Customer feedback is a crucial component to running a restaurant. After all, knowing what your guests think you’re doing well — and what you may need to improve — is key to growing your bottom line. The challenge in the digital age is how to get guest feedback that’s both accurate and verifiable. Sites like Yelp offer review options, but you can’t know for sure if those reviewers have ever even dined with you.
Many restaurants have opted for increasing their focus on social monitoring, both online and off: keeping an eye on social media responses, soliciting comment cards, or asking guests at the table what they think. When asked in our 2015 Client Survey, 16 percent of our clients surveyed chose social monitoring as the one new technology or innovation they would invest in. This was the top choice, and their second was loyalty programs at 14 percent. It’s true that social monitoring can be a low cost way to acquire feedback, but it comes with the caveat: selective feedback. There’s a good chance only a few types of guests reach out to businesses or speak up about issues when asked, particularly online. That won’t necessarily give you a fuller picture of your business’ strengths and issues.
Enter the mystery shopper.
The role of a mystery shopper is to visit your restaurant and experience it as a seemingly normal guest — and then bring you feedback on food, cleanliness, service, and overall atmosphere. Some mystery shopper programs can customize this feedback depending on what kind of information you’re looking for..
There are certain big challenges around potentially hiring mystery shoppers. At the top of the list is that you don’t know who the shoppers are and where they’re coming from. They’re paid to come in and eat, so they aren’t necessarily representative of your customer base. “Mystery diners aren’t always real diners,” says Bob Amick, founder and owner of Concentrics Restaurants. “My biggest gripe used to be, ‘They’re not our customers. I can tell by who wrote this review that they’re never going to dine with us.’”
Another challenge is simply knowing what questions you want the mystery shoppers to answer. Do you have a benchmark for what to ask? And there’s also the challenge of making sure the firm you’ve found is reputable and effective at their work, and if the results they send are even useful to the restaurants.
On top of simply finding a reputable company, it’s not uncommon to see same mystery shopper coming into your establishment over and over. Your mystery shopper needs to represent the demographic of your restaurant customer, and that’s not always possible. After all, if you’re in a location that caters to a younger demographic and the same older man comes in repeatedly, he’ll stick out like a sore thumb to your employees. Not much mystery there. And more than that, he is likely not giving the feedback from a point of view that reflects the concerns of your actual customers.
But Rewards Network diners are your customers.
Using the Rewards Network survey data, Comment Management System and analytics tools in place of a mystery shopper program is not only more comprehensive, but also brings with it an authenticity of feedback. A few days after a Rewards Network user dines at your restaurant, they are sent an email with a link to complete an online review. The questions asked about your restaurant include:
- What motivated your visit?
- How did you hear about us?
- Would you return?
- Would you recommend to friends or family?
- Ratings on service, cleanliness, food, and value.
All of their answers are cross-categorized by the meal type (breakfast, lunch, dinner) and party size, giving you a fuller picture of the occasion and expenditure related to the feedback. In addition, Rewards Network also includes comment fields for open-ended reviews. We also compare your restaurant to others in the same market to provide a benchmark of how your scores measure up to those of other restaurants. Whether positive or negative, this is critical feedback that can be circulated to your management and staff, helping them to deliver an even better experience for your customers.
“We share that information [from the Reward Network guest reviews] with our managers and restaurants,” says Amick. “Often times it changes the paradigm and wakes us up sometimes. ‘You know, they’re right’ or ‘We have a problem here’ or ‘We should be doing that’ or ‘We should be doing this.’ It’s good, solid information that we think is very reliable.”
Your restaurant can respond to these reviews through our Comment Management System, giving you an additional touchpoint with your customers even after they have left the table. It’s to both positive and critical commentary for different reasons. Replies to positive comments keep your restaurant top-of-mind and encourage your customers to come back again and again. We’ve found that diners who receive a reply to their review dine 20 percent more often and spend 16 percent more when they do. Responses to critical comments lets them know their thoughts are appreciated and will be used to improve their restaurant experience going forward.
In addition to all of this verified review data, you also get new and repeat customers being driven to you through our marketing channels and from our existing member base of millions. Rewards Network members are big spenders and frequent diners. They’re earning rewards through our network of dining programs, which means they’re always looking for a new favorite restaurant within the Rewards Network restaurant base.
Want to see how Rewards Network has worked for real restaurant marketing clients?