A Monte Cristo sandwich in a carryout box

What Makes for a Great Restaurant Experience?

Success may depend on knowing what consumers expect for the price they pay.

Do today’s restaurant consumers want great convenience or a great experience? The answer … both.

Technomic analysis shows consumers still value experience, even at a time when more than one-third of food purchased from restaurants is consumed elsewhere. With third-party delivery companies handling billions in sales, fine dining grew at a quicker pace than any other restaurant segment in 2018, and is projected to lead again in 2019.

Such seemingly conflicting data tells a broader story: experience matters, but the definition of what constitutes a great experience is evolving.

A Technomic study shows that of the factors consumers consider most when choosing a foodservice establishment, the only one driven by convenience is location. Other factors—good value, good service, cleanliness, quality food and drink—all point to experience, just as they have for decades.

Factors like speed, delivery, online ordering and technology are increasingly important, and they may determine a restaurant’s ability to deliver “good value.”

To people raised with Amazon deliveries and handheld technology, “good value” means  restaurants will cater to their way of interacting with the world with online ordering and delivery. Older generations aren’t immune to the allure of food delivery, but they still value friendly interaction and attentive service.

What is an operator who wants to attract a cross-section of generations to do? Consider a barbell strategy—giving equal weight to both cutting-edge convenience features with personal service.

McDonald’s has paired ordering kiosks with tableside delivery. Maybe you support both online and at-the-register ordering, or emphasize tech at lunch and customer-staff interaction at dinner. The key is to balance both sides without disrupting the bread-and-butter activities of your operation.

All industry segments can take a barbell approach. Full-service restaurants can’t ignore convenience. Limited-service restaurants can’t overlook human connection. Despite the evolution, quality remains central to the restaurant experience.