Research experiment finds cleanliness more important than service

New research has found tidy dining areas and fresh bathrooms are more important than service to guests.

The research initiative, carried out on behalf of hygiene brand Tork, involved a survey of 3000 restaurant guests and a unique eye-tracking experiment, devised to learn how a restaurant is perceived through the eyes of a guest.

The eye-tracking experiment used micro-cameras placed on the inside frame of connected eyeglasses, so every fixation of an eye could be measured. To map out a complete restaurant experience, guests were asked to complete three tasks while wearing the eye-tracking glasses:

– Have dinner at a table in the restaurant environment

– Have a drink by the bar in front of an open kitchen

– Wash their hands

The collected data was analysed and used to create visual heat-maps featuring guests’ attention and focus of interest.

The results found that during a visit to a restaurant, a guest looks at 7000 details across all areas of the restaurant in just one hour, and each one impacts on a customer’s overall impression.
“Every restaurant is different, but they all share a desire to create a memorable guest experience,” said Executive General Manager, Tork Professional Hygiene, Sid Takla.

The results of the survey show that quality of food matters most, but the importance of the overall experience may be underestimated. Customers ranked the food, a clean and tidy table, and fresh, sanitary bathrooms as the top three most important aspects of a restaurant, with nine out of 10 guests ranking tidiness and cleanliness more important than service.

Over 50 per cent of those surveyed have shared photos taken at a restaurant on social media, of everything from food to table décor.

The findings also highlighted the importance of interior design and tableware. Six out of 10 respondents had high or very high expectations of these elements and eight out of 10 thought that restaurants should put more effort into the quality of the tableware. Guests also looked carefully at the restaurant interior at large – studying everything from the details of the ceiling to design furniture, and flowers.

The details around food and beverage preparations in the kitchen were also found to be intriguing for guests. Six out of 10 respondents (61 per cent) appreciated open kitchens where they could see how the food is prepared, and even more guests (67 per cent) appreciated that they can judge how clean and hygienic the kitchen is.

When it comes to the bathroom, nine out of 10 people thought it was important that the bathrooms maintains at least the same standard as the dining area.

The cleanliness of the bathroom was found to be the the second most common aspect guests are dissatisfied with when visiting restaurants. Here, the details also become important. High quality products such as toilet paper, paper towels and soap add to the experience for one in three respondents and six out of 10 expect high quality bathroom products as standard.

In the past, Tork says diners trusted published restaurant reviews and the word of mouth of friends. Today they seek out social media and the opinions of millions of people they’ve never met. There are countless review sites, restaurant blogs, online booking sites with star ratings and infinite photos that have been shared and tagged:

“We know how important these reviews are for business – they can be make or break. Now we have greater understanding of the importance of all the details in the customer experience.”

To see a short film on the eye-tracking experiment click here.

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