“How was your meal?” – The perfect question to ask if you want to be lied to

Asking customers if they enjoyed their meal is standard practice for any restaurant hoping to understand what their guests are experiencing, but the question is a lot less effective than it seems.

The Yumpingo team loves food and we love feedback, so you’d think we’d be the perfect customers to ask this question, but it turns out we react just like most guests.

A few weeks ago, following a conversation with their head office, we had lunch in a casual dining restaurant. While we tried the food, using the opportunity to test our review app, we discussed all the positives and negatives of the various dishes. After twenty minutes of us going full Jay Raynor, the waiter came over to our table and asked, “How is your meal?”. We immediately stopped our discussions and dropped into what I’m now going to call ‘default customer response mode’. “It’s OK thanks” we mumbled/lied as we avoided all eye contact. The waiter left again and we waded straight back into our critiquing, without giving the question and our reaction to it, a second thought.

How often have you done the same thing?

The problem with standard and open questions like this is the easiest thing to do is offer a default and closed response.

As far as the waiter and the restaurant were aware, feedback had taken place and we were happy customers. In reality, we found that some of the food was great and some were not, and none of this feedback was shared. The restaurant had no chance to learn and improve.

Restaurants have a ‘silent majority’ problem:

  • A large proportion of guests (especially British ones, and Yumpingoists* who should know better) will keep their thoughts to themselves to avoid awkward conversations or confrontation.

  • What feedback you do receive, often from the extremes of very satisfied or very dissatisfied guests (your standard TripAdvisor reviews), will actually produce misleading results.

  • You have to ask an awful lot of people and be politely lied to by most, to get even a sense of what people might think. It takes a long time to learn, it’s hard to interpret and it significantly delays any changes you should be making.

The good news is that if you give guests a way to answer the question that doesn’t induce ‘default customer response mode’ your customers want to help and the insights are there. Or as a customer of one of our partner restaurants recently wrote when reviewing their meal through Yumpingo…

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