Why positive guest experiences are good for the restaurant and foodservice business

By Barbara Smyth
September 19, 2013
Exceeding expectations: Why positive guest experiences are good for business

Every day nearly half of all Canadians visit a restaurant for anything from a simple snack to breakfast, lunch or dinner. The majority of restaurant visits happen at a quick service restaurant (QSR), a segment of the foodservice market that has remained somewhat stable, increasing traffic and dollars despite the economic challenges that have affected consumer confidence since 2008. The full service restaurant (FSR) segment, representing one-quarter of all dining occasions, is the area of the Canadian restaurant market that has struggled over the past five years but is now doing better.

Canada’s economic downturn hit the FSR segment hard, resulting in sustained declines in traffic and dollars. For a segment that has had little to celebrate lately, a bit of good news is in order. According to the latest NPD CREST research, which tracks the daily restaurant eating habits of Canadians, there are indications that Canadians are slowly heading back out to FSR establishments.

FSR visits were up three per cent in 2012 compared to 2011, reaching a total of 1.66 billion – but still below 2008 levels, when we recorded 1.76 billion visits. To help spur additional growth, today’s FSR operators need to clearly understand what to focus on to continue to drive consumers to their restaurants.

Great expectations

When FSR customers were asked what they seek, top expectations were mainly about the food and the overall dining experience. The NPD Group’s report, Full Service Dining: What Customers Want (4th Edition), shows three quarters of FSR visitors expect a quality of food that they don’t think they can always get from a QSR. They also want the atmosphere, service and look that full service dining offers. These are the same top reasons they choose FSR over QSR: better perceived quality, atmosphere, and service.

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