SHARED ARTICLE: Restaurants Aren’t Winning Over Customers, Despite Strong Service

In this quick article, they mention the decrease in food satisfaction as a potential anomaly, among the obvious point in the title. I can’t say I completely agree, knowing the importance of food quality related to guest satisfaction! Food, service, atmosphere and value are the four elements we base our analysis on with clients. Good service alone without the supporting elements at an establishment increase the odds of dissatisfaction and low return rate with guests. What do you think?


By: Jonathan Maze

Consumers say they’re happy with service at restaurant chains, but that doesn’t mean they’ll come back. Restaurant service scores rose 10.2 percent in April, according to a new Restaurant Guest Satisfaction Snapshot by White Box Social Intelligence, from the Dallas-based data company TDn2K. But when asked whether they intended to return, consumers were far less generous. Intent to return scores fell 6.4 percent in April, compared with the previous year.

Customer satisfaction with food fell 1.2 percent in April, according to White Box Social Intelligence, but food numbers had actually risen all year before that, according to Victor Fernandez, executive director of insights and knowledge for TDn2K. The decline in food satisfaction could be an anomaly, he said. The results suggest that on some level, restaurants are failing to build brand loyalty with consumers.

“It might be a loyalty factor here,” Fernandez said. “Even if [restaurants] are doing things right, there’s a factor around loyalty. They’re not connecting strong enough that guests appear to be categorically saying they’re coming back.”  Consumer surveys on future plans can be tricky, as there is frequently a difference between what a consumer plans to do and what he or she actually does.

But the results come at a time when the restaurant industry is struggling to generate consistent sales and traffic. Same-store traffic dropped 3.6 percent in the first four months of the year, according to Black Box Intelligence, which is also part of TDn2K. And there is some correlation between intent to return scores and sales at specific restaurant chains, giving hope to brands like Qdoba Mexican Eats, which was among the top-performing chains based on customers’ intent to return. Consumers have far more dining choices than ever, and they are reluctant to definitively state that they will return to a concept, even when they get good service.

Indeed, one of the best-performing companies, both in terms of service and intent to return, wasn’t a restaurant chain, but the convenience-store chain Wawa, which has been making big moves with its food offerings in recent years. Consumers were happier with Wawa’s service than with any other restaurant chain listed.

“That should be an eye opener to the industry,” Fernandez said. “Competition is real from all areas.”

Fernandez also noted that the survey’s best-performing chains varied widely, from c-store chain Wawa to upscale-casual concepts such as Seasons 52 and Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse. “Consumers have an expectation, and they calibrate that expectation,” Fernandez said. The Guest Satisfaction Snapshot is the first such survey from White Box Social Intelligence, which has been gathering the data since 2013.

Contact Jonathan Maze at

Follow him on Twitter: @jonathanmaze

SHARED ARTICLE: Prevent Burnout by Making Compassion a Habit

Not only have I designated this area for my own thoughts, experiences and opinions it is a forum for showcasing others as well. Here is a piece I found particularly pertinent because of the high stress environment that exists in the food and beverage world physically and mentally.


By Annie McKee and Kandi Wiens

“I am sick to death of the ridiculous situations I have to deal with at work. The pettiness, the politics, the stupidity — it’s out of control. This kind of thing stresses me out to the max.”

Stress is a happiness killer. And life is just too short to be unhappy at work. But we hear this kind of thing all the time from leaders in industries as varied as financial services, education, pharmaceuticals, and health care. In our coaching and consulting, we’re seeing a spike in the number of leaders who used to love their jobs but now say things like, “I’m not sure it’s worth it anymore.” They’re burned out — emotionally exhausted and cynical, as a result of chronic and acute work stress.

Why is stress on the rise? A lot of it has to do with uncertainty in the world and constant changes in our organizations. Many people are overworking, putting in more hours than ever before. The lines between work and home have blurred or disappeared. Add to that persistent (sometimes even toxic) conflicts with bosses and coworkers that put us on guard and make us irritable. Under these circumstances, our performance and well-being suffer. Work feels like a burden. Burnout is just around the corner. And happiness at work is not even a remote possibility.

Here’s the good news: Some people don’t get burned out. They continue to thrive despite the difficult conditions in their workplace. Continue Reading…

Seasonality: Why it’s Important to Your Success

Seasonality, as defined by Wikipedia, “…is a characteristic of a time series in which the data experiences regular and predictable changes that recur every calendar year. Any predictable change or pattern in a time series that recurs or repeats over a one-year period can be said to be seasonal.” When related to food, that definition doesn’t quite embody the excitement of the seasons’ first strawberries or heirloom tomatoes! However, the point is made. We can apply the ideas in this definition to how we interpret what goes on our menus as restaurateurs and chefs.

Acquiring goods from across the globe has never been easier. I can source Mushrooms from France, Avocados from Mexico and Big Eye Tuna from Hawaii the next day! Logistics have allowed a universal amount of options for menu development, however, it also dilutes the idea of cooking with the what is best available. Why not source Green Asparagus from Peru in September? I’ll tell you why.

• Menu Diversity and Change. Cooking with what is seasonally available in your region brings new menu ideas and diversity to your menu throughout the year. Your guests will appreciate the change.

• Product Quality. I will guarantee citrus in the Winter, asparagus in the Spring and tomatoes in the Summer will bring the most flavor to the plate. Research what products are best in which seasons.

• Marketing Potential. As an example, soft shell crabs arrive twice a year in limited availability and people love them! Give yourself the advantage by focusing on these seasonal patterns. Promote them through social media and internal/external marketing channels. It will bring you the business not your competitors.

• Community Support. Thoughtfully sourcing products from the small farmers, cheese makers, coffee roasters and beer producers in your area will resonate with your current and future guests. Showcase these products and the producers will return the business next time they recommend a restaurant to others.

My goal is to merely start the conversation regarding the benefits of focusing on seasonality in your decision making process for menu development and beyond. Be prepared for a myriad of options which can be a challenging undertaking with inconsistent availability and staff education to name a few, but remember it starts with just one coffee bean, leaf of lettuce or loaf of bread. It is that easy. Research your region and the producers surrounding it and you might be surprised what you find.

Recommended Text: The Flavor Bible, Page & Dornenburg

It’s all about the Beans

I had the great pleasure of meeting with Haden and Tony at Red Rooster Roasters in Floyd, VA this morning.  We did a few pour over tastings of some of their favorite beans in search of finding the perfect blend for the restaurant.  Note all typing errors and run-on sentences are subject to the massive caffeine high I have currently…

Red Rooster Coffee is located in the downtown of Floyd, VA where they strive to serve the highest organic and fair trade coffee available.  By using biodegradable bulk bags, compostable paper products and water based ink for printing among other sustainable practices they make a difference in the business community of Floyd as well.

Here is a quick rundown of what we tasted and my notes on the coffees.  All of these beans are currently available at Red Rooster and any finer coffee house around the country.

  1. Guatemalan Huey Huey Tananga – Medium-Light Roast – Almond, Orange Peel, Bright Balanced Acidity on the mid palate.  My favorite of the day.
  2. Papa New Guinea – Medium –Light Roast – Slight Earthiness, Smooth mid palate, Citrus Finish
  3. Honduran from the Comsa Coop – Medium-Light Roast – Great Floral Notes, Earth and Citrus on the finish.  They noted this coffee as being a great base to blend on.  Try blending at home!
  4. Ethiopian Yirgacheffe – Darker Roast – Awesome Cocoa Aromas, Dark Chocolate, Berry Notes, Slight Bitterness.  This was the first introduction of slight bitterness because of the darker roasting.  This and the next coffee are the most popular as they stand up to cream and sugar more than the lighter roasts with more acidity and delicate flavors.  The perception of more flavor from darker roasts, such as French, is actually false as more bitterness and roasted flavor takes over.
  5. Sumatra Blend – Darker Roast – More Cocoa and Spice aromas, Slight berry/fruitiness followed by lots of roasted flavor.  Almost flat on the mid palate.  I want to take a second and address the idea of the darker the roast the less caffeine.  It is true, but only because the size of the bean changes during the roasting process.  Beans lose up to 16% of their moisture and can expand 16-20% in size.  The actual caffeine content doesn’t change, however the because of the size change you actually use a smaller amount of beans for your cup or pot of French roast.  Hence less caffeine.

I have always been a fan of using press pots for my coffee.  I use a burr grinder instead of a more traditional grinder for even grinding of the beans and I drink it black.  I found out that there is no “better” way of brewing coffee as each method yields different results.  Some coffees are better served by the pour over method with a filter and some coffees stand out more with a press pot.  Try different methods and determine what you enjoy the most.