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In an restaurant setting, customers buy value, and for most people value is believing that you got more than you paid for. Value is about meeting customer needs, delivering on your promise, and doing it better than the next guy.

In an restaurant setting, customers buy value, and for most people value is believing that you got more than you paid for. Value is about meeting customer needs, delivering on your promise, and doing it better than the next guy.

For some people value is the flavor, variety and presentation of your menu items. For others it's convenience, speed, atmosphere, parking, or friendly, sincere service. So, how do you determine how value is measured by your customers?

It's Simple.

It's Magic. (OK, not really.)

Just ask them.

Developing a Best Customer Focus Group is a natural, value-added strategy, consistent with the sense of good will and hospitality that characterize a true service environment. Customer focus groups should be built into the marketing plan for every foodservice operation.

Best Customer Focus Groups should ideally be conducted by an outside facilitator, but may be conducted by the Owner or General Manager of a restaurant. The most common reason to conduct a focus group is to get feedback about specific menu items, but regardless of your primary motivation, take the opportunity to get to know your customers better.

Open each focus group with some ice breaking questions to allow the participants a chance to get to know each other and feel comfortable talking candidly. If you are getting feedback about new menu items, ask for ratings on taste, appearance, price, etc. And ask additional questions that provide insight into your guests' dining preferences, their impression of your operation, and how you compare to the competition. And make sure you ask probing questions that tell you the "how" and "why" behind their comments and actions.

Conclude each session with a sincere thank you and a gift. A generous gift certificate from your restaurant is a natural solution. Best Customer Focus Groups help personalize the customer relationship and open the lines of communication. Remember, success is a direct result of maintaining a line-of-sight connection with your customer.

We've created a downloadable menu item rating card for you to use, and a downloadable Focus Group Facilitator's Guide , a step by step outline to make you look like a professional facilitator. Good luck!

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