Restaurant Surveys: Your Answer to Improved Dining Experiences

OK, before you start reading this article, would you answer a few questions at the end? 

If you agree, you’re not alone. People who dine-in, order takeout, or receive delivery with your restaurant are willing to provide feedback to help improve their experience — and they’ll likely become more loyal customers as a result. 

Restaurant surveys are a free, straightforward way to better understand those who are already customers. You can use what they share to improve service and grow your business.

But what’s the best way to create a restaurant survey with questions that yield helpful and engaging answers? Here’s what you need to know before writing any restaurant survey questions.

Get the tools and guidance you need to find new customers and keep your regulars coming back for more.

What should you ask about on your restaurant’s survey?

Think about what you want to learn about your customers’ experience with your business, employees, and products. You can organize your survey based on specific topics you care most about.

Demographics

If you’re putting energy toward any kind of restaurant marketing campaign, you’ll want to know what’s working to convert prospects into sales. You’ll want to know whom your message is reaching. Ask:

  • When is your birthday? (Have a place for them to include the year so you will know their age.)
  • Where do you live? (Town or city, so you can see how far, and from where, they’ve traveled.)
  • How many people are visiting with you today?
  • How often do you visit?
  • How did you hear about us?
  • What is your email address?

The last question is especially helpful, as it gives you an avenue to connect directly to customers in the future. Email is one of the most effective means of marketing to your audience.

Dining experience

Of course, you want to know what they think of the overall experience. First, determine if they dined in, ordered curbside pickup online, or placed a delivery order. Then ask:

  • What was the best part of your visit? 
  • What was the worst?

You can have patrons rank certain features of your establishment on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being poor and 5 being excellent. This section can ask about:

  • Seat comfort
  • Overall cleanliness
  • Bathrooms
  • Music volume
  • Overall value
  • Food and drinks

Next, you should ask about what they ordered and find out their thoughts on their meal. You can make this a two-column grid, with a space to list the item and a space for their opinion.

  • What items did your party order?
  • What was your opinion of each item?

Follow up on that last question. This can help you determine if your food and drinks satisfied them and if your specials board is hitting the target. Unless your restaurant focuses on comfort or traditional foods, you’ll also want to tap into your health-conscious clientele. Ask:

  • Did you order a special? 
  • Do you think our menu has enough healthy items?
  • Do you have a dietary restriction? If so, were you accommodated?
  • Do you have anything you’d like added to our food and beverage menu?

Hospitality

Surveys are an excellent opportunity to determine if more training or accolades are needed for your front-of-house staff who interact with your customers. Ask:

  • Were you welcomed when you entered? 
  • Who served you today?
  • How did our waitstaff do?
  • How do you feel about the speed of service?
  • Did we meet your needs?
  • If there were any issues, please describe. How well was the situation handled?

Problems come up in the restaurant industry — often many times a day. Give your customers some space to talk about any issues that may have arisen. This is where they can vent and where you can see if your staff handled the situation with professionalism and grace. If not, you can follow up.

General feelings

Finally, it’s the bottom line. A survey gives you an opportunity to find out if customers are going to come back. Whether they say yes or no, you can understand why and determine ways to improve as a result. Ask:

  • Would you eat here again?
  • On a scale of 1 to 10, how likely are you to recommend this restaurant to a friend?

Tips for creating surveys

Once you have an idea of what to ask, follow these best practices to increase the likelihood of your customer filling it out with pleasure.

  • Mix up the style of questions. Think multiple-choice, fill-in-the-blank, open-ended, and ranking-style questions. 
  • Make the layout easy to follow. Graphic design matters, so make it aesthetically pleasing.
  • Avoid bias. Make sure the question isn’t leading. For example: “Did you have a great time here today, and why?” assumes it was a positive experience.
  • Ask for their email address. Use the survey as an opportunity to sign the customer up for your loyalty program

Ways to distribute your survey

The best way to get your survey into your customers’ hands depends on how they interact with you. 

Hard-copy surveys

If the customer is dining in, you can present a copy of the survey in the bill holder along with the change or credit card slip. Instruct your servers to ask customers to take a moment to fill it out. 

Don’t forget to include a sanitized pen for them to use. You can even invest in promotional pens that they can take with them to keep your brand top of mind.

Email surveys

If they order online, you should be able to collect their email address. Then you can automate sending an email to them right away. You can use a template that’s part of your email marketing system to make the survey look professional.

With incentives

You don’t necessarily need to include an incentive to get more people to respond to your survey, but it’s a popular motivator. Coupons or free items go a long way toward getting people to return to your restaurant soon.

If it’s a hard copy, you can ask the customer to drop it in a box for a chance at a free meal you’ll raffle off monthly. If it’s through email, perhaps a coupon for 10% off the bill or a free appetizer with their next purchase may be enough to increase numbers. If you set an expiration date, they’ll likely return sooner.

Share your findings on social media

If your customers are singing your praises, you should let others know. Include a disclaimer at the end of the survey to get permission to use their first name and their comments for marketing purposes. Then enjoy the “social proof” of your excellent customer service and menu options. 

Surveys are a way to improve internally, learn what’s working in terms of marketing for new customers, and build on your restaurant’s success. 
Looking for more ideas to gain new customers? Check out Constant Contact’s The Download for restaurants, a free guide to online marketing, specifically for restaurant owners.

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