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UK Restaurant Experiences: Is Everything to Your Satisfaction?

3 minute read
UK Restaurant Experiences: Is Everything to Your Satisfaction?

Over a third of customers are describing UK restaurant experiences as ‘nothing notable’. For many hospitality businesses, this could be a valuable opportunity to differentiate themselves by delivering outstanding experiences that make people want to return again and again.

Laura Godfrey, Director, CX, Ipsos

Despite the cost of living crisis of the last few years, eating out remains a popular leisure activity in the UK. And food is only part of the story – how we feel about the overall experience can make the biggest difference to whether or not we’ll return or recommend. The recent Mintel UK Eating Out Review 2024 showed that desire for special experiences is one of the two big drivers of demand (alongside value-conscious diners seeking affordable treats).

Yet recent research for the UK CX Report by Ipsos and Engage Business Media shows that, on average, over a third of customers (38%) are describing UK restaurant experiences as ‘nothing notable’. Although this is better than the overall average for the seven industries we covered (47% of customers), it shows there is scope for improvement.

In the same research, we see that if a restaurant experience is positive, there is a huge uplift in likelihood to return (an increase of 31 points over ‘nothing notable’). So to keep customers returning – and recommending to others – restaurants need to be elevating those ‘nothing notable’ performances to deliver positive experiences more consistently.

The UK CX report uses the Forces of Customer Experience, Ipsos’ proprietary framework, to measure how effectively fundamental human needs are being met by the different industries. There are six dimensions of human connection crucial to fostering stronger relationships with customers and driving competitive advantage: Certainty, Fair Treatment, Control, Status, Enjoyment and Belonging.

As an industry, restaurants deliver well on the fundamental Forces, such as Fair Treatment and Certainty (for example, making sure customers know what’s available and how long food will take to arrive). There are some common gripes (“They took a long time” and “They got the order wrong”) that suggest there’s still room for some improvement, but the real opportunities may lie at the other end of the scale.

Belonging is the customer’s sense of connection and alignment with the restaurant’s brand and values. Tick-box exercises or easy gestures are not enough: there are multiple ways to help customers feel that restaurant experiences are being delivered authentically, and with a level of care that extends beyond purely commercial benefit. For example, genuinely catering for specific dietary needs, responsible sourcing of ingredients, and supporting other local businesses are all positive actions that can resonate well with customers. Wahaca was named the UK’s most sustainable restaurant chain by Which? in March 2024 linked to its sourcing policies for key ingredients like sugar and its focus on reducing beef and championing plant-based eating.

Three things that restaurant businesses can be doing right now:

  • Read the November 2023 UK CX Report for more insights into how restaurants performed overall
  • Measure how effective the Forces of Customer Experience are in your business to understand how well you are meeting fundamental human needs
  • Look for opportunities for improvement and establish a return on CX investment model for boosting connection and engagement in your weakest areas

To find out more, reach out to Laura directly here:

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