What Diners Really Crave

SevenRooms, the all-in-one reservation, seating and guest management platform for Turning a Meal Into An Experiencerestaurants, released its “Turning a Meal Into An Experience” report, which found that personalization is crucial, with over half (51%) of Americans stating that a waiter/waitress simply remembering them from a previous visit would make their dining out experience more memorable.

The study, conducted online with third party research firm YouGov, uncovered not only what guests expect out of their restaurant experience, but the specific factors that make them want to return time and time again. Creating that experience for a guest is essential, with a quarter (24%) of Americans admitting they wouldn’t return to a restaurant if their dining experience wasn’t memorable or special. Access the full report, Turning a Meal Into An Experience.

“As diners, our expectations for restaurants are so much greater than just the food on our plates. Today’s diner expects a personalized and thoughtful experience from start to finish,” says Joel Montaniel, CEO of SevenRooms. “To stand out in an increasingly crowded dining landscape, restaurants need to understand their diner at a more personalized level and leverage this data to create a truly customized experience every time they visit. This is the key to turning more diners into regulars more often.”

From Guests to Regulars

It’s easy for restaurants to overlook the simple things, but these are the details that guests care about the most. Here’s what Americans say would make their dining experience stand out:

One in three (35%) Americans say it is a complimentary glass of wine with their meal
One in three (35%) Americans claim it’s being greeted by name by a host
50 percent of Americans say that a complimentary birthday dessert would do it

The guest’s first experience at a restaurant has a large impact on whether or not they will choose to return for another meal. In fact, one in three (33%) Americans wouldn’t return if they felt the waiter/waitress didn’t pay attention to their preferences.

Standing Out from the Competition

Consumers have millions of restaurants to choose from, so it is important to understand what makes them pick that one specific spot to make a reservation. Quality of food (83%), convenient location (52%), reputation (37%) and price discounts (30%) are among the top factors that help Americans decide where they take their dining business.

However, the only thing modern Americans love more than personalization is going somewhere recommended by a friend. And this is what could be the deciding factor in choosing a dining destination. Twenty-two percent of Americans have gone to a restaurant based on what the food or atmosphere looked like on social media.

Once guests determine where to dine, their next step is to make that reservation. There are a multitude of places a guest can go to book whether through an online reservation service or by directly booking on a restaurant’s website or social media channels — and each diner has a preference on how they do so. For instance, in the past year:

40 percent of Americans have called the restaurant directly to book a reservation
One in four (23%) Americans have booked a reservation through the restaurant’s website 29 percent of Americans have booked a restaurant reservation in person

It’s clear that diners in the US strongly value the qualities in a restaurant that make them feel special, like being greeted by name, receiving personalized food recommendations and even social media worthy décor. Although experience at the restaurant is essential, it’s proven that the true first interaction, reservations, is where the make or break decision happens.

Research Methodology

SevenRooms commissioned YouGov PLC – a third party, professional research and consulting organization – to poll the views of 1,108 individuals who agreed to take part. Fieldwork was undertaken online between April 3-4, 2018. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all US adults (aged 18+).