In the current economic climate competition within the food industry is fierce but what do customers really want from restaurants and how does the industry market itself? The Tree Hotel at Cadmore End conducted a survey to find out.

What is important when choosing a restaurant?
With a third of respondents eating out four or more times a month and a huge 89% of people trying a new restaurant at least once every six months there is increased competition to get new customers in and convert them into regulars.
The survey showed that quality of food came out on top in determining where to eat (94%) followed by price at 67%. Searching online for offers has become customary with 82% of people looking online for offers some or most of the time and 90% of people often viewing a new restaurant’s website before going.
Kavita Pal, Managing Director of the gastro pub at the Tree Hotel at Cadmore End who has been running restaurants for over 10 years says: “The demand for quality food has not wavered through the recession, in fact, to keep customers in this economic climate you have raise your game as it is more important than ever to keep returning customers and to attract new business.  Although price doesn’t top the list, customers are being careful with their money and are interested in special offers.”
How much are people prepared to spend?
The survey showed that 78% of people would expect to only pay £15 or less on lunch in a restaurant and over 80% of people would expect to pay £30 or less on dinner in a restaurant, with over 1/3 of people expecting to only pay between £11 – £20 in the evening.
Pal says: “As finding restaurants deals becomes easier the market has to keep up to date with online tools, social media and marketing. The generation are tech savvy and shopping around and a great deal is no longer seen as scrimping but common sense.”
What are the most popular types of foods?
When asked what foods people couldn’t resist on a menu the survey showed that British favourite curry was very popular with a whopping 13% of respondents listing curry as irresistible. Seafood also can’t be resisted at 11%, closely followed by steak at 9%. Dessert only made up 12% of the dishes that couldn’t be resisted.
According to the survey results, at lunch time 59% of people don’t tend to order a starter or a pudding. By contrast in the evening, nearly two thirds of restaurant-goers tend to have a starter and just over half have a pudding.
Interestingly the importance of healthy choices was tested when respondents were asked to rate how important healthy food was when making menu choices with one out of 10 being never important. The results were evenly spread with 46 % of respondents giving a rating of between 1-5 whilst 54%.more health conscious respondents gave a rating of between 6-10. The most popular rating was 8 at 16.4%.
Are people interested in where their food comes from?
The survey showed that eating seasonal food is important to over 50% of people with only 5% saying it was of no importance.  Over 70% of people think a restaurant should change its menu quarterly. Customers are also much more aware of where the food is sourced as the survey showed that 80% of people would like to eat sustainably sourced fish in a restaurant.
Pal says: “It is interesting that such a large percentage of people want the menu to be changed so often but perhaps it is a reflection on today’s society that we want seasonal food or even that perhaps we get bored more easily.  People are much more aware of where their food comes from, and as a restaurateur it is your responsibility to provide people with fresh, local ingredients where possible.”
What does technology mean for businesses?
With 57% of customers going to a new restaurant always checking the websites first, this obvious marketing tool is crucial.   The survey also showed that the most popular ways to stay in contact with restaurant news is via newsletters (54%) and Facebook (39%), with Twitter slightly trailing at 20%.
Pal says: “It’s not surprising that many people use the internet as a way of hearing about great deals and checking testimonials. As a business we have to adapt to the changes in technology and embrace them to see their full benefits. Without a website we know we are invisible to the time conscious, web generation of today, but having a good database and using social media is now also hugely important to the sector.”
A massive 71% of people don’t think mobiles should be answered in a restaurant and calls should be taken outside, with 16% of those respondents believing mobiles should be banned from restaurants all together.

On what occasions do people go out for a meal?        
The survey showed that just under one third of people would go out to a restaurant specifically for a live music, but a staggering 63% of people always go out to eat at a restaurant for Mother’s Day followed by 42% on Valentine’s Day. Entertainment also received the lowest percentage when people were asked to list the most important things in a restaurant but atmosphere was important to 60% of respondents.
Poor service was rated the highest grievance in restaurants at 40% and poor food was second with 31%.
Pal says: “There is a market for live music, quizzes and other sorts of entertainment in restaurants but we are increasingly seeing it is continued good experience, promotions and the big occasions such as Mother’s Day, that really bring in the customers. Essentially though it comes down to the simple fact that people will eat out if the food is delicious, the service is good and the price is right.”