Gaining fresh and honest insight into guest satisfaction among diners has always escaped the F&B industry – until Norwegian tech company Foodback devised Digital Bill Folder surveys, resulting in 90 percent response rates and invaluable business insight.

By Kim Wyon

There is no sell-by date for the business value of honest feedback from diners while it’s still fresh in memory. But all too often, diners in Scandinavia are too timid to offer their candid opinion – or so the founders of the Foodback company observed – although such plain talk would naturally be highly valued since it can help restaurateurs fine-tune their products.

Emailed Guest Satisfaction Surveys (GSS) are a common feature offered by online table reservation companies. But not all restaurants use booking providers (especially hotels and casual eateries), and the response rate from diners to emailed survey requests received many hours after dining is often low.

And although online rating websites such as TripAdvisor offer restaurant-owners insight into honest guest opinions, these responses may be unrepresentative due to the limited number of postings and may in some cases cause reputational damage rather than offer valuable business insight – complaints are best dealt with right away in the restaurant rather than on review websites or social media.

A novel approach to the psychology of the payment situation has made the Foodback company win the hearts of over 300 F&B outlets in Norway. Here, bills are handed to guests in Digital Bill Folders, which when opened not only contain the bill itself but also a small tablet display that lights up. The tablet features a survey of five questions regarding the food, service, atmosphere and the restaurant itself, which diners are encouraged to answer – and perhaps leave a personal comment.

The response rate speaks for itself – 90 percent of diners answer the 5 questions, 35 percent leave a personal comment, and 50 percent offer demographical data, such as age, gender and email. The whole survey procedure takes on average around 45 seconds.

But just how do you achieve a 90 percent response rate?

“The most important thing a restaurant can do is to provide good training for their waiters, who are the ones delivering the Digital Bill Folder. If bills are handed to guests without using the folder, restaurants will not receive any feedback. Restaurants are able to access performance data on each individual waiter to see how often they distribute the Digital Bill Folders and what the specific response rate is from their guests,” says Fredrik Amundsen – Business Developer at Foodback to GUEST magazine.

And what kind of guests are most likely to complete the survey?

“We see that response rates tend to depend on the situation. Business travellers are less likely to rate their hotel breakfast than when sitting in a restaurant or canteen where they have more time. Nonetheless, we generally experience high response rates no matter the age group, which is probably due to the screen lighting up when the folder is opened to display 4-5 simple questions that guests rate from 1-6,” Fredrik Amundsen adds.

The Digital Bill Folder features 5 individual questions out of 40 questions surveyed at the restaurant. The Foodback Weekly Report digs deeper into the numbers and offering an overview of trends.

Restaurant – Weekly Report

FOODBACK ANALYTICS

By offering diners the discretion of rating their experience on a Digital Bill Folder rather than offering their compliments – or otherwise – directly to the waiter, restaurants not only gain sky-high response rates, they also obtain the kind of straight-talking feedback necessary for an analytical approach.

Although diners are only asked five questions, the total number of queries in the survey loop posed to different diners at different times is 50. All questions are devised by industry experts and processed by Artificial Intelligence (AI). And the resulting business intelligence is displayed in real time on a single dashboard compatible with any device.

“The information displayed on our feedback dashboards includes key data, such as overviews of positive and negative feedback, trend lines of overall guest satisfaction over time, response rates and performance levels in relation to pre-defined category goals (rated 1-6).

“Furthermore, restaurant chains can currently benchmark a number of factors for internal use among affiliated outlets, either comparing individual outlets or groups of outlets, to identify best-practice performers and those underperforming. We will also introduce anonymous external industry benchmarking – and we are working on offering regression analyses,” Fredrik Amundsen explains.

In food courts, hotels and canteens, feedback can also be facilitated by guests scanning a QR code. But what can encourage out-and-about diners to do so?

“Restaurants where the Digital Bill Folder is used clearly have the highest response rate, while our other solutions require guests to take action to provide feedback – such as scanning a QR code, replying to an email, text message or push message.

“We see a tendency for younger people to give feedback more often with QR codes, presumably because they are more used to smartphones. We also have a number of incentive schemes for QR-code users where they can spin a wheel of fortune and win a prize they get immediately. This is probably more attractive to a younger audience. The overall response rate with QR-code use is between 10-25 percent,” Fredrik Amundsen says.

Consumers using apps to order fast-food from providers partnered with Loopon will receive a text message, push message or email one hour after collecting their order inviting them to take part in a four-step Foodback survey uniquely designed for fast-food businesses. Here response rates are more sluggish – around 7-8 percent.

SPLITTING THE BILL

Another advantage to the Digital Bill Folder solution from Foodback is the option of guests paying their bills using mobile payment – and splitting the bill amongst them. To do so, each diner needs to scan a QR code in the bill folder and submit their phone number before finally accepting payment on their own mobile. Sounds tricky, but mobile payment with Foodback takes less than 30 seconds.

On the Norwegian market, mobile payment is currently offered in partnership with Vipps and Alipay but on the wider Scandinavian market now targeted by Foodback, local mobile payment providers will be used. In Denmark, MobilePay and in Sweden, Swish.