Good or Bad: Attitude Matters to Diners

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 second segment, we examine the impact that staff attitude and behavior 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, staff attitude is one of the top factors.  As the graph below shows, upscale and luxury diners are affected much more positively by staff attitude (32% and 36%, respectively) than in the casual dining environment (14%).  This means, the more positively they see the staff exhibit certain behaviors, the greater the chance they’ll recommend the restaurant.

How do our respondents describe positive staff behaviors?  “Friendly” is the clear winner.  Slightly more diners report happy and friendly staffers at their last casual restaurant (57%) than do diners at luxury restaurants (47%). Interestingly, staff product knowledge is given practically equal weight across all three restaurant segments, but “well trained in service” pops up as an attribute solely in the luxury segment. This indicates diners in luxury restaurants both notice and appreciate servers that are polished and care somewhat less about staffers being “happy.”

On the Down Side

When the staff is perceived as unprofessional, poorly trained, unhappy or unknowledgeable, on the other hand, scores and recommendations decline, but they don’t decline equally in all segments. Yes, we find “bad” service coming up as a complaint almost evenly across restaurant segments, but “bad” is described in different ways according to the level of restaurant (see chart).

Luxury diners do not mention unhappy, unfriendly or rude staff or not feeling appreciated, indicating that engagement is not the major issue for luxury diners.  They do notice deficiencies in training, attentiveness and knowledge.  With 25% of the mentions, lack of knowledge is the most mentioned deficiency.  Luxury diners pay for service that doesn’t need prompting. In this segment, training and delivery are key. Says one luxury restaurant respondent: “I had to tell the server that Champagne was often made from red grapes, just without the skin.  He laughed at me and continued mispronouncing the bottle I chose.”  And complaints about being ignored come up only in the luxury segment; luxury diners expect mastery of service recovery. When that’s not handled well, recommendations suffer.

In upscale restaurant comments, however, poor training is a more prominent complaint, with 28% mentioning it, compared to only 15% mentioning lack of knowledge.  Here, unfriendliness and lack of appreciation also become prominent.  Overall, it would seem that upscale diners expect high-quality service and knowledgeable, helpful servers.  Even though the price point varies from luxury, expectations appear to be equally high in terms of service quality. 

Next, we’ll explore the impact of atmosphere on diner recommendations.

© 2018 Coyle Hospitality Group 2016. Reproduction of any material without written authorization is strictly prohibited.

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