Ms. Freud

Sales & Marketing

Qualitative Research: The Guest's Perception of Your Hotel Restaurant

By Johnna Freud, Qualitative Research Moderator, Saul Cohen & Associates

How do consumers think about your hotel's restaurant? Why do people eat there? Is it only a convenience for overnight hotel guests, or is it a destination for non-guests as well? In consumers' minds, what does it compete with, and how does it compare to the competition? Why do some people return after their initial trial, but others do not? Is it the food, ambiance, staff or a completely different reason? What does the restaurant do well? What needs improvement? Qualitative research has been used to answer such questions and gain an in-depth understanding of consumers' attitudes toward restaurants -- elegant, casual, take-out/fast food, independent restaurants and/or chains.

Topics to Explore

Consider the large hotel corporations that have capitalized on the familiarity produced by chain restaurants by creating their own brand of casual restaurant/sports bar chain and incorporating them in their properties. These hotel-branded food spots use the same name and offer similar menus.

This can work to a hotel's advantage if a customer's initial dining experience is satisfactory, or conversely, it can work against them if an initial experience is not. As such, knowing how consumers, especially frequent travelers who are loyal to a particular hotel chain, feel about a hotel's branded casual restaurant/sports bar chain is important, not only for an individual property, but for the entire chain. It is highly likely that patrons' experiences may impact their decisions about whether to recommend these restaurants to friends or colleagues and to eat at these places during future visits to the same or different properties.

So, what kinds of food do consumers want at casual restaurants? Through our research, we have found that casual restaurant customers tend to want quality food at reasonable prices. While they don't expect gourmet food at these types of establishments, they expect a wide selection of food that looks and tastes fresh. The also want healthy food alternatives. But what do consumers consider to be "quality food," "reasonable prices," and "healthy food alternatives?" Qualitative research can uncover answers to these questions.

What do consumers mean when they say they want to "eat in a place with a good atmosphere?" We have found that consumers think and speak about restaurant atmosphere in terms of the d'ecor and interior lighting as well as the friendliness and attentiveness of the staff. All of these factors seem to contribute to the overall "comfortable" feeling that most customers seek. However, qualitative research can provide an understanding into whether "comfortable" means interiors that are bright and afford more privacy by spreading out the tables or dark and "clubby."

Furthermore, although customers seem to take cleanliness for granted and often do not focus on it as a reason for going or returning to a restaurant, it is often cited as a reason for not going back. Others stop going to restaurants or chains because they experience a general deterioration in terms of the quality and variety of food or because they are bored with the food and selection. But, unless restaurants ask former patrons what motivated them to change their behavior, they will not know what needs to be improved.

For resorts and properties that cater to leisure travelers, many of whom may be accompanied by children, how easy is it to get into a restaurant on the property? Are reservations required, and if so, how far in advance? Is the front desk staff helping to drive traffic to a resort's restaurants by informing guests upon their arrival about the restaurants on the property, including any need for reservations and the easiest way to make them? How "child friendly" are the restaurants? How important is the notion of "kids eat free?"

Once again, it is vitally important to understand whether consumers choose to eat at the restaurants on the resort property and why. Favorable experiences are likely to translate into recommendations to family, friends and acquaintances. However, unsatisfactory experiences may escalate from recommendations to avoid a particular restaurant to suggestions to avoid a particular resort.

Structuring the Research

Focus groups are often used to assess how food offerings, prices, atmosphere and cleanliness as well as other aspects of a dining experience affect consumers' restaurant choices. In deciding upon whom to invite to participate in such groups, consider groups with loyal customers, lapsed customers (those who have eaten in your hotel's restaurant in the past, but not recently) and non-customers who have not eaten in your hotel's restaurant but have eaten at similar style restaurants in other brand's of hotels or resorts. Additionally, consider inviting guests to participate in a focus group during their stay at your hotel or resort.

The discussion content should include questions about how frequently members of the group eat in hotel restaurants, motivations for doing so, best and worst things about these experiences, how they determine whether a restaurant is providing them with quality and value and what they mean by these terms, and any factors that encourage/discourage them from eating at a particular hotel's or resort's restaurant, either at one property or across multiple properties. It should also include an in-depth discussion about the restaurant that is the subject of the study, including what this restaurant does well and areas that could be improved.

Conclusion

So, the next time you ask why some consumers eat at your hotel's restaurant and others do not or what can be done to increase traffic into your resort's on-site restaurants, consider using qualitative research to unlock the answers.

Johnna Freud is a Qualitative Research Moderator with Saul Cohen & Associates, Ltd. She has experience in focus group moderating, interviewing, group facilitation and project management. She has worked with service companies, publishers, consumer package goods firms, retail chains, manufacturers, educational institutions, consulting firms, and advertising agencies. Research objectives have included concept evaluation and refinement, communications and advertising assessment, product repositioning, employee/student recruitment and performance evaluation, packaging and displays. Ms. Freud can be contacted at 203-322-0083 or scohenqual@aol.com Extended Bio...

HotelExecutive.com retains the copyright to the articles published in the Hotel Business Review. Articles cannot be republished without prior written consent by HotelExecutive.com.

Receive our daily newsletter with the latest breaking news and hotel management best practices.
Hotel Business Review on Facebook
RESOURCE CENTER - SEARCH ARCHIVES
General Search:

MARCH: Human Resources: Inspiring a Journey of Success

Sandy Asch

Baby boomers, Gen Xers, and especially Millennials, who now make up more than 50 percent of the workforce, want a sense of purpose at work. It’s clear that today’s workforce is increasingly concerned with doing good. People are tired of just showing up every day to perform a job. They want lasting fulfillment at home and at work. In his book, Drive, Daniel H. Pink suggests that we are in a time where individual desire to have a positive impact in the world often ranks higher than pay scale when selecting a job. Millennials, in particular, want to feel like their work has real purpose, and they want to be home for dinner. READ MORE

Whitney Martin

As new properties explode on the scene and traveler choices abound, hotels know they have to pull out all the stops to make every guest experience a positive one. Are staff friendly are courteous? Are rooms clean? Are meals excellent? Are bills accurate? We rely on our employees to execute their jobs, not just correctly, but with enthusiasm. And, if they don’t, business suffers. We do our best to hire good people (in a competitive market), we give them a little training, and then we HOPE they create raving fans. Ever heard the expression “hope is not a strategy”? READ MORE

Joyce Gioia

Worldwide, the hospitality industry is going through a transformation. In response to workforce shortages, many employers have looked for---and found---ways to reduce staff by using automation. Despite this trend, there are continuing shortages of skilled workers from front line housekeepers to general managers. Hospitality leaders are looking for and finding innovative ways to find the talent. This article will give you an overview of what’s working for general managers and their human resource professionals to find the people they need to staff their properties. READ MORE

Paul Feeney

A recent report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, showed that close to 3 million people voluntarily quit their jobs a couple of years ago, a 17% increase from the previous year, proving that opportunities for employees are abundant and we have shifted back to a candidate-driven marketplace. Why is this important? Employee retention should always be of utmost importance, but requires awareness as to why employees leave to begin with. Numerous statistics show that the #1 reason people quit their jobs is a disconnect or poor relationship with their boss or immediate supervisor or manager. This shows that turnover of staff is mostly a manager issue. READ MORE

Coming Up In The April Online Hotel Business Review




Feature Focus
Guest Service: The Personalized Experience
In the not-too-distant future, when guests arrive at a hotel, they will check themselves in using a kiosk in the lobby, by- passing a stop at the front desk. When they call room service to order food, it will be from a hotel mobile tablet, practically eliminating any contact with friendly service people. Though these inevitable developments will likely result in delivered to their door by a robot. When they visit a restaurant, their orders will be placed and the bill will be paid some staff reduction, there is a silver lining – all the remaining hotel staff can be laser-focused on providing guests with the best possible service available. And for most guests, that means being the beneficiary of a personalized experience from the hotel. According to a recent Yahoo survey, 78 percent of hotel guests expressed a desire for some kind of personalization. They are seeking services that not only make them feel welcomed, but valued, and cause them to feel good about themselves. Hotels must strive to establish an emotional bond with their guests, the kind of bond that creates guest loyalty and brings them back time and again. But providing personalized service is more than knowing your guests by name. It’s leaving a bottle of wine in the room of a couple celebrating their anniversary, or knowing which guest enjoys having a fresh cup of coffee brought to their room as part of a wake-up call. It’s the small, thoughtful, personal gestures that matter most and produce the greatest effect. The April issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some leading hotels are doing to cultivate and manage guest satisfaction in their operations.