With Christmas fast approaching, restaurants are preparing to welcome large groups of diners as people celebrate the festive season with colleagues, friends and family. Top of mind for restaurant owners will be providing these parties with every reason to be positive in the hope they will leave feeling happy and ready to tell others about their experience.
This is especially important in the age of online reviews, when feedback is no longer limited to a diner’s immediate social circle. Indeed, research by Barclaycard found that consumers are increasingly turning to the internet when choosing somewhere to eat. Almost two in 10 (20 per cent) search for online recommendations more frequently than they did 12 months ago, a figure which jumps to three in 10 (29 per cent) amongst 18-34 year olds.
Providing good service – from seating guests to serving the meal and taking payment – is even more challenging during peak times and the exceptionally busy festive period. To do this, it is important restaurants are aware of consumer expectations and demands, particularly amongst large groups. Through our experience of working with hospitality clients, we have generated some insights on common frustrations, and a few suggestions on how to create a dining experience worthy of that coveted positive review.
Timeliness and efficiency is front of mind for diners
Slow service tops the list of diner complaints when eating out in a group. More than four in 10 (44 per cent) become frustrated when made to wait for their order and a similar proportion (41 per cent) find it annoying when food does not arrive at the same time for everyone at the table.
For large groups, paying the bill can also prove to be a headache. A third (33 per cent) dislike having to work out how much each individual spent, and another three in 10 (31 per cent) object to paying for alcohol that they didn’t drink. To avoid the awkward moment at the end of the meal, diners would like automatic bill-splitting apps or tools (18 per cent) or a separate bill provided for alcohol (28 per cent).
Technology is key to improving the experience
Being held up at the end of a meal can also risk spoiling an otherwise good evening. Half of diners (49 per cent) admit to becoming impatient when waiting to settle their bill, so enabling fast payments is vital to getting diners on their way. New technology such as paying at the table via a mobile device is one solution consumers would like to see being used more frequently in restaurants (chosen by 14 per cent) – but even simple solutions such as offering contactless payments (15 per cent) can help streamline the process.
Serving groups of diners can be particularly challenging for restaurateurs, especially during peak times like Christmas. But this increase in custom holds an opportunity for the food service industry to boost their positive online reviews, and ultimately build their profile ahead of the New Year. Understanding and addressing the common frustrations for group dining will help restaurants deliver an even better experience, which will go a long way towards generating rave reviews.