8 Restaurant Market Research Options for the Dining Industry

food at restaurants

Whether your restaurant is well-established or merely a concept, market research can be extremely beneficial to its success. 

In this article, we'll explore a range of effective restaurant market research options tailored specifically for the dining industry.

From customer surveys to competitor analysis, we'll delve into essential strategies that empower restaurants to make informed decisions and create exceptional dining experiences.

How Restaurants Can Benefit from Market Research

As with most brands and organizations, restaurants are left to answer key business questions with best guesses and assumptions.

They're often left to guess why customers choose a competitor, what specials will draw in new business and other areas of opportunity. 

Here is where market research for the dining industry can help skyrocket business. It provides restaurants with data-driven insights to determine what improvements they can be made.

Popular objectives market research can solve for restaurants include:

  • Understand what types of cuisine and dining experiences are most appealing to your target audience
  • Measuring and improving customer satisfaction
  • Assessing local competition
  • Determine optimal pricing for menu items based on perceived value, cost, and customer willingness to pay

How To Conduct Market Research For Restaurants Like A Pro

Understand Your Business Goals

Before diving into market research, it's crucial to define clear business goals. Whether it's expanding your customer base, optimizing menu offerings, or enhancing customer satisfaction, a solid understanding of your objectives will shape the direction of your research efforts.

Identify Your Customers and Target Audience

Knowing your customers is at the heart of effective market research. Dive deep into demographic information, such as age, income, and location, to understand who frequents your establishment. Furthermore, uncover psychographic details like preferences, behaviors, and dining habits to create tailored experiences that resonate with your target audience.

Know Your Competitors

Competitor analysis is an indispensable aspect of market research. By evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of rival establishments, you gain invaluable insights into what sets your restaurant apart. This knowledge empowers you to refine your offerings and marketing strategies to captivate diners in a fiercely competitive market.

Restaurant Market Research Options

1. Online surveys

A restaurant might want to conduct an online survey for several important reasons.

First and foremost, it provides a direct channel of communication with its customers, allowing them to gather valuable feedback on various aspects of the dining experience.

This feedback can include opinions on the quality of...

  • Food
  • Service
  • Ambiance
  • Pricing
  • Overall satisfaction

By understanding customer preferences and concerns, restaurants can identify areas for improvement and make informed decisions to enhance the dining experience.

2. Intercept surveys

Is there quite a bit of foot traffic near your proposed site? If so, an intercept survey might be an effective way to collect feedback from your target audience.

This method can also be combined with online surveys to maximize your reach. 

Here is an example of an intercept survey our market research firm conducted to understand customer confusion with a restaurant's local competition.

3. Competitive assessments

Does the market need a new restaurant? How are your competitors performing? Are there any gaps in the market?

These questions can be answered through a competitive assessment, helping to set your new restaurant up for success from the very start.

This secondary research method can be easily combined with other primary forms such as online or phone surveys

4. Focus groups

Whether it’s testing a new concept, deciding on menu items, or deciding on branding, a focus group is an extremely effective way to speak directly to your target market.

A restaurant focus group collects a variety of different opinions of many different perspectives, all at once.

Recommended Reading: Restaurant Focus Group Case Study

5. Customer surveys

Conducting customer experience (CX) market research lets your restaurant know what it’s doing well and identifies any needed areas of improvement.

Customer satisfaction surveys are useful tools restaurants can use to measure how they’re doing. 

Here are some effective ways to gather customer feedback for your restaurant. 

E-mail surveys

Ask those who have provided their email addresses, perhaps through a loyalty program, to take a short survey after each visit. 

Point of purchase survey

After customers pay for their bills using a kiosk, prompt them to take a short survey. This method is effective because the customer experience is still brand new.

If they specifically had a positive or negative experience, they’re most likely to remember important details.  

Receipt survey

Offer customers the opportunity to share feedback by including a code and survey link on the receipt. Often, customers will be rewarded with a coupon for their next visit.

If a customer offers positive feedback or identifies themself as a promoter in a survey, you can always ask them to leave a Google review or a testimonial for marketing purposes. 

6. Mystery shopping

Mystery shopping is a valuable tool for restaurants because it provides an unbiased assessment of the customer experience.

By sending undercover evaluators, restaurants can gain firsthand insights into the quality of service, food, and overall atmosphere. This feedback helps identify areas for improvement and ensures that the restaurant maintains high standards of customer satisfaction.

7. Market segmentation

Market segmentation studies involve categorizing a restaurant's target market into distinct segments based on various factors such as behavior, demographics, or psychographics.

It is an effective restaurant market research option because by recognizing the diverse preferences, needs, and behaviors within an audience, restaurants can tailor their marketing efforts and menu offerings to specific customer groups.

For example, a restaurant might identify segments that prefer vegetarian options, have a preference for specific cuisines, or prioritize fast service.

This approach allows for more effective and targeted marketing campaigns, ultimately enhancing customer satisfaction and loyalty within each segment. 

Here is an example of a customer segment we created based on a grocery consumer segmentation study our market research company conducted.

8. Online reputation management

Online reputation management is another crucial methodology for restaurants because the Internet plays a central role in shaping consumer opinions.

Potential customers often rely on online reviews and ratings to make dining decisions. In fact, 33% of restaurant-goers stated that they would not eat at a restaurant with an average 3-star rating on online review websites such as Yelp, Google, and Facebook.

Therefore, by actively managing their online presence, restaurants can respond to feedback, address concerns, and highlight positive experiences, demonstrating a commitment to customer satisfaction.

This proactive approach not only helps build trust with existing customers but also attracts new patrons, ultimately contributing to a positive brand image and increased business success.

FAQ For Restaurant Market Research

What is market research for restaurants?

Restaurant market research involves the systematic gathering and analysis of data related to the restaurant industry, including customer preferences, competitor analysis, and market trends, to make informed business decisions.

Why is market research important in restaurant planning?

Market research is crucial in restaurant planning as it provides essential insights into customer behavior, preferences, and market trends. This information helps restaurants tailor their offerings, pricing strategies, and marketing efforts to meet the demands of their target audience, ultimately increasing the chances of success in a competitive industry.

Contact Our Restaurant Market Research Firm

Drive Research, a full-service market research firm, has worked with restaurants across the country from fast food to fine dining. Our restaurant market research company has the knowledge and tools to recommend the best market research study that provides the insights your specific restaurant needs to succeed. 

Are you interested in learning more about our market research services? Reach out through any of the four ways below.

  1. Message us on our website
  2. Email us at [email protected]
  3. Call us at 888-725-DATA
  4. Text us at 315-303-2040

emily carroll about the author

Emily Rodgers

A SUNY Cortland graduate, Emily has taken her passion for social and content marketing to Drive Research as the Marketing Manager. She has earned certificates for both Google Analytics and Google AdWords.

Learn more about Emily, here.


subscribe to our blog


Market Research Analysis