May 23, 2024
 min read

Best Practices for Creating Effective Restaurant Surveys

This article outlines:

The importance of soliciting restaurant guest feedback

15 best practices for creating restaurant surveys that produce actionable insights

How to take your restaurant surveys to the next level

Restaurant surveys can be valuable for collecting guest feedback to improve your business and drive acquisition, retention, and growth.

But guest engagement isn’t guaranteed.

The most effective restaurant surveys are highly intentional in design. Leading brands carefully consider every aspect before launching a survey—from the audience, objective, timing, and communication channel to the type, flow, and exact wording of each question.

Why? Because the more thought you put into designing a survey upfront, the easier it will be to execute, analyze responses, and take action based on the feedback.


The importance of soliciting restaurant guest feedback

The best way to find out how restaurant guests feel about your menu, service, team, and more is to ask them directly. Don’t wait until they leave an online review, which could damage your reputation and turn off prospective guests.

By proactively soliciting feedback—via email, SMS, app, or website—you can show guests you value their opinions and recover unhappy ones before their negative experience impacts sales. 

Survey data can help you identify brand advocates, churn risks, trends, areas of improvement, and growth opportunities. For example, you might discover guests wish your restaurant were open later, a stellar employee is driving repeat visits, or you need more convenient payment options.

Strategic survey design is the key to unlocking these critical insights, which can be used to propel your restaurant business forward. Keep scrolling to find proven techniques for creating high-impact surveys guests want to take.


15 best practices for creating restaurant surveys that produce actionable insights

What good is a survey if no one completes it? Follow these best practices to make your next one an easy and rewarding guest experience—with fruitful results your brand can use.

1. Design with a purpose

Set clear goals for your survey, considering the decisions to be made based on the insights gathered. Align your questions with the analysis and data needed to achieve those goals, ensuring they make sense within the guest journey for relevance and timeliness.

2. Provide context

Tell guests why you want feedback and provide a clear call to action. For example, if your restaurant is dedicated to providing outstanding service, you could preface the survey with your mission. Guests are more inclined to respond if they understand your intentions.

3. Leverage automation

With a restaurant-specific automated survey solution, you can solicit feedback directly after an event (completed order, post-reservation, etc.) and apply time delays so guests can effectively evaluate the dining experience, such as 1-2 hours after an order. Keep in mind that surveys tied to transactional events should focus on that event—with limited promotional content for legal compliance.

4. Refine your audience

Apply business rules to capture a representative sample without inundating regulars with feedback requests. Use qualifying questions to get responses from your target audience—implementing quotas for different guest segments to prevent skewed results—and determine if respondents should complete the survey once or multiple times in a given timeframe.

5. Personalize if possible

Personalized surveys can improve response rates and data quality. Just be sure it adds value vs. distracts from the message. For example, if the formatting of the name doesn’t match the message, it can throw off guests (“Dear JOHN,” “Dear Smith, John,” etc.).

6. Create a logical flow

Use a logical question flow when structuring your survey so guests can easily follow along. Place important questions early on to maximize the response count.

7. Use the right question type

Only ask questions pertinent to the business that lead to action. Here are some pros and cons of each question type to help determine the best option for your use case.

  • Single-select vs. multi-select: If you use these common question types, ensure each answer is completely distinct from the others and all possible responses are covered. Include “Other” or “None of the above” when appropriate and randomize the list of responses to reduce order bias.

  • Scale: Scales come in a few forms: agree/disagree, very easy/very difficult, and not at all satisfied/very satisfied. Whichever you choose, stay consistent throughout your survey.

  • Matrix/grid: A matrix can combine related questions for a better respondent experience—but it’s rarely mobile-friendly. It typically features multiple statements or attributes as the “rows” with a consistent scale or set of response options for the “columns.” Limit the number of “rows” since they are essentially separate questions.

  • Open-ended: Free-form text responses are great for capturing unknowns and getting feedback in the guest’s words. But use these sparingly as they can be taxing for the respondent and difficult to analyze.

8. Choose your words wisely

Use clear, concise, and unambiguous language for accurate, high-quality responses. Avoid longwinded and double questions—such as “Were you satisfied with the speed and the quality of service?”—which will produce junk data.

9. Don't force a response

Allow guests to select “N/A” if the question does not pertain to their dining experience. Without that option, they’ll be forced to pick a random answer which will skew your results.

10. Invite guests to opt in

Grow your restaurant marketing database by enabling guests to opt in to email marketing or SMS communications at the end of the survey. A simple check box will empower guests to express interest in hearing more from your brand, without having to answer another question.

11. Be mindful of length

Keep surveys concise and restricted to necessary questions. Only reference duration if realistic. Underquoting the time it takes to complete may cause frustration or lead to survey abandonment.

12. Offer an incentive

Increase participation in longer surveys by giving guests an irresistible incentive. Think gift cards, a discount on a future meal, branded swag, early access to an LTO, etc.

13. Test and modify

If you’re not getting your desired response rate, A/B test email copy and subject lines, try a different distribution channel (SMS, email, etc.), provide an incentive, adjust the distribution timing, or try a different question type for the opener. Send any reminders thoughtfully to encourage participation without overwhelming guests. 

Examples of subject lines to boost survey participation

  • Your feedback requested | Survey invite from Buffy’s
  • Help shape Buffy’s loyalty program
  • $5 off for your opinion | Buffy’s survey invite
  • Get free fries for sharing your Buffy’s delivery experience
  • Thanks for ordering Buffy’s! Tell us how we did
  • Your voice, our priority | Share your feedback
  • We want to hear from you! (+ Enter to win a Buffy’s gift card)

14. Be empathetic to respondents

Design surveys for a positive user experience by prioritizing mobile-friendliness, accessibility, readability, and length. Be honest with yourself: would you take your survey? If not, you’ve got some changes to make.

15. Share your results

Let relevant stakeholders know about guest feedback to drive informed decision-making across departments. Use these insights to implement meaningful improvements in the guest experience to drive retention and acquisition. Don’t be afraid to share testimonials on social media and your website.


How to take your restaurant surveys to the next level

By being highly intentional in every aspect of your survey design—from your audience to question type and timing—you’ll get high-quality data to support sound decision-making across your business. The key is pairing these best practices with the right technology. 

An automated and fully integrated survey solution will enable you to easily create a frictionless experience for guest feedback that delivers actionable insights without extra manual work for your brand. 

Request a demo to learn how Sentiment can help you create automated restaurant surveys that unlock actionable guest insights.

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