Every restaurateur wants to know what is working and what is not working in the customer experience. Why do they choose to return or not to return? What would make the difference? Unless customers walk up to a manager and tell them, how would you ever know?
This is why many restaurateurs implement a restaurant secret shopper program. Essentially, they hire an outside company to place customers in your restaurant and report back on the experience, from service to food to cleanliness.
However, are those experiences as true and real as an actual customer experience? A restaurant secret shopper’s expectations and needs are: I will go into this restaurant, experience the food and service, and report back. An actual restaurant customer’s expectations are complicated by many other factors beyond just the act of dining at your restaurant. For example, a customer’s expectations may be based on the reason they chose you in the first place, such as: does it meet their expectations for a date, or for a family meal; was the wine menu right for them; was the food quality as good in carry out as it usually is when dining in; etc?
Kelly Leonardo, Marketing Director for Rocky’s Sub Pub, Rocky’s Pizza and Panini’s and Buckhead Mountain Grill restaurants in Indiana and Kentucky, values customer feedback to continue the restaurants’ success, but no longer uses a restaurant secret shopper program. “We used a secret shopper program for a very long time to see how we were doing and keep a pulse on customers’ needs,” said Leonardo. “We ultimately replaced that with the Rewards Network diner reviews and Comment Management System. We found that actual customer comments were not only more telling and more timely, but provided a direct line back to the customer for conversations, relationships and win backs.”
Customer feedback has been an important aspect of her business as they grow. They are currently undergoing a menu overhaul in the Rocky’s concepts, staying competitive with changing needs and trends, and the Comment Management System is a big part of that. “Not only do we hear directly from customers what they want, to help us make these decisions, but as we make the changes we can learn very quickly what is working and what is not and why, and we can address those comments,” explained Leonardo. “In addition, when we respond to all customer comments we can use it as an opportunity to let them know about the new menu or any other upcoming news or events or cross-sell opportunities. This direct line to the customer has been incredibly important to our business.”