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Is Your Restaurant on Board with These 4 Guest Experience Trends?

Higher expectations and a focus on value top the list of restaurant guest demands.

Today’s restaurant guests are more likely to dine out less — but when they do visit a restaurant, their expectations are high, according to “4 Trends that Will Impact the Restaurant Customer Experience in 2023,” a report on restaurant guest experience trends from guest experience management software provider Service Management Group (SMG).

The report, based on SMG’s proprietary research across the United States and the United Kingdom, delves into factors that shape restaurant guests’ expectations and habits. For example, restaurant guests now often choose more complex methods to interact with restaurant staff when placing food orders, including mobile ordering, tablets/kiosks and QR codes.

Once restaurant management understands guests’ behaviors and dining habits, they can “pivot their strategy, drive improvements and deliver stronger customer experiences,” says SMG.

Accommodating the shifting expectations of restaurant guests may sound like a challenge. But when your restaurant brand stays on top of new guest expectations, you’ll be positioned to win new guests while continuing to build trust and loyalty among your tried-and-true customers.

Top 4 guest experience trends for 2023

Ready to gain a better understanding of restaurant guests’ preferences and habits so your restaurant becomes a must for their dining out guest experience?

Read on for SMG’s top four restaurant guest experience trends for 2023.

1. Value drives repeat visits

Inflation and economic challenges are hitting consumers hard, with more than half (59%) of U.S. consumers and just over two-thirds (68%) of U.K. consumers planning to cut back on restaurant spending, according to the report. But dropping menu prices isn’t enough to win their business.

SMG’s research found that restaurant guests place greater emphasis on overall value, citing quality over cost as the most crucial factor when weighing one restaurant against another.

“To stand out, restaurants must take a value-forward approach, leaning in on what it is that keeps loyal customers coming back,” recommends the report.

“It’s not always about cost or deals,” says SMG. “High value is about providing differentiated product or service that customers feel is worth the price they paid. And when that happens, you will be rewarded — research shows brands that maintain positive value perception see increased share.”

2. Guests won’t tolerate technical glitches

Around 46% of guests surveyed for the SMG report say they have at least four restaurant apps on their phone or another mobile device. But even though online ordering is favored by many, one in four mobile users admit they’ve run into tech issues when placing orders on their phone.

Restaurant guests cited the app’s inability to let them customize or make substitutions as the top app annoyance that made their guest experience unfavorable.

“Brands that improve their ordering tech and provide seamless digital experiences will be rewarded,” says the report. “When customers don’t have problems with their mobile app orders, they are 25% more likely to visit that restaurant more often.

“To evolve from a novel touchpoint and drive engagement, restaurant apps must offer their own value proposition that aligns with their brand’s customer experience — and enhance it.”

3. Guests want cross-channel ordering options

Even with the popularity of mobile ordering, one in three guests still prefer human interaction when they order. “Only 15% of customers of all ages said a fully digital ordering experience would make them visit that restaurant more,” says the report.

“Not every restaurant brand should have the same digital transformation journey. Implement a cross-channel strategy that meets the needs of your customer base.”

4. Employee engagement is key to the guest experience

Happy restaurant employees are crucial to offering a great guest experience. It’s more important than ever that your brand attract and retain quality workers by improving employee-pleasing factors like job transparency, compensation, onboarding and retention, says the SMG report.

Your brand’s efforts will be rewarded by improving both employee engagement and the guest experience, says SMG:

“Value is not just about the price or product but the customer’s perceived value of their overall experience — your staff and the service they provide are key to that unique value offering.”