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Consumer Trends

Cleanliness tops diners’ list as most vital element

Cleanliness (96%), menu selection and variety (94%) and comfortable seating (91%) are the most important components of creating a visit-worthy atmosphere at a restaurant, according to a new report from Mintel.

“Because the vast majority of consumers find cleanliness, menu selections and comfortable seating most important, it is vital that restaurants address these areas first, before looking at the needs of specific demographics,” says Julia Gallo-Torres, foodservice manager at Mintel. “Once these areas meet the standards of general consumers, operators can consider the specific demographics that make up their core customer base, as well as the groups in which they would like to target.”

Following cleanliness, menu selections and comfortable seating—important to all segments, regardless of age or ethnicity—demographics kick in to determine what’s critical to the consumer. Noise level is a key consideration for 93% of the senior citizen set, those aged 65+, versus 82% of all respondents. As for those in the 18-24 year cohort, a slight majority (52%) think the kind of music playing in the dining room is important, vs. 40% of all respondents.

Hispanic diners are more likely to find decor (70% vs. 65%), dress code (54% vs. 44%), music (50% vs. 39%) and children’s activities (40% vs. 24%) important compared to their non-Hispanic counterparts.

One thing nearly all patrons (92%) want when dining at a sit-down restaurant is not to feel rushed. Meanwhile, coupons and restaurant deals do work: 71% of restaurant-goers say coupons or special pricing attract them to certain restaurants. Chefs will be happy to note that more than two-thirds (68%) say the food itself is more important than the restaurant's atmosphere.

People are most likely to be deterred from returning to a restaurant if the table or setting is unclean (76%), if the server is rude (74%), or there is a dreaded unclean bathroom (57%). According to Julia Gallo-Torres, “both of these leading reasons only speak to three quarters of Mintel’s respondents, showing that restaurant patrons tend to return to an establishment despite a less than desirable experience. However, in the weak economy, competition is tough and these issues must be addressed by restaurants in order to ensure that the consumers they do attract will want to return.”

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