Restaurant Focus Groups: Your Recipe for Success

interior of restaurant

In the ever-evolving landscape of the culinary world, understanding the preferences of your customers is incredibly important.

Enter: Restaurant focus groups.

These curated groups of diners offer a direct line into the minds (and palates) of your target audience, providing insights that can transform your eatery into a dining destination of choice.

In this blog post, our restaurant market research company explores focus groups: what they are, their value in the restaurant industry, and examples.

We'll also delve into a real-world case study, showcasing the tangible impact these groups can have on a restaurant's success.

Interested in conducting focus groups for your restaurant? Our market research company can help. Contact Drive Research today by filling out an online form or emailing [email protected].

What is a Focus Group in a Restaurant? 

Focus groups for restaurants provide in-depth consumer insights so that management teams can improve their food, services, marketing, and related outreach. 

Focus groups can be conducted in person at a focus group facility or online through Zoom and other video conferencing tools.

Because dining out has many different layers to it for the consumer, in-person focus groups allow the following…

  • Cultivation of easy participant discussions
  • Researchers can pick up on nonverbal cues
  • Simple follow-up questions

Importance of Conducting Restaurant Focus Groups

Running restaurant focus groups are all about improving the customer experience. 

This is important for any business, of course. But it's especially important for restaurants since dining out and ordering food for pickup or delivery, is so consumer-centric. 

In fact, our market research company recently polled over 950 consumers about their fast food consumption and preferences. Our survey results showed that speed of service is important to 42% of people when choosing where they are going to eat.

Moreover, focus groups are valuable for restaurants because they provide in-depth insights into: 

  • Quality of product (or food, in this case)
  • Menu development
  • Pricing
  • Brand perception 
  • Service quality 
  • Areas of improvement

Of course, these are just a few benefits of focus groups for restaurants. Management teams can go into focus groups with certain objectives and work with their research team to meet them. 

Overall, the value of conducting focus groups for a restaurant lies in the ability to gain deep insights into customer preferences, perceptions, and behavior, which can inform strategic decisions to enhance the customer experience and ultimately drive business success.

For more, check out our short video on the benefits of focus groups.

Examples of Restaurant Focus Groups 

Let's review some examples of focus groups in the restaurant industry. 

Menu Development Group

Offering invaluable advice for one of the most prominent aspects of a restaurant, this group relays what should be included (or excluded) from a menu.

What meals are appealing?

Which are less-than-pleasant?

Is pricing fair?

It's questions like these that will be answered by menu development groups. 

Concept Testing Group

These groups will provide feedback about the general concept of a restaurant. With many restaurants failing due to an "undefined concept," this group is not to be dismissed.

Common feedback themes included: 

  • Theme
  • Style
  • Ambiance

Basically, everything that sets the tone for a great dining experience can be measured by concept groups. 

Cuisine Preferences Group

Everyone has a favorite cuisine they like to dine out on. This group centers around identifying preferred cuisine types.

Since there are so many restaurants focused on different cuisines, a preferences group will provide data to help a restaurant stand out. 

Decor and Ambiance Group

Who doesn't like going to a restaurant with the perfect ambiance? That said, coming up with the "perfect" ambiance can be a challenge. Groups designed around this concept are especially helpful when conducting food market research. 

Their feedback will allow restaurant management teams to nail details like...

  • Decor
  • Design
  • Lighting

Target Audience Group

Hitting the right target demographic is especially important for restaurants. With this group, participants will go over their typical habits when dining out.

This information will then be used by the restaurant team to cater to the correct audience. 

Online Presence and Marketing Group

What gives a restaurant that special "edge" against competitors? Having a great social media and online presence.

This group will provide important insight into what a restaurant can do to nail these categories. By being active online, restaurants can attract new customers, thus creating a loyal base. 

New Location Evaluation Group

This group is ideal for restaurant focus groups focusing on franchises. The more successful these locations become, the more consumers will demand.

But what makes the ideal location for a franchise?

Thankfully, management teams will be able to answer these questions based on data from evaluation groups. 

Restaurant Focus Group Case Study

In this section, we provide an overview of a restaurant market research project completed for a national chain eatery at our focus group facility in Syracuse.

Learn more about the project overview, our qualitative recruitment process, the two focus groups, and the deliverables.

Project Background

A national restaurant chain with several restaurants in the Syracuse area was interested in hiring our restaurant market research company to host two focus groups in their area.

The objective of the restaurant market research was centered around consumers who ate at a fast-casual restaurant at least twice in the past 3 months.

Each focus group was also divided between heavy users and light or non-users:

  • Heavy users: Visited the fast-casual restaurant 4+ times in the past year.
  • Light or non-users: Visited the fast-casual restaurant less than 2 times in the past year.

Both focus groups were held at the Drive Research focus group facility in NY.

Recruiting Participants for the Focus Groups

The process of recruiting participants for the local restaurant transpired over two stages.

  1. First, Drive Research constructed targeted email lists of panel participants living in Syracuse.
  2. Second, our restaurant market research company created and ran paid randomized social media ads through Facebook and Instagram.

Both email and social promotion encouraged the target audience to take a recruitment screener created by Drive Research in order to pre-screen prospective focus group participants.

Those who qualified then received an additional re-screening phone call so that we could ask additional questions, verifying their online survey answers.

If selected, the focus group recruits received a confirmation email asking them to reply back “yes” if they wanted to participate in the restaurant market research.

Lastly, our focus group recruitment agency then called participants a day or two before the restaurant focus group, as well as a final reminder text the day of the sessions.

Hosting the Restaurant Focus Groups

On a Wednesday evening, the first focus group began at 5:30 p.m. with the second focus group to follow at 7:30 p.m.

Our restaurant market research company recommends holding two separate groups to answer similar questions.

That's because hosting a second focus group will act as a gut check to verify the data and findings discovered from the first group.

Additionally, Drive Research invited stakeholders from the local restaurant and the advertising agency assisting with the branding to our focus group facility in Syracuse.

Here clients were able to sit in our 14’ by 14’ viewing room to watch and listen as pictured below.

Syracuse focus group facility

Upon leaving, the client also received a USB flash drive holding all audio and video files from the focus group sessions for further analysis and reporting.

For those unable to attend either session, stakeholders could still have an inside look into the qualitative research as the focus groups were streamed live off-site in HD.

The video stream also includes chat functionality to make the experience immersive and engaging.

Contact our Restaurant Market Research Company

Drive Research is a restaurant market research company that specializes in qualitative and quantitative studies. Whether it be surveys, focus groups, menu optimization, or ad concept testing - we can help.

Are you interested in conducting market research? Contact us.

  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.

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