA platforms will parse based on phrasal analysis (leading to more accurate data if parts of the feedback could be both positive and negative). And the best OTA solutions include categorization on the back end—going beyond positive and negative sentiments to showing trends based on the actual content of the feedback.

This article outlines why feedback is important for quick-service restaurants, why qualitative feedback (traditionally the most difficult to quantify) is the most important type of feedback, and how to select an OTA platform that works for your business.

Why Customer Feedback Matters for Quick-Service Restaurants

Customer feedback is a measure of your restaurant’s overall performance. So poor feedback at an individual establishment can sour a customer’s impression before they even look at the menu. That’s why quick-service feedback is so important.

New research from SOCi finds that restaurants receive more reviews on Google than just about any brick-and-mortar business category, with the average chain or franchise restaurant location having about 1,500 reviews.

Too often, quick-service owners feel they can have little impact on the feedback they receive. But each piece of feedback is an opportunity to mine for improvements. 

The problem is that the most valuable feedback—in the customers’ own words—is difficult to tally. How many people talked about our service in recent reviews? Was the service good or bad when they mentioned it? It can be difficult to tell when faced with hundreds or thousands of pieces of feedback.

How OTA helps Quick-Service Restaurants

Open text analysis helps you summarize and understand what people say in open text feedback responses, and why they say it. OTA is built on large language models (LLMs) that summarize large volumes of open text feedback, like the kind you collect in surveys every day.

By identifying and quantifying themes and sentiments in your feedback responses, OTA platforms provide visibility into cross-channel feedback sources, like surveys, online ratings and reviews, Google business profiles, and more.

OTA platforms provide a combined, comprehensive analysis of all open-ended text feedback and unlocks a new way to learn about your audience without the assumptions, biases, or boundaries often found when using radio buttons or check box questions.

How to Select an OTA Platform

Knowing the benefit of OTA is one thing; settling on the right OTA platform for your quick-service restaurant is something different. Here are the types of capabilities you should look for in an OTA platform:

  • Text analysis: Your platform should be able to instantly summarize unstructured feedback using phrasal analysis to accurately identify and categorize feedback theme, emotion, and sentiment.
  • Analytics and reporting: Your platform should empower you to track and visualize key feedback metrics and measure the “how” and the “why” of customer sentiment changing over time.
  • Dashboarding: An advanced OTA platform will enable you to create customizable dashboards that show stakeholders key metrics and where they need to act in real time.
  • Trends and workflows: Your OTA platform should instantly alert you to important events as they happen—for instance, a sudden influx of bad service complaints or a sudden spike in your NPS score. This allows you to see red flags and act before the challenge becomes a real problem for your quick-service restaurant.

Unstructured Feedback is the Most Valuable to Your Business

When customers tell you about their experience—in their own words—that’s valuable data to incorporate into your business. Without an OTA platform, categorizing all of this unstructured data can be manual and time-consuming. 

But OTA platforms can now eliminate that effort by categorizing unstructured feedback and bringing insights to light automatically through their use of LLMs. This gives you visibility and clarity into how people are saying your quick-service needs to change and improve. OTA platforms take the manual work away, crunching words into data you can actually use to improve your quick-service restaurant.

Peter Zaidel is the Director of Product Management for Alchemer, an enterprise feedback platform. Peter is an experienced product management and solution delivery leader with a demonstrated history of working in the software (SaaS) and services industries. His specialties include product management and strategy, product launch, design thinking, and solution architecture. Previous to Alchemer, Peter spent 15 years in product development with KPA and is a graduate of Penn State University.

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