Restaurant management platform, SevenRooms has been exploring the shift in consumer needs when it comes to dining out and the results have just come through in their recent report “Turning a Meal Into an Experience” to define exactly what hospitality can focus on to gain customer loyalty. With the focus shifting from food alone to an all-encompassing experience, understanding the key points that enhance or deflate an experience are key. Interestingly enough, a large part of the results can be applied, not only to the hospitality industry, but the retail and entertainment industries also who are seeking to provide that ‘value-add’ – the experience, that cannot be found online. From making a space atmospheric to using a customer’s name, here’s what you can take home from the report:

Win Them Over During The First Visit

33% of diners would not return to a restaurant if a staff member did not pay attention to their preferences

24% would not return to a food outlet if the experience wasn’t memorable or special

56% wouldn’t return if the food wasn’t cooked the way they asked

Make It a Memorable Experience

51% said that they would return to a restaurant if a waiter or waitress simply remembered them from the previous visit

35% said a complimentary glass of wine would make the experience stand out

50% say that a special birthday dessert or complimentary birthday treat would make their experience a stand out

Beat Your Competition

83% say they decide between one place over another based on food quality closely followed by location convenience and then reputation

22% of customers chose to visit a restaurant based on what the food or atmosphere looked like on social media


By cohesively piecing together these customer preferences, the data can be turned into real, useful tools that operators, food precinct management and centre management can take into account.


  1. First up, the first visit is the most important for return visitations because without a successful first time there is a high chance they won’t be a second time. A number of the upfront experiential factors are related to customer service or the human touch but for food operators, this must be paired with good food with 56% of people saying their return visit relies on the food being good.

Greet people by their names, utilise customer management systems to hold information about customer needs and requests, make that person feel like you have them at the centre of your service. Reservation systems in dining outlets are an easy way to achieve personalisation with space for customers to state the occasion they’re coming for, their allergies or specific dietary needs so staff can account for this on their arrival.


  1. Next up, winning the hearts of many and gaining loyalty can be achieved by giving the customer a little of the unexpected.

Throw in a free glass of wine if they have waited too long for food, provide a return voucher if something went wrong, sing happy birthday if you know it’s a birthday celebration – whatever it is, a special touch will seal the deal on the experience and customers will not only return but they will pass on the word-of-mouth referral.


  1. And lastly, when customers are out there sifting through the copious amounts of places to shop, eat, drink and play, 22% said they are won over by a good-looking experience on social media.

This means positive customer reviews need to be maintained and your space and plates need to look good enough to eat with your eyes. This is when careful and considered design can do all the talking with more people taking photos of their experience and food than ever.

Today, people are faced with a plethora of options when it comes to shopping, eating and entertaining themselves which includes both offline and online. Achieving a loyal customer base that visits frequently and refers your business to others is invaluable in maintaining business success against the competition.

Overall, customers today want a memorable experience that is positively reinforced at every touch point. Serve good food but drop the ball on their preferences, you might have just lost a long-term customer. Provide a free glass of wine but serve sub-par food, same goes.

A positive experience is only another centre, restaurant or precinct away so delivering a memorable one in your space will keep your customers from taking their business elsewhere.

Article reproduced with the permission of Francis Loughran, Food and Beverage Director, Future Food Melbourne.

Read the full article at Future Food here>>