Fourth, a Tampa, Fla.-based provider of hospitality operations platform, revealed the findings of its first annual “Truth about Dining Out” survey. With the goal of providing restaurant operators an inside look at how Americans prefer to eat out, the survey, conducted by OnePoll, UK, and commissioned by Fourth, shows that quality of service is often times more important than the actual meal among respondents who dine out. The survey results also reinforce that engaged staff are happier, provide better service, create loyal customers and increase sales.

Americans love dining out

With a strong U.S. economy, consumers continue to spend money dining out rather than cooking meals at home. In fact, the survey results showed that more than half (56%) of respondents who dine out, which includes eating in restaurants, ordering food to-go and delivery, dine out at least 2-3 times per week. Additionally, 10% of Americans said they dine out 4-6 times per week, and 6% of consumers cited they dine out every day.

  • When broken down by gender, the survey found that men typically spend more per week eating out ($82) while women spend $69. In fact, 10% of men dine out every day compared to only 2% of women.
  • Respondents who earn between $40,001-50,000 per year spend the most money dining out, averaging $117.82 per week or between 12.25-15.31% of their yearly income.

The survey also examined why consumers dine out at a restaurant. Nearly 47% of respondents selected “social, spending time with family and friends” as the main reason, followed by “special occasion” (41%), “it’s convenient” (40%) and “I enjoy the atmosphere” (33%).

Celebrity chefs

With the ongoing popularity in celebrity cooking shows and competitions, the survey asked respondents to select their favorite celebrity chef. According to the results, Gordon Ramsay took the No. 1 spot with 11% of the votes, followed by Anthony Bourdain (7%) and Bobbly Flay (6%).

Customer loyalty begins with a smile

As restaurants compete for customers, providing superior service is no longer an added bonus, but expected. More than half of survey respondents (53%) cited “good service” as the second most important factor when selecting a restaurant following “food quality” (62%), which received the most votes.

Third-party delivery services are on the rise

To accommodate consumer demand, restaurant operators are turning to third-party delivery services to manage the ordering, payment and delivery of meals. But, with so many options available, it can be hard for a restaurant operator to keep up. Understanding this pain point, respondents selected which delivery services they used most often. According to the results:   

  • When asked the main reasons for using third-party delivery services, 50% of respondents cited “convenience,” followed by “ease of payment” (42%) and “good customer service” (40%).
  • A quarter of respondents (25%) cited that they use third-party delivery services because they’d rather place their order online or via an app than talk to someone on the phone. 
  • Surprisingly, the restaurant’s in-house delivery service was the second most used delivery service (29%) among general respondents and the No. 1 delivery service used by respondents in the Southeast (28%) and Midwest (35%), proving that in-house delivery is still popular.

“Having been in the hospitality industry for more than 30 years, it’s interesting to see how quickly customer expectation can be changed,” says Simon Bocca, chief operating officer. “It’s clear from the survey results that customer service and a tight back-of-house operating system are key to optimizing profits. We’re excited for the future of the industry and to continue to help restaurant operators enhance guest satisfaction and scale profitably by ensuring they have the right amount of labor and inventory on hand to deliver a great guest experience – every time.”

Survey methodology:  
The “Truth about Dining Out” survey polled respondents between April 16-17. Feedback was obtained from 1,000 U.S. adults who have dined out in a restaurant or ordered food to-go.