What is a Dine-along? | Restaurant Market Research

A dine-along is a type of restaurant or foodservice market research where a consumer is recruited to eat at a restaurant, whether it be high end or casual, and answer various questions about their dining experience. Much like a shop-along, dine-alongs are a great market research methodology for collecting in the moment, real-time feedback.

With more than 1 million restaurant locations in the United States, the restaurant market can be a challenging industry to succeed in. By conducting regular foodservice market research such as dine-alongs, restaurant stakeholders are able to hear directly from their consumers and stay ahead of the competition.

In this blog post, you’ll gain an inside look at the process of dine-along research recruitment, fieldwork, and reporting when partnering with a restaurant market research company.

Dine-along market research allows restaurants to receive in the moment, actionable feedback from their customers. Gain an inside look at the dine-along market research process from our restaurant market research company.


Dine-along market research pre-recruitment

After an initial project kick-off meeting, a restaurant market research company will work with you to determine what type of participants are best to recruit for your dine-along research. Recruitment demographics can range from age, gender, incomes, types of restaurants visited, and heavy, light, or new users of your establishment.

A restaurant market research company will then create an online survey to pre-screen prospective dine-along participants to verify they meet your target demographic. This pre-screener online survey can be advertised through a number of media channels such as email and paid social media ads. No matter how difficult your audience is to find, our qualitative recruitment company can assist.


Dine-along market research recruitment

After prospective dine-along participants are selected, a restaurant market research company will call those who qualified to ask additional questions pertaining to the foodservice research. Because a dine-along often offers participants a free meal and an additional incentive as a thank you for their time, it is important to test the validity of online survey takers.

Experienced online survey takers likely know what answers they need to submit in order to be selected for the dine-along research and gain added incentives. By adding an additional re-screening call, a restaurant market research company is able to verify the truthfulness and sincerity behind the participants’ answers.

Once the final dine-along recruits are selected, a market research company will send a confirmation email, place a reminder call the day before the dine-along research, as well as a text the day of. This process ensures a high foodservice market research show rate.


Dine-along market research fieldwork

Dine-along fieldwork describes the actual research taking place in which the participant sits and eats their meal at your restaurant. Before walking into the restaurant, participants will meet a team member from the restaurant market research company onsite.

The moderator or analyst will accompany the consumer throughout the visit from ordering through meal completion. The moderator uses both questions as well as observational research to record feedback.

Depending on the objective of your study, questions may include the following:

  • Rate the friendliness of the host/hostess on a scale of 1-5, 5 being the friendliest. Why?
  • How long was the wait to be seated? Did the wait time meet the estimation time?
  • Did the waiter/waitress speak to you about the specials? If so, did you order one of the specials?
  • What menu items did you like the most or least? Why?
  • Were there any items on the menu which confused you? What can be added to clarify?
  • Was the silverware clean enough for your standards?
  • Would you eat here again? Why or why not?

From when a participant enters the restaurant to when they leave, a consumer’s entire experience is fully documented. Questioning each touchpoint along the way allows you to pinpoint areas of satisfaction and areas of improvement.

Also, being that the dine-along participants blend in with the rest of your customers, it is likely they will be treated as such. Your team of hosts, waiters, and chefs will not put on a facade or act in character because they do not know they’re being studied. This allows for the most accurate representation of what it is like to eat at your restaurant.


Dine-along market research reporting

The core deliverable of the dine-along project is the report. A restaurant market research company will review all of the feedback and data collected from the dine-along and deliver key themes, recommendations, and action items from their findings.

For example, the restaurant market research company saw a direct correlation between dissatisfied customers who were given an inaccurate wait time. In other words, most customers who said they would not eat here again also reported a longer wait time than originally anticipated.

Being this is one of the first touchpoints of a consumer’s dining experience, it is essential their expectations are met. Beginning their journey on a bad note will likely affect how they perceive the rest of their meal.

An action item to take away from this research is ensuring the host/hostesses are checking in with waiting customers and providing updated wait times. A small change in the way you do business can be the deciding factor for returning, loyal, and happy customers.


Contact Our Restaurant Market Research Company

Drive Research is a market research company located in Syracuse, NY. Our team has the knowledge and tools to design a robust market research study, should it be the right fit for your business.

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

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