Decoding Customer Feedback into Actionable Insights for Restaurants

publication date: Jul 9, 2024
author/source: Peter Zaidel



Learn how AI can make your unstructured feedback - like ratings, reviews, social posts, and open text survey feedback - work for your restaurant.

The Problem of Unstructured Feedback

You solicit feedback from your restaurant guests every day in various ways - surveys on their receipts, Google business reviews, app polls, social posts, etc. - to learn how you can improve the restaurant experience.

But unstructured feedback - the kind that comes by way of an open text box or essay form in your survey - is difficult to quantify and use.

With the average chain or franchise restaurant location having about 1,500 public reviews (SOCi), and thousands of survey responses, unstructured feedback becomes unmanageable. So, how do you start to understand what's going right and wrong at your location?

You could make the data more quantifiable by asking questions using radio buttons or multi-select check boxes. But using these questions in your surveys introduces bias, assumptions, and artificial boundaries for your guests. The most valuable feedback to a restaurant owner or manager is unstructured feedback, where you hear about the experience in the guest's own words.

Wrangling this unstructured feedback into something actionable was a major task for restaurant owners. Until now.

Why Unstructured Feedback is Valuable

There may be multiple areas for improving your restaurant - menu, service, food preparation, taste, and more. You want to get everything right and delight your customers. With customer feedback, you can identify the good and bad sides of your restaurant and adjust accordingly.

Unstructured customer feedback empowers you to:

  • Find areas for improvement
  • Improve your online reputation
  • Learn more about your customers
  • Improve business decisions

With 60% of consumers claiming that they always do research on the internet before making a major purchase, and 43% of consumers reading customer reviews when searching for information on products they may want to buy, unstructured feedback is critical to bringing in new and returning guests (Statista).

How to Make Sense of Unstructured Feedback

Open text analysis (OTA) takes all unstructured data you have in social comments, reviews, and open text survey questions and crunches those words into numbers.

OTA is a useful tool for quantifying and transforming open text responses into actionable data. Using an OTA platform, the system can read through responses to each open text question in your survey and bucket them into categories. This allows you to report on textboxes, essays, and other textboxes as a pie chart or bar chart.

OTA helps restaurant owners do three key things:

  1. Gain clarity: OTA helps you understand exactly how your audience really thinks and feels - in their own words.
  2. Make better decisions: OTA instantly turns open-ended feedback into trackable, actionable insights.
  3. Problem solve in real time: OTA enables you to analyze and act on open text feedback faster than ever, at an unheard-of scale.

You've heard how artificial intelligence (AI) can help restaurants. OTA uses AI and large language models (LLMs) to instantly analyze and categorize open text feedback. Finally, there's a simple way to harness the power of AI to improve your restaurant.

How to Select an OTA Platform

Knowing the benefit of OTA is one thing; settling on the right OTA platform for your restaurant is different. Here are the types of capabilities you should look for in an OTA platform:

  • Text analysis: Your platform should be able to instantly summarize unstructured feedback using phrasal analysis to accurately identify and categorize feedback theme, emotion, and sentiment.
  • Analytics and reporting: Your platform should empower you to track and visualize key feedback metrics and measure the "how" and the "why" of customer sentiment changing over time.
  • Dashboarding: An advanced OTA platform will enable you to create customizable dashboards that show stakeholders key metrics and where they need to act in real time.
  • Trends and workflows: Your OTA platform should instantly alert you to important events as they happen - for instance, a sudden influx of bad service complaints or a sudden spike in your NPS score. This allows you to see red flags and act before the challenge becomes a real problem for your restaurant.

Put Unstructured Feedback to Work for Your Restaurant

Remember all the unstructured feedback your restaurant already has - in open text fields in your surveys, to social comments, to online reviews. Right now, that unstructured feedback is likely not doing your business any favors.

It's time to put that unstructured feedback to work! Categorize all that data instantly with an OTA platform so you can understand complex customer sentiment at scale. OTA will uncover insights you never knew about before thanks to AI and LLMs doing the hard work on the backend.

Purchasing a subscription to an OTA platform has never made more sense for restaurant owners. Use these tips to ensure you select an OTA platform that will work for your restaurant.

Peter ZaidelPeter Zaidel is the Director of Product Management for Alchemer, an enterprise feedback platform. Peter is an experienced product management and solution delivery leader with a demonstrated history of working in the software (SaaS) and services industries. His specialties include product management and strategy, product launch, design thinking, and solution architecture. Previous to Alchemer, Peter spent 15 years in product development with KPA and is a graduate of Penn State University.