Restaurant-goers influenced by online reviews while traditional marketing is still highly effective

Food cravings and quality continue as the top drivers for choosing a restaurant

Press release

The “How Diners Choose Restaurants” study released on October 18 from TouchBistro finds that the majority of restaurant goers (65 per cent) surveyed say that food cravings have the biggest impact on their restaurant choice. The research also finds that if the food is good, 70 per cent would re-visit a restaurant that had poor customer service. Eighty per cent of diners tried a new restaurant after receiving a discount or promotion. However, diners take their friends’ opinions seriously on where to dine, with 91 per cent trying a new restaurant based entirely on a recommendation from a friend and 87 per cent taking a recommendation from a friend more seriously than online ratings.

While classic restaurant marketing continues to be effective, digital marketing is also getting new diners in the door. According to the research, almost half (45 per cent) regularly check online reviews before deciding on a new restaurant, while 59 per cent look at the online menu, and 51 per cent look at the restaurant’s website before deciding where to dine. Seventy-three per cent have used at least one online review source in the past three months, but less than a quarter (24 per cent) look up a new restaurant on social media before committing.

Conducted by Maru Matchbox on behalf of TouchBistro, the study, featuring research from 521 Americans aged 18+ who dine out at least once a week, suggests that the most effective mix of traditional and digital marketing strategies need to take into account the demographics of diners that generally patronize the establishment, such as:

  • Millennials vs. Gen X vs. Baby Boomers: The research finds that Millennials have substantially different habits than Gen Xers and Baby Boomers. More than half of Millennials (54 per cent) say they are far less likely to base their dining decision on the type of food versus 70 per cent of Boomers. In addition, 66 per cent of Millennials are eating out more than once a week; 16 per cent more than Gen Xers and 12 per cent more than Baby Boomers. Millennials are also significantly more driven by specific food options, like gluten-free, locally sourced, and vegetarian. Millennials are also more influenced by online reviews and popularity on social media, and are much more likely to look at online reviews (67 per cent) and social media (34 per cent) when making a decision than their Gen X and Baby Boomer counterparts.
  • Ballers seek new dining experiences: 86 per cent of those who earn more than $100,000 per year say they almost always look for new restaurants, with 62 per cent looking at an online menu first.
  • Diners on a dime: Almost half (48 per cent) making less than $50,000 per year are less likely to avoid a restaurant just because it has negative reviews.
  • Urban vs. rural: Urban diners enjoy live music with their food (56 per cent) more than suburban (43 per cent) or small town diners (36 per cent).

What’s pushing diners out?

Predictably, health inspection warnings are the primary deterrent for nearly three-quarters (74 per cent) of restaurant goers, but hearing that the food is bad from a friend ranked a close second at 69 per cent. Waiting for a table longer than 30 minutes (55 per cent) and bad online reviews (51 per cent) followed as the top reasons why diners won’t consider a restaurant.

Complete report available

The “How Diners Choose Their Restaurants” study can be downloaded for free by clicking here.

About “How Diners Choose Their Restaurants”

This is the first year that TouchBistro has conducted the study focused on “How Diners Choose Their Restaurants”. The study was undertaken by Maru Matchbox on behalf of TouchBistro to gain insights into how today’s restaurant-goers choose the restaurants they dine at, including their dining habits, decision makers and deal breakers in the information age. The survey polled 521 participants across the US of varying ages, geographies and life stages.

About TouchBistro

With offices in New York, Toronto, Chicago and Austin, TouchBistro is an iPad point of sale (POS) for restaurants that helps increase sales, improve customer experience, and make better business decisions. The award-winning TouchBistro app has been ranked as the top-grossing food and beverage app in 37 countries on the Apple® App Store℠. TouchBistro offers a 30-day free trial that can be converted to a no-contract subscription. Additional information is available at

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