How Restaurants Rebound by Asking Guests These Questions

The pandemic has completely changed the mindset of restaurant guests.

It’s like you went to sleep on a beautiful summer night and woke up in the middle of the winter and there is frost on the ground. 

The restaurant groups that listen to and react quickly to their guests during this crisis will be the biggest winners when it is over – whenever that will be.  

Top owners have a systemic way of listening to guests, whether by going on the floor and talking or by receiving information through a management hierarchy, surveys, focus groups, or comment cards.

Essential Insights and Questions for Each Guest Type

Recently I explained that we now serve three guest segments – Dining Room, To Go and Delivery, and The Unready.

All three must stay supportive of your restaurants if you are to eventually return to pre-COVID-19 levels of revenue and profits.

Dining Room

Three insights:

  1. Motivated by the idea of returning (as closely as possible) to “regular life.”
  2. Had the hardest time staying home – and yearned to be free.
  3. Understand their reward-to-risk ratio tolerance.

Four questions:

  1. Do you expect your time in our restaurant will one day “go back” to feeling like it did before the pandemic?
  2. What do you experience as the best part of being back with us in the dining room?
  3. Are you comforted by our wearing of masks, social distancing, sanitizing procedures, and all the other steps we take?
  4. Can we cross sell you to-go, delivery, family meals, meal kits, cocktails, beer and wine, or freeze-at-home food for the times you don’t come in – or for your friends or relatives who prefer to remain at home?

To Go/Delivery

Three insights:

  1. After an eternity of home-cooked meals they find that, when your restaurant food hits their dining tables, they are excited, invigorated, and thrilled by your food in a way they never had been before.
  2. Some of these guests are convenience oriented, but most just feel much safer eating at home in an environment they control.
  3. Made a permanent shift in what they want from you.  The famed 21 days to make a habit lives in their past.

Four questions:

  1. How can we make it easier to order from us?
  2. Do you rate our wait times and process for pickup as outstanding or exceptional? Why?
  3. How can we make your life simpler through to-go, delivery, family meal, meal kits, cocktails, beer and wine, and freeze-at-home food and, if so, what would you like to see us provide?
  4. What must happen for you to return to our dining rooms?

The Unready

Three insights:

  1. They also have evaluated risk/reward, but with a conclusion opposite from your current dining guest.
  2. Have also evaluated risk/reward, but with a conclusion opposite from your current dining guest.
  3. You have lost your relationship with them while they watch how you (and your competitors) behave from afar.

Four questions:

  1. What has to happen for you to come back to our restaurant?
  2. How do you perceive our pre-COVID-19 food safety protocols and procedures and all the procedure we have added during COVID-19 to keep you safe?
  3. When you become ready to dine in restaurants again, would we be the first you would go to? Why or why not?
  4. Has doing without restaurant food all these months changed your habits profoundly? And will you be using restaurants more or less when you become ready to dine?

Operators that listen to the answers to these questions set themselves up for a dynamic and successful recovery.

Over to you… I’m sure you have insights and questions of your own. Click reply to this email and tell me what they are and how you have benefitted from them.

Freedom and flexibility guide for restaurateurs.

What’s the point of owning a successful restaurant business if you don’t have freedom?

Download Matthew Mabel's Freedom and Flexibility Guide for Restaurateurs to learn how to...

  • Step away for extended periods of time
  • Contribute to your community in a unique way
  • Spend more time with friends and family
  • Travel for weeks at a time
  • Split your residence at a vacation home for several months a year