Good food isn't enough: diners want clean restaurants

Restaurant cleanliness, not the menu, is the number one priority for today's diners.

96% of consumers say that they’re attracted to a particular establishment because its clean. 94% choose the restaurant because of its menu and variety.

Mintel, an international company concerned with consumer trends, looked at a number of variables that affect consumer dining choices. Mintel found that cleanliness, menu selections, and comfortable seating are priorities for consumers and encourage restaurateurs to address those areas first before looking into the needs of specific demographics.

People are most likely to be deterred from returning to a restaurant if the table or setting is unclean (76%), if the server is rude (74%), or there is a dreaded unclean bathroom (57%). According to Julia Gallo-Torres, food service manager at Mintel, "both of these leading reasons only speak to three quarters of Mintel's respondents, showing that restaurant patrons tend to return to an establishment despite a less than desirable experience. However, in the weak economy, competition is tough and these issues must be addressed by restaurants in order to ensure that the consumers they do attract will want to return."

Once a restaurant management meets the three fundamental expectations (cleanliness, menu selection and variety and comfortable seating), of its general consumer base, then management should then take the next step and focus on groups they’d like to target in order to solidify its customer base.

While cleanliness, menu selections and comfortable seating are most important to all age groups and ethnicities, after those are covered different demographics start wanting different things. Some 93% of those aged 65+ say noise level is important to them when dining out versus 82% of all respondents. On the other hand, more than half (52%) of those aged 18-24 think the kind of music played in the dining room is important versus only 40% of all respondents.

Meanwhile, Hispanic diners are more likely to find decor (70% vs. 65%), dress code (54% vs 44%), music (50% vs 39%) and children's activities (40% vs. 24%) important compared to their non-Hispanic counterparts. With increased technology, restaurants are better equipped to offer customized experiences for consumers. Decor and music can be easily altered through projection screens, accent lighting, and table top stereos. Additionally, restaurants that often serve Hispanic guests can can provide children with activity booklets in Spanish.

Aside from the ambiance of a restaurant, it is important to the majority of patrons (92%) to not feel rushed when dining at a sit-down restaurant. Some 71% of restaurant-goers say coupons or special pricing attract them to certain restaurants and more than two-thirds (68%) say the food itself is more important than the atmosphere of the restaurant.

related:
Red Lobster's special pricing through May 26, 2013