At a time when many food chains in the UK are struggling, there’s a divide between what consumers want from a place to eat, and what the industry thinks they want. According to fresh research by digital ordering technology provider, Preoday, 54% of bar, pub and restaurant professionals believe consumers are looking for a unique experience, however, just 21% of consumers actually factor it into their choice of eatery and a tiny 2% see is as the most important feature.
The research explored whether industry professionals understand the true needs and wants of customers. Asking consumers to identify what they look for in a food venue, it found that a great menu (91%) came out on top, closely followed by the quality of the food (85%). When asked what it is about the menu that most appeals, 57% of consumers said it was the variety, while 44% referred to the descriptions used and 26% were drawn in by the format and appearance.
The professionals recognised the importance of the menu, though they put the importance of food quality (69%) in front of the menu itself (63%).
Also at odds with consumer opinion was the importance of great staff – while, at 66% this was the third most important feature for consumers, less than half (46%) of the professionals identified high quality staff as a key need for customers.
Nick Hucker, CEO of Preoday comments: “A lot of emphasis has been placed on the ‘experience economy’ and it seems many restaurants are looking to offer something ‘different’ to attract customers. Whether it’s a robot waiter, interactive dining tables or a kooky menu, the sense that a brand needs to stand out from the crowd in order to beat off the competition is pervasive. Our research shows this attention may have been misplaced. During this time of industry struggles, perhaps more care needs to be given to those essential elements customers care the most about.”
Data for menu success
Just over half (56%) of the professional respondents, whose businesses let customers order food via a website or mobile app, are being given access to customer data by their technology supplier.
Preoday asked those with access what they are using the gathered data for: 71% are making use of it to improve their marketing but less than half (48%) use it to improve their menus and operations.
Nick continues: “Where possible, customer data should be gathered and applied to the benefit of the business; the information it provides can be used to decipher the most popular items on a menu, the average spend for customers per course and how choices change according to the season and around events. It’s great that 48% are using their data in this way, but it means more than half are not and could be losing customers – most of whom, our research shows, are judging them by their menu.”
Testing the needs and demands of customers against their favourite food and drink venues, Preoday asked consumers to nominate their favourite restaurant chain. The most popular response was TGI Friday’s, followed closely by Wagamama and then Zizzi, though it should be noted that an equal number of people claimed to dislike or not have a favourite chain, as those that selected TGI Friday’s.