How to Write the Best Customer Satisfaction Survey for Your Restaurant

Rebecca Rosenberg
February 13, 2020
Rebecca is a content & social media marketing strategist with expertise in the restaurant industry.

Customer feedback has always been sought after in the restaurant industry--everyone from operations to marketing to purchasing wants to see the diner’s point of view. Well, the best way to learn what your customers think is to ask them. By going straight to the source and asking important questions, you gain valuable feedback about the customer experience that you can’t get anywhere else.

Smart food brands use customer feedback to:

  • Stop bad reviews from going viral by catching issues as early as possible. We already know most major restaurant groups are monitoring their brand’s reputation closely via social media.
  • Get ideas for new menu items or flavors, like Oreo did with their #MyOreoCreation campaign.
  • Refine their marketing strategies through better understanding of customer needs, lifestyle, habits, etc. - look at how Taco Bell brilliantly uses Instagram to reach their target audience.
  • Learn how to stand out in a crowded marketplace. As part of their “For Real” comeback, Chipotle is testing items to see what customers will love.

How to Structure a Great Customer Satisfaction Survey

Asking customers for their opinion gives them a voice and provides information that you can use to improve your brand’s service, quality, and overall experience. 

You can collect customer feedback in a variety of formats including email or text surveys, comment cards, in person conversations, or via in-store devices. Of course, you can also look to social media and other review sites to see what your customers are saying about your restaurants.

When done well, a single survey reveals issues that you can address immediately, such as: 

  • If a server was rude or dismissive
  • Customer reaction to new policies or processes
  • Poor accessibility for guests with limited mobility
  • Allergen issues not being addressed properly

But if you want to get truly great results, you have to ask the right questions. Writing great survey questions takes a little planning and a bit of practice. Here are some tips for writing survey questions that will provide results you can use:

Keep it short and simple. Your survey shouldn’t take more than a minute to complete.

Make sure your questions cover three key categories: people, product, and process.

Ask one thing at a time. Avoid double-barreled questions such as “Did you receive a prompt and friendly welcome upon arrival?”

Use a mix of question types. Multiple choice or answer scale questions keep the survey efficient for the customer. However, you should also use open-ended questions that give the customer opportunities to elaborate through comments.

Avoid neutral responses. If you’re using an answer scale, discourage neutral responses by offering 4 answer choices instead of 5. We call them fence-sitters, and try to push them to one side or the other, positive or negative.

Maintain your brand voice. Write survey questions using the same tone of voice as you would speak to your audience in your marketing materials.

Do a test run. Before releasing your survey to the public, test it on multiple devices and browsers, and ask a variety of different people to try it out.

Ask Strategic Questions to Uncover Areas for Improvement

You only have a few questions to capture as much information as possible. Be sure you choose strategically in order to discover ways to improve the customer experience. The following are sample questions to consider asking in your restaurants.

Were you promptly welcomed by the host upon arrival?

It’s surprising how many guests vividly remember the promptness and warmth of the host’s welcome when they enter the restaurant. We often see reviews where a fantastic host went above and beyond to make her guests feel welcomed in your establishment, adding that extra touch of personalization that nurtures customer loyalty. Or, vice versa, the meal and service was excellent but the overall experience was tainted by an aloof host.

How did you feel about the speed of service?

You might use a scale here to determine whether the guest thought the service was too slow, too fast, or just right. Then ask them to elaborate on the previous answer with an open-ended question.

Did your server mention today’s specials?

Are you spending time coaching servers on how to sell your rotating specials? With a question like this, you can see how often the team is actually selling these specials. Bonus points if you have a feedback system that precisely measures individual server performance.

How would you rate the overall quality of food? / Tell us about the food. 

Give customers a chance to describe what they loved (and didn’t love) about your food. Related questions could include: “Were all your dishes prepared correctly? Which dishes did you order? Did you try anything new?”

How likely are you to recommend our restaurant to family and friends?

Also known as Net Promoter Score, the “likelihood to recommend” question is important because it can help you recognize the growth potential of your restaurant. 

Depending on your goals & initiatives, you may want to ask about other areas of your business. Expanding restaurants may choose to ask for opinions about the restaurant’s decor, ambiance, online ordering experience, or market-specific menu items. Or, you could ask about beverage quality and selection, cleanliness, and overall value. Whatever you choose to ask, make sure it reflects your goals and is framed in a way that gets actionable data. 

Especially as you grow, keeping a pulse on the evolving needs of your customer will put you in a better position to give them exactly what they want. Once you have the information, it’s what you do with it that will determine your success. 

Check out how other successful restaurants have expanded their business and the 5 things they all have in common.