Coyle Hospitality recently collected data from 2,469 diners worldwide, exploring the impact of attributes such as food, staff attitude and atmosphere on their likelihood to recommend a restaurant to others. In today’s third segment, we examine the impact that atmosphere has on the likelihood that diners will recommend a restaurant. For our survey, segments were determined by respondent self-reporting approximate cost of meal: casual $15-$30; luxury $31-$50; upscale $51-80.
When we look at what prompts guests to recommend a restaurant, atmosphere is one of the top factors. As the graph below shows, luxury and upscale diners are affected much more positively by atmosphere (38% and 28%, respectively) than in the casual dining environment (15%). Atmosphere, indeed, shows greater differentiation across restaurant segments than other categories.
Conversely, cleanliness is mentioned more often in the upscale and casual segments than in the luxury segment, suggesting that cleanliness is a bigger part of the value proposition when check averages are lower. Either way, diners expect cleanliness, therefore it’s not considered either a highlight or a positive dependent variable. Our mystery shopping services, which include facility evaluations, also point to this conclusion. A clean facility is not enough to elevate the atmosphere, but lack of cleanliness is certainly a negative.
What drives negative comments, when it comes to atmosphere? Cramped seating, poor table location and noise are the top three negative attributes that our survey respondents mention. These problems could result in negative overall views of a restaurant and lose valuable word-of-mouth recommendations for the restaurant. As the chart below shows, being crammed into seats, stuck next to waving kitchen doors or placed under harsh lights negatively impacts overall guest experience.
Once the guest is seated in a bad location, or one they are dissatisfied with, the entire dining experience turns to recovering from that “bad” atmosphere. When maximizing seating, restaurant operators should take note of these particular complaints and how they impact restaurant referrals.
Diners across segments – from luxury to casual – make similar complaints regarding atmosphere. The following comments come from all three restaurant categories:
“Tables are packed into every available place, giving you a feeling of claustrophobia” . . . “I heard nearby conversations easily” …“Our table was placed immediately next to another couple, despite the fact it was an 18:00 booking and the majority of the restaurant was empty.”
While cleanliness, or lack thereof, carries only a negative penalty for a restaurant, well-crafted interior design and comfortable spacing seem to be money well spent for a positive gain.