Conducting restaurant research can no longer be done using simple resources such as catalogs or restaurant guides. Consumer trends are constantly shifting, and in today’s world, restaurant operators are relying on sophisticated technology and data-driven decisions to help their businesses succeed. This new world of restaurant research brings with it a number of considerations that should be taken into account when planning and executing a deeper dive into the various aspects of the foodservice industry. Below are the 10 top considerations to keep in mind when embarking on restaurant research.
1. Determine Your Research Goals
Before executing any type of research, the first step an organization should take is to determine what specific outcome they are trying to achieve. Questions such as “What do I want to learn” and “How will the information be collected” must be answered in order to ensure an effective research plan is established. While some research goals may be more qualitative in nature, for example, understanding visitor preferences regarding atmosphere or décor, other research objectives may be more quantitative, such as gathering objective insights on competitor’s pricing models.
2. Establish Targeted Audiences for Research
To ensure that the research study yields high-quality results, an organization’s research team should create an understanding of what the study’s participants should look like. Factors to consider include target demographic, location, and the type of restaurant or cuisine they are investigating as the study participants should be reviewed for relevance and diversity. Additionally, conducting interviews with front-line hospitality workers such as servers or cashiers can provide invaluable insights that can inform a more holistic understanding of the restaurant sector.
3. Select the Appropriate Research Methodology
Choosing the correct methodology to be used during the research process is crucial for yielding accurate and beneficial data. Traditional methods such as surveys, focus groups, and in-person interviews are still commonly used in restaurant research; however, many researchers today also employ more innovative methods such as natural language processing (NLP) or online analytics tools. Whatever methods are chosen, an organization should ensure the methodology produces measurable results.
4. Leverage Point-of-Sale (POS) Data
POS systems are at the heart of the restaurant industry. This data is a valuable tool when conducting restaurant research as it allows researchers to gain insights into customer’s behavior and preferences without the need to do their own field research. The data recorded by these systems can be used to gain an understanding of average check size, customer turnover rate, average wait times, and more.
5. Utilize Social Media and Online Reviews
Social media and online reviews provide invaluable insights into current restaurant trends. For example, by monitoring what customers are saying about a particular restaurant on Facebook, Twitter, or Yelp, an operator can quickly identify potential customer service issues as well as food and beverage preferences.
6. Utilize Emerging Technologies
As restaurant technology continues to develop, it is important to understand how emerging technologies can be used to facilitate better research methods and to gain greater insights. s may include the use of facial recognition software to better understand customer demographics and the use of robotics to reduce labor costs.
7. Analyze Food Trends and Regulations
Food regulations and industry trends have a significant impact on restaurants, and any research aimed at providing actionable insights should consider these issues. Keeping up with current food trends can help to ensure that a restaurant is well positioned to adjust to new regulations and to capitalize on evolving customer preferences.
8. Monitor Employee Performance
Finding the right employees to best serve a restaurant’s guests is one of the most important functions of any operational restaurant structure. Fortunately, the right technologies can help to monitor and assess employee performance to ensure that operational goals are being met.
9. Research and Monitor Competitors Constantly
Monitoring competitor’s tactics and strategies, as well as determining areas that can be improved in-house can provide valuable insights into the restaurant industry. Knowing what competitors are up to not only helps to maintain market share, but can also uncover additional revenue streams or fast-growing trends.
10. Embrace Data and Move Quickly
Data is key when conducting restaurant research. Quality data must be gathered, evaluated, and turned into actionable insights in as quickly as possible to ensure that an operator can stay ahead of the competition.