Common Threads: Guiding the Customer Experience in Restaurant and Food Retail

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A lot has been said about the importance of positive customer experiences and how they impact food retailer and restaurant success. But what are the key factors that make for a great experience? A series of recent surveys about consumer preferences consistently reveal three factors that drive loyalty, and therefore revenue: Atmosphere, Quality and Convenience.

Restaurants and food retailers that revitalize their operations to support these consumer needs will inevitably grow their market shares and bottom lines. But what they tend to overlook is the role of facilities management in this revitalization effort.  

Hitting bricks instead of tapping clicks

Take, for example, the grocery store experience. A Vixxo survey of more than 1,200 U.S. consumers found that, despite an abundance of new options for buying groceries online, they still overwhelmingly prefer to do their shopping in stores.

The study found that experiential attributes of the facility are increasingly factoring into consumers’ choice of where to shop. More than 60% of consumers said that they favor one store over another based on the atmosphere and physical experiences of a brick-and-mortar facility.

The same pattern holds true for restaurant patrons. A similar 2019 study confirmed that two-out-of-three consumers still prefer the in-dining experience over take-out or delivery options. They say food quality and consistency impact the dining experience the most, but more than one-third (38%) cite the overall experience at an establishment – including atmosphere, the service and convenience – is what makes a restaurant their favorite.

Convenience, understandably, tends to matter most for on-the-go customer experiences, whether it is a convenience store, fast casual restaurant or similar establishment. Just as the experience matters most to in-restaurant diners, according to recent research, it’s increasingly critical for on-the-go establishments as well. When picking up an order, consumers favor short pickup lines (24%), a pleasant staff (24%) and overall good quality.

What does it all mean?

All this data points to a shift in the value consumers place on a great experience when it comes to food purchases. Because consumers tend to shop around with limited affinity for specific brands, it’s important that business and franchise owners focus on atmosphere as well quality and convenience.

The studies underscore the importance of a delivering a consistent positive customer experience supported by high-quality facilities management programs to boost loyalty and sales. Whether they dine-in or grab food on the run, consumers notice when the quality of the food, from the temperature to the taste, are inconsistent. Food service and beverage equipment such as ovens, refrigeration, and coffee and drink dispensers are key to heightened experiences as well. Ambient factors and consumer comfort matter greatly too. That’s because customer experiences are impacted by inconsistencies. Disruptions to environmental equipment like lighting and heating or variations in food quality due to equipment malfunctions are the true Achilles Heel.

Evolving consumer demands have made facilities management partners essential for managing these valuable assets. They give business owners the ability to make smarter decisions regarding repairs, maintenance and life cycles so that they can continuously ensure quality control. With a strong facilities management program to follow, owners will attract more customers into their beautiful stores and restaurants with the tools needed to deliver consistently high-quality food, efficiency and a truly enjoyable atmosphere.

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