What you don’t know about restaurant surveys, plus a word to restaurant owners.

I enjoy cooking, but I enjoying eating out more. I enjoy eating out because except for teaching, I am only “out and about” when eating out. Eating at restaurants provides opportunities to see other people and enjoy really tasty, hot food. I live on Chick-fil-A, El Chico, Panera, and Red Lobster! (I just wish it weren’t so expensive!) These places also have surveys on almost every receipt, except Panera which occasionally emails them. 

The overwhelming majority of people either don’t see or ignore these surveys. At one of these places, the employees are forbidden from letting customers know there is one on the bottom of the receipt. 

These surveys are important to managers and other employees. They do read these comments and occasionally reply. 

A “good survey” is only defined as top-marks on EVERY QUESTION. This completely baffled me the first time and second and third time I heard about different restaurants following this requirement. Before knowing this, following the practice academics and other professional survey givers use, I would purposely not give full “perfects” on everything. Normally, all perfects or all horribles, for instance, means that someone just went through, answering the questions without reading or thinking about the most appropriate response. At restaurants, however, if you answer “very good” instead of “excellent” on any one question, the survey counts as a failing grade for the restaurant. 

Owners of restaurants, you really need to reconsider how you measure a “good survey” OR you need to explain this to customers. You also need to reward customers for completing the surveys. Make it easier too – have an easy app or don’t require that I use a different email address for each one (as one place does) or a different IP address (as another place does). Also, structure the surveys such that you get more meaningful feedback. 

No matter what, if you eat at a restaurant, remember you have an obligation to tip appropriately and to complete as many surveys as you can.