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October 6, 2009

Restaurant guest surveys: good idea?

pasta.jpgOn my last night in Evanston, Gailor was feeling too punk to go anywhere much for dinner, so we ended up walking a couple of blocks to an upscale-casual chain called Bravo Cucina Italiana.

It was a good choice because she was wearing her pajamas, and rather than make her feel bad about it I decided to dress down accordingly. (Only a slight exaggeration.)

I tell you this to say it was amazing how nice the staff was to us anyway. ...

My theory is that it was due at least in part to the guest survey we were invited to take part in. It wasn't some card, but an invitation at the bottom of the check to visit an independent Web site -- and the promise that we would get $5 off our next meal if we signed on and completed the survey.

That's a nice little incentive, and I can't see a downside for the restaurant. Of course, it's an independent site, so the restaurants must have to pay; but it gets the customers back, it encourages the staff to be noticeably friendly and efficient, and the restaurant might actually learn something useful. (Gailor did the survey and said you refer to your server by name.)

Maybe other chains do this. Gailor had noticed that Cosi, another chain, issues invitations to participate (for $2 off the next meal) on a more random basis.

I wonder if independent restaurants would benefit, or whether it would just be too expensive. Of course, they could always do it on their own sites. It somehow seems like more of an incentive than, say, knowing you get 5 percent off your check on a certain day. You feel like you've earned a little reward.

(Photo courtesy of Bravo Web site)

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 11:21 AM | | Comments (8)


I think alot of chains do this and I think it is good idea. Unlike a one of a kind place it is possible for a TGI Fridays in Toledo to have an adverse affect on the TGI Fridays in Columbia, MD. and this gives the home office insight into restaurants everywhere.

For locally owned places it would give unhappy customers who don't want to take the time to call out the manager a chance to express their complaints. If the dining experience wasn't too bad the customer might be lured back for a second chance. Also if you can tell the restaurant directly how bad it was it might keep you off the blogs.

I think it's a great idea. If there is a problem with your meal, then tell them via the card. You can write it down instead of having to write a letter or issue a verbal complaint. Restaurants want to know how to be better!

Ruby Tuesdays does this; I can't recall exactly how it works. If you answer their questionnaire online, you get a $4 coupon good on your next meal.

Panera does this. I participated once, it got me on their e-mail survey mailing list. I fill out surveys periodically (once a quarter?) and I am rewarded with a $5 gift card each time.

Can't say it's bad for the consumer.

The more distant that the owners and decision makers are from the customers face at the cash register.... the more useful these can be.

For a smaller local enterprise it is a pretension. A way to be isolated from the customer, and an approach to retail that will create far more problems than it solves.

I like surveys. Most people enjoy expressing their opinions. Especially anonymously.

If you book through Open Table you have the opportunity to give feedback, either anonymously or by name.

It is more polite to praise or complain directly to management before you leave. I also can't help but notice how many of these surveys are very poorly designed.

However, appeal to my inner Scot, and it is amazing what I'll do.

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About this blog
Richard Gorelick was appointed The Baltimore Sun's restaurant critic in September 2010. Before joining the paper staff fulltime, he contributed freelance criticism and features articles about food to area and regional publications. Along the way, he dispatched for short-distance trucking companies, shilled for cultural non-profits, and assisted in cognitive neurology research – never the subject, always the control.

He takes restaurants seriously but not himself, and his favorite restaurant is the one you love, too.

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