Improving Survey Response Rates for Restaurant Managers

Restaurant managers balance several responsibilities while taking care of staff and guest needs. One of the most important parts of being a successful restaurant manager is having the ability to hear their customers’ concerns.

While managers use a variety of ways to listen to their guests, surveys are one of the most successful tools for receiving feedback. Surveys give valuable insights into client satisfaction and enable managers to determine problem areas that need improvement. However, it can sometimes take time to get customers to respond to surveys they're given. Fortunately, managers can apply multiple strategies to increase their response rates.

Define the Purpose of Data Collection

Transparency is the main thing to achieve in data collection. This is why customers should be aware of why the survey is being conducted and how their information will be used. You'll want to specify the reason why you’re collecting data and your plans for what to do with that collected data.

Let your customers know their opinions and feedback matter, and that it has a direct impact on future dining experiences. This can be done through several methods, such as email communications, social media postings, or even through verbal communication at the restaurant.

Remember, the purpose here is not to inform but to reassure. Remind that all answers remain confidential and will be applied only to increase the quality of service and customer satisfaction. 

Choose the Right Questions

The leading principle of good survey design is that it should be short and sweet because the length of your survey can greatly affect your response rate. Customers can be lost to boredom or quit halfway if a survey is too long. If it’s too short, you might fail to get enough information.

Focus on questions that are relevant to your restaurant and your customers. For example, you could ask about the customer’s satisfaction with food quality, service speed, or overall dining experience.

For every question you ask, ensure it has its objective. Before adding a question to your survey, ask yourself: “How will obtaining an answer to this question improve my restaurant?"

Another thing that can be done to boost the rates of replies when using surveys is ensuring a balance between open-ended and closed questions. Close-ended questions—ones with multiple choices or rating scales—are easy and quick to answer. They can also be easily analyzed and are good at gathering quantitative data and finding trends or patterns.

Although open-ended questions may provide more helpful information, they generally require more time and effort to respond to. So, they should be incorporated sparingly. It’s a good practice to begin your survey with close-ended questions to induce respondents into answering, and then, toward the end, pose one or two open-ended queries for more comprehensive feedback.

Incentivize Survey Completion

Providing incentive pay, such as a gift card, effectively increases your survey response rates. Providing a small gift card to your restaurant when they fill out the survey helps ensure that customers make the time to do your survey and encourages them to return to your business later. It’s a great deal for you and your customers!

You can also consider other types of incentives besides gift cards that you could hand out to encourage more people to do the survey. Here are a few examples:

Discounts: Discounting their next meal can be great motivation. Give a discount on the total bill or specific items.

Free Items: Everyone loves free food! Consider giving a complimentary appetizer, dessert, or entree for completing the survey.

Loyalty Points: If your restaurant has a loyalty program, providing additional points for completing a survey will make an excellent incentive. Customers can take part in the survey and engage their loyalty program at the same time.

Train Staff to Encourage Participation

The wait staff of your restaurant are representatives of your brand and are those who have direct contact with your customers. This will place them in a perfect position to market your surveys.

Customers may also be informed of the survey at various interaction points during their dining experience. For instance, servers asking about the bill can mention this survey or hosts thanking customers for visiting them may bring it up.

However, your staff mustn’t appear too pushy. Training your staff to promote your surveys effectively involves several steps:

1. Explain the Importance of Surveys: Make your staff aware of why surveys are so important. Describe the role of customer feedback in finding issues that need to be addressed, ways for improving the dining experience, and how all these factors impact the restaurant’s success.

2. Provide Clear Instructions: Your employees have to understand how the promotion of the survey should be made. Provide specific instructions on when and how to mention the survey, what aspects of it to highlight, and how to tell clients about its purpose.

3. Emphasize the Benefit to Customers: Train the staff to address customers and communicate the benefits of the survey for them, including how it will improve their future dining experiences.

4. Encourage EnthusiasmGenuine enthusiasm is contagious. Motivate the other employees to show excitement about the survey. You can also incentivize the employees with rewards like holiday gift cards, incentive pay or bonuses based on how many customers they refer.

Incorporate Mobile-Friendly Designs

We live in an increasingly mobile-first society. Today, the odds are higher that people will keep a closer look at their emails and hang out on social media using a smartphone—including taking surveys. Because of this, your surveys should be designed with a mobile-first focus.

A mobile-friendly survey design makes it easy for your survey to be read and navigated on a smaller screen. The text should be big enough to read without needing to zoom in, have user-friendly interfaces, and load quickly.

In addition, mobile-friendly surveys allow customers to provide feedback anytime—while they’re waiting for their meal, sipping a coffee after dinner, or even when they are leaving your restaurant. This added convenience can significantly boost your survey response rate.

Test Different Survey Distribution Channels

Just as you should have a mobile-friendly design, knowing how to distribute your survey is also important. Email is one of the most popular channels for sending surveys. It allows you to contact your customers directly, and they can fill out the survey whenever they like. Make sure your email invites are actionable and clearly explain why the respondent is being asked to take the survey.

Distribution through social media channels such as Facebook, Instagram, or X/Twitter can also work. You can post a link to your questionnaire or use built-in tools, such as Instagram’s vote feature.

Another place you could host your survey is on your restaurant website. It is recommended to have a pop-up invitation or an independent page for customer feedback. Don’t ignore focusing on face-to-face requests. A staff member can invite clients to take the survey on a kiosk as they leave the restaurant or can verbally direct them how and where to complete the online survey.

Analyze and Act on Survey Results

Once you have enough survey responses, it’s time to conduct an in-depth analysis of the information. This includes looking for patterns or trends, noting areas where customers seem dissatisfied, or determining what aspects of your restaurant customers love.

This analysis provides you with actionable information that will help to enhance your customers’ dining experience. For instance, if several customers speak highly about a particular dish, it may be more emphasized in your menu or promotional materials. It’s also likely that if more than one client complains about the waiting time, you may have to reconsider how many staff members should be present during busy hours.

Surveys are an excellent tool to gather customer feedback and insights but only if you use them correctly and put their data to the best use. By utilizing best practices you’ll be able to receive more survey responses.