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It's no secret that the restaurant sector is a very competitive segment of the service industry to survive in for full-service restaurant concepts. Most restaurants struggle to make it past the first, second, and third years of business; the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics reported that only around 25% of the restaurants that opened in 2004 were still in business eight years later in 2012.

With such an intimidatingly high failure rate, this business is not for the faint of heart or those who fear change.

We were lucky to have Tom Prince, founder and owner of Tomasso Trattoria start using On The Spot's mobile survey tool in February 2011 to improve customer satisfaction and loyalty based on real-time feedback.

What follows is a very nice testimonial from Tom - which should help everyone in this space improve their loyalty programs.

Prince believes that the addition of On The Spot's mobile survey tool has had both tangible and intangible benefits that have played a key role in the success and profitability of Tomasso Trattoria.

It is so essential in this day and age to use real-time survey tools because it supplies a depth of beneficial knowledge to restaurant operators specific to their business and customer base. The company administers the surveys during "available guest time(TM)" -- the time when a patron's check is being processed -- by providing guests with a survey board.

Pioneered by On The Spot Systems for use in the service industry a 'survey board' is an iPod touch programmed to run the survey that sits atop a lightweight bamboo board and can be easily handed to guests at the table. Tomasso Trattoria also offers an iPad kiosk programmed to run the survey at the front of the house so that patrons can also take the survey and sign up for the newsletter club as they leave the restaurant.

Impressively, 91.3% of Tomasso Trattoria guests that are offered the option to skip the survey and just sign up for the email club will voluntarily opt-in to take the survey. This validates the value of the data that the restaurant is receiving and they are extremely proud of because it shows that guests value the opportunity not just to stay in touch for promotions, but also to give their feedback.

Whether or not customers choose to take the survey, they're asked to join the Tomasso Trattoria newsletter mailing list to receive special promotions and offers. Over 3,500 customer email addresses have been collected from the survey and are automatically fed into their email-marketing database; the ability to e-market and promote restaurant specials to this list drives foot traffic and revenue, increases social buzz and the likeliness of customer recommendations.

In fact, the National Restaurant Association published their findings from a survey conducted on dining habits in 2012, which showed an industry standard of 45% of diners say that they respond strongly to promotional advertisement via email.

This high conversion rate from marketing to purchase intent means that a growing email-marketing list will continue to enable Tomasso Trattoria to strengthen their customer base and encourage repeat visits.

Prince reflected on the intangible benefits of the survey data, stating,

If a customer has a poor experience with their meal, they have the opportunity to vent and give feedback directly to the restaurant instead of running home to post their opinion on a social network. We've seen a noticeable decrease in customers airing their grievances on public forums such as Yelp!, which could be seen by any interested diner.

Tomasso Trattoria isn't the only restaurant that should be worried about the negative effects of poor comments on peer-review websites for their business;

The National Restaurant Association conducted research on dining habits and found that 34% of diners base their decision on what restaurant to go to from peer comments and reviews on forums and social network sites.

Another benefit of switching to the service was realized through the level of engagement of the staff. As the restaurant industry remains fiercely competitive, it has become increasingly important that the staff members in the front of the house are truly involved in enhancing the guest experience and contributing towards positive impressions of the restaurant's service and atmosphere.

With the addition of the mobile survey, Prince has been able to realize a significant improvement in the awareness and recognition of customer feedback as a driver of success. Prince said,

The survey has made it more apparent to the staff that customer feedback is the ultimate evaluation of their performance.

When asked how using a mobile device to take the survey improved the process of data collection Prince answered enthusiastically.

As he said, "The mobile devices are fun and easy to use. For some of the older clients who don't have as much experience with modern technology, the survey gives them a chance to explore and have fun with something that they don't regularly see. Using mobile technology not only improves the process of data collection, it is also infinitely more responsive.

In Prince's words, "Our response rate from our previous paper survey forms was miniscule as compared with the high response rate we get from On The Spot Systems."cognition of customer feedback as a driver of success. Prince said, "The survey has made it more apparent to the staff that customer feedback is the ultimate evaluation of their performance."

"In an industry like hospitality, whenever you are given the opportunity to get customer feedback you need to jump on it. That is why On The Spot Systems is so useful; the survey is quick, efficient, and innovative," said Prince. He continued, "The specific comments we get about food and service allow us to make quick and effective changes in either product or people."

On The Spot Systems allows Tomasso Trattoria to constantly change and innovate to suit customers' needs, likes, and dislikes in a modern and convenient manner. We are thankful to Tom for such a fulsome testimonial!

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Bart Golub, Manager of Slot Marketing for Tropicana Las Vegas, explain how The Tropicana Las Vegas re-invigorated their Players Club by using emerging mobile data collection technology to grow their loyal customer base our On The Spot Systems' mobile survey tool.

As part of an initiative to re-market the Tropicana Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas to younger generations to come, the Trop had to look closely at the ways that they were communicating with their target audience.

"We just began a large-scale marketing campaign on the Las Vegas Strip to drive new enrollments to the Trop Plus Players Club," said Bart Golub, Manager of Slot Marketing for the Tropicana Las Vegas. The Trop took the opportunity to look at other areas of their marketing and customer loyalty operations and decided it was also time for a much-needed facelift to the Trop Plus Players Club enrollment process.

The Trop began using the On The Spot Systems mobile survey platform in early December 2012 and have already received over 3,000 submissions for the Trop Players Club in under 4 months. 

Although Golub's responsibilities at the Trop fall under the marketing department, he has been able to see the effect that real-time data has on daily operations at the hotel and casino.

Golub noted, "Given the ability to now sort through survey results instantaneously, with On the Spot Systems, taking notice of and responding to customer trends has become quick and easy." From an operations perspective, the Trop was immediately pleased with the advanced features offered by the On The Spot Systems tool such as scheduled automated report delivery and trend reports for analyzing marketing effectiveness.

"A report is automatically sent to my inbox every morning with the prior day's aggregated survey results (one of the questions asks customers how they heard about our loyalty program), so I know right away what's driving people to our property: which marketing initiatives are working, and which may not be working as well as we'd hoped," said Goblub.

Among the programs that Golub uses the survey to monitor is the Hilton HHonors program. As a member of the Hilton alliance, the Tropicana Player's Club enrollment survey is another opportunity to assess if the hotel meeting the expectations of the HHonors members. 

The ability to react and see results in real-time was another value-added benefit of the On The Spot technology. Golub added, "Gone are the days where I'd have to wait weeks or months to realize there might be a problem, because now that information is literally at my fingertips."

The Tropicana marketing manager quickly realized that he was not the only ones impressed by the transition to a mobile automated signup process.

Golub recounts, "When we used to hand people a photocopied piece of paper and a pen, they were at worst extremely annoyed and at best mildly reluctant.

It's amazing how much more willing customers are to use an iPad, even since the questions haven't changed at all.

We now see almost no hesitation, sometimes even excitement, when our Players Club Representatives ask new customers to complete the four- to six-question survey electronically."

The Trop was also aware of some additional benefits when switching to the mobile survey tool. "Beyond the obvious cost savings in paper and toner, switching to a fully electronic system has already saved us hundreds of dollars in labor.

Before, it took dozens of employee hours each month to manually input data from our paper surveys into Excel (some questions also prompted write-in answers, which took even more time to input and later analyze). On the Spot Systems provided us with instant data aggregation and comprehensive reporting tools, immediately saving my team a significant amount of time and money," said Golub.

Thanks for this Client Testimonial Received February 2013 from Bart Golub, Manager of Slot Marketing for Tropicana Las Vegas! 

If franchisee satisfaction is, as we believe, an important indicator of future actions, the next few years could be challenging for the franchise industry. 

Future success for most franchisors is dependent on the renewal of existing franchises and the sale of new franchises. Current franchisees play an important role in this process. In addition to royalties and other payments to the franchisor, franchisees also serve as referral agents that impact on new sales. The thoughts and intentions of current franchisees is crucial intelligence for a franchisor that can aid in building their franchise network.  Franchisors can improve their operations and growth by understanding current levels of franchisee satisfaction and its impact.

Franchisees have had an exceptionally difficult year - possibly the worst of their working lives.  National Franchisee Survey respondents report that few are meeting their financial goals, seeing increased revenues/profits or would consider recommending their current franchise to a prospective franchisee.  The vast majority do not expect to be with their current franchise in five years time.  Yet a majority consider their operation to be superior to that of the competition. 

The following table shows three leading indicators that are incorporated into our National Franchisee Survey,  from 2010:

Franchise Facts.gif

What we see is troubling. By a wide margin, surveyed franchisees report that they would not provide a positive referral to a prospective franchisee. They also report that they would not have invested in their current franchise had they known what they now know. Since overall numbers can hide crucial differences such as those between newer and older franchisees, we also look at these indicators based on years in operation. We find similar results regardless of how long a franchisee has owned the business. This suggests that current concerns have existed for an extended period of time.

When asked about future plans, only 16% of respondents anticipate doing the same thing in five years. While only 14% anticipate retirement, 70% anticipate either owning a different business or being an employee for another business. 

Should these patterns persist, many franchises will encounter significant challenges in the coming years. At the very least, a very large number of new franchisees will be needed to maintain the current infrastructure and revenues of the existing franchise networks. These new franchisees will be harder to find if current franchisees are not prepared to provide positive referrals. Some franchisors may choose to ignore these trends and could very well see a decline in their franchise network.

More enlightened franchisors will look inward to determine if the patterns we have identified are reflected within their network. Should these patterns be confirmed and reversed, short term benefits would likely include a reduction in costly internal litigation. Longer term trends would include a larger and growing franchise network plus a growing dominance within their respective industries.

QSRs and hotels have embraced the notion of customer feedback. We’re inundated by surveys, comment cards, and “tell us how we did” prompts.

The interesting thing is that all of these methods of gathering feedback produce structured data that can be (unintentionally or not) manipulated by the business. For example;

  • “Please tell us how good your food was” – Manipulative because it positions the food as being “good”
  • “What other restaurants would you compare us to? Please choose” – The comparison restaurants may or may not be similar in concept or food and beverage offerings.  The business is forcing the survey respondent to  limit their answer to a pre-selected set of answers.  This type of question (multiple choice) is inherently manipulative for a survey response.
  • “Rate your experience” – This question limits what a respondent can discuss.  They may have 20 great details they wish to share, but the one negative detail will cloud their overall perception and therefore skew their score.  This is the fundamental problem with the “stars” rating system used by so many review sites.


By limiting the methods of response, cleverly wording questions, or simply using different types of questions, a business can “force” the responses of their customers.  Not all of this type of manipulation is bad however.  A business may have a known problem area they wish to address and can use a survey to ask specific questions about it.  They may wish to use the information to measure or track their employee performance and use quantitative scales to do so.  These are tried and tested uses of surveys that can help a business optimize their operations.

Approaches like these are valuable tools, but the one key element they struggle with is the ability to uncover what’s actually on their customer’s minds.  You may be asking about your service when your customers are really more interested in telling you about your food and beverages.  In order to best understand what a customer really wants you to know, we need to open up our options of receiving and understanding feedback.

Think about it from this example.  Which of the two methods of feedback is more valuable?  Consider that they are both commenting about the same topic, “service”, and that it is the same customer providing both methods of feedback.

  • A traditional survey response rating “service” as a 1 out of a possible 10 points.
  • A Facebook comment from that same customer that says “The service was fine, but the waiter spilled a water glass on my shoe!  At least they apologized about it, but c’mon!”


The Facebook comment explains why the customer was unhappy with thee service, but it also informs you the service the customer received appeared to be okay. These types of nuances simply cannot be ascertained from a traditional survey question and can be a critical to your evaluation of a disgruntled customer.

Over the past month alone, we have gathered and analyzed over a million customer comments posted on sites like Facebook, Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Twitter for our clients.  An amazing amount of feedback that continues to see double digit growth month over month.  These are unprompted, top-of-mind comments directly from customers who ate at your restaurant, stayed at your hotel, or shopped at your store.   Just gathering and reading this feedback alone is valuable, but we take it one step further and analyze it down to individual insights that can be used to optimize your operations.

While traditional surveys have been the benchmark for guest satisfaction for many years, the smart businesses are starting to realize that using unprompted customer feedback gathered from Social Media sources can be at least, if not more valuable to their business.

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