Food order accuracy came in at a stellar 89 (it was 86 for quick service). Speed of service reported 83, which shows room for improvement but was still a solid figure considering quick-serves clocked 82. But the most promising figure regarded service. Staff being helpful and courteous posted 87. Two years ago, it was 84. It’s something that needs to continue gaining to keep satisfaction rolling given the more convenient—and vast—options available.
Food quality did drop a bit to 85, suggesting whitespace for brands to innovate their menus to best competitors. Measured for the first time this year, mobile apps rated well on reliability (86) and quality (84). Unlike other industries, apps are not considered to be among the best parts of the customer experience, ACSI said. Apps do, however, outperform websites, with satisfaction for the latter sliding to 82.
One really interesting note involved off-premises, projected to account for 37 percent of restaurant industry sales in 2018. ACSI found that diners who order food for delivery from full-service chains are far more satisfied (83) than those who dine in (79). That’s one that would have been tough to predict a few years back.
It seems likely catering and delivery spaces are only going to heat up competition in the coming year.
The figures also reflect what Darden CEO Gene Lee said on the company’s recent conference call to discuss fourth-quarter results. He suggested that a strong dine-in experience creates demand for an off-premises visit. In that case, a guest who heads to Olive Garden for catering—someone who’s fond of eating in the restaurant—will be satisfied because they’ve received a similar experience. It’s why the brand has put money behind delivering a value and service proposition for off-premises similar to its four-wall efforts. Everything is connected.
It’s worth noting, however, Olive Garden isn’t courting delivery. The chain is sticking to catering and to-go as its channels. That’s where some brands might go astray—trying to promote off-premises business without considering the customer experience. Diving into delivery, for instance, without the partners or back-end systems to ensure smooth performance. In that case, customers who order delivery from a brand would end up being dissatisfied and unlikely to try it again. Whether or not they’d return for the dine-in experience is harder to say, but it’s a risk brands don’t want to take. This is especially true of the first-time customer introduced to a sit-down chain via off-premises.