Consumer Priorities Have Changed Since EOTHO Discount Scheme, Analysis Reveals

This month marks two years since Rishi Sunak launched the Eat Out to Help Out scheme, aimed at getting people into restaurants during the pandemic. While the scheme had a profoundly positive impact on restaurants during its most difficult time, it acted as a short-term solution to a long-term question – how to keep guests coming back to restaurants. Now, new research by SevenRooms indicates that two years on, Brits’ preferences are vastly different. Analysis reveals that value for money is eighth on the priority list for consumers, indicating that restaurants need to offer much more than a discount.

With record numbers of restaurants now making losses amid the cost of living crisis, the hospitality sector is under increasing pressure to attract customers. The ‘Quest for Five Stars’ study from the guest experience and retention platform for the hospitality industry, looks at what makes the top restaurants in the UK so successful, based on one of the most important indicators for the quality of a restaurant – guest reviews.

SevenRooms identified the most common themes mentioned in online reviews of the 2022 National Restaurant Awards’ Top 50, and the quality of food came out on top – mentioned in more than three in four reviews.

Top 8 most-mentioned topics in reviews of UK’s top restaurants
1. Quality of food (76%)
2. Great service (45%)
3. Friendly staff (34%)
4. Restaurant atmosphere (23%)
5. Knowledgeable staff (16%)
6. Special or extra touches (9%)
7. Presentation of food (8%)
8. Value for money (7%)

The research reveals that consumers also prioritise great service (45%), friendly staff (34%), restaurant atmosphere (23%), and knowledgeable staff (16%). Almost 1 in 10 (9%) specifically mentioned special or extra touches, such as birthday cards, a complimentary drink, or a tour of the kitchen being the reason for a great experience.

Restaurants need to ensure they are resilient in the face of rising bills and diners feeling the financial pinch. Solely offering value for money is no longer enough. With meals out increasingly becoming a luxury, these findings reveal the perfect recipe for getting a five star rating.

Danilo Mangano, Managing Director, International at SevenRooms, comments:
“Eat Out to Help Out had a significant impact on restaurants during the pandemic – bookings were off the charts in August 2020, bringing in much-needed revenue during a challenging period. Today, however, we’re in a different time. Given that most consumers have fewer pounds in their pockets, they are looking for the whole experience to be memorable and feel worth it. For the majority of British diners, experience is everything.

Restaurants have a real opportunity this summer to make a more profound impact on their diners. With restaurant reviews crucial for operators, attention must be paid to what diners pick up on and enjoy. This summer provides a chance to wow guests with all the things our research identified as being most important in reviews – standout food, friendly and knowledgeable service, and the little touches that make people feel special. This will, in turn, lead to deeper loyalty and a boost in revenue – making those coveted 5 star reviews all the more likely.”