4 ways to gather customer feedback beyond an app

Comment collection doesn’t have to be high-tech.
positive negative feedback

The feedback function of a restaurant app often is a large piece of the development work—figuring out how to make it easy for guests to engage with your brand. While apps and other high-tech tools also provide data for operators, that doesn’t negate the benefits and effectiveness of low-tech comment-collecting methods.

“Our whole philosophy is about engaging customers in a way that promotes growth and learning for our brand,” says Zach Schaefer, director of organizational development for The Post Sports Bar, with two locations in Missouri. For him, that doesn’t include an app or relying solely on review sites such as Yelp.

Instead, he and others take a comprehensive approach to gathering feedback, from social media to focus groups, keeping what works and scrapping what doesn’t. For example, “We don’t want a feedback form in a check presenter. It feels very disingenuous to us,” says Lucas Stoioff, principal and co-founder of DineAmic, the Chicago-based group behind gastropub Public House and steakhouse Prime & Provisions. “We have a set of well-organized communication rules to ensure nothing falls through the cracks.” Here are more of the tactics these operator prefer. 

1. Watch how people eat

Stoioff’s staffers are instructed to watch customer body language and pay attention for displeased expressions or service delays. If servers notice anything unusual, they immediately report it to the manager. “This is Level 1: real-time feedback where the problem is discovered, alerted and solved before anything comes of it,” he says.

2. Keep a log

DineAmic’s managers record any issue in a custom computer system, where it is organized into categories, such as food, guests or maintenance. The closing manager emails the log to headquarters each night. “We’re alerting ourselves to what actually happened in-house, and making sure nobody is surprised if the issue comes up online,” he says. 

3. Let them be anonymous

The Post uses signage to solicit feedback while guests are in-house. The signs invite customers to visit the  restaurant’s website from any device and leave immediate comments about their experience. In return, they’re emailed a gift card for their next visit. Patrons also may be approached and asked to serve as secret shoppers in the future.

4. Don't overutilize one resource

Use a variety of methods, these operators suggest, to help “triangulate” your customer research—getting information from as many sources as possible without exhausting them too much, Schaefer says. “That way guests aren’t turned off from your brand by overly frequent messages, like mass-market emails” he warns.

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