Branded pubs came in at second place (‘strongly satisfied’ in 73% of visits) while quick service restaurant (QSR) chains scored 67%. The figure for branded pubs is 10 percentage points up since year end March 2009, while the QSR rating is 14 percentage points better.
The NPD Group says ‘overall satisfaction’ is driven by many aspects of a visit to a foodservice outlet, including the quality and taste of food and beverages, the quality of service, ambiance, value for money and whether consumers themselves feel valued. The customer satisfaction survey revealed as follows:
- Quality of Service: Branded pubs and QSR chains are strong in ‘quality of service’, chalking up a ‘strong satisfaction’ score in 70% and 64% of all visits respectively. These results are up eight percentage points and 14 percentage points respectively since March 2009.
- Speed of service: Some 62% of all visits to branded pubs and 67% to casual dining outlets were considered to be strong in terms of speed of service.
- Cleanliness: 72% of consumers gave casual dining outlets a ‘strong satisfaction’ rating for the cleanliness of the restaurant. The figure for branded pubs was 65% while the QSR sector scored 63%.
Consumers no longer expect an ‘average’ experience
While all these specific measures within overall satisfaction show that the majority give their visit a ‘strong’ rating, there is room for improvement. At QSR chains, for example, more than one third of visits (36%) do not provide ‘strong’ quality of service. For branded pubs, 38% of visits fail to offer ‘strong’ speed of service and a ‘strong’ level of satisfaction with cleanliness is missing in 35% of visits.
“We believe our data shows that consumers are increasingly demanding and less willing to accept an average experience,” said Cyril Lavenant, NPD’s Director of Foodservice for the UK and France. “They are much more prepared to try new brands, which means attracting and retaining consumers is growingly increasingly difficult for operators.
“The choice of an outlet either for food or beverages is driven less by the need for convenience or by ‘habit’. Consumers are more likely to make decisions based on quality and variety of food, as well as price. Foodservice outlets need to understand those are all parts of creating that sense of ‘overall satisfaction’ if they are to drive footfall. If you provide great food, but your service does not follow and your outlet is not clean, you are likely to lose customers.”
Capturing the ‘return visit’
The NPD Group says operators need to make sure that consumers find their visit as satisfying as possible if they want them to come back. The survey found that 71% of consumers who had described a branded pub as offering ‘excellent’ overall satisfaction say that they will definitely come back to one of the chain’s outlets within four weeks. However, this intention to return drops sharply to 42% when consumers describe an outlet as only offering ‘very good’ satisfaction. The NPD Group says this significant difference in terms of the all-important return visit between ‘excellent’ and ‘very good’ underlines the importance of striving for the highest customer satisfaction standards possible.
Recovering from recession
Why is customer satisfaction important? The British foodservice market has seen five tough years and is now nearly 500 million visits smaller based on year end March 2009. Each month, Britons eat/drink out 16.4 times. This is a decrease of 1.2 visits compared to pre-recession times.
Cyril Lavenant added: “Many chains have worked hard to evolve their business model and we see positive results. While independent outlets have lost 1.4 billion visits since 2009, chains have gained 900 million visits. Branded pubs and QSR chains have performed well in terms of increasing customer satisfaction. In particular, many operators have focused on training their staff to deliver a better service. Operators who offer a full package to consumers will be the winners. But that ‘full package’ means investing in refurbishment of outlets, food, beverages and staff, and it means gaining a much better understanding of consumers.”