June 30, 2023

When It Comes to Guest Surveys, Restaurants Are Asking the Wrong Questions

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In the fast-paced world of restaurants, feedback from guests is invaluable. It helps restaurants understand their strengths, identify areas for improvement, and ultimately provide a better guest experience. However, many establishments fall into the trap of asking the wrong questions in their surveys. Instead of extracting meaningful insights, they end up with generic feedback that fails to address the core issues at hand.

Common Question 1: How likely are you to recommend us?


While NPS (Net Promoter Score) is a very common metric for measuring guest satisfaction and loyalty, that number is by no means the most informative or actionable. We actually have an entire blog on why NPS is insufficient for measuring guest satisfaction.

The main issues with NPS are that it’s too vague, and tends to leave behind the vast majority of your customer base who don’t fall on the extremes. First of all, it’s too vague in the sense that you only get a rough gauge of whether people love or hate your brand, but can’t really tease out the “why” — What made someone choose your restaurants? What would it take to make them visit again? What’s your operational strengths and weaknesses? Which ordering channel do you need to work on more? Which day part is outperforming the others and how can you bring the other dayparts up to speed?

Unfortunately, NPS can’t answer any of the above questions for you. At the end of the day, you’re left in the dark as to what factors are driving someone’s willingness to recommend your restaurant or not.

Another issue with NPS is that it captures the voices of those who either loved, or hated their experience (the very loud minorities), leaving behind the opinions of the vast majority who had an ok experience — but wished perhaps just one small thing could be better. Since NPS calculation excludes this entire group of people, their helpful feedback is overlooked in the process. To put it simply, NPS doesn’t tell you how to convert those who rate you as a 7 or 8 into a 9 or 10.


Instead of a simple NPS survey, you need a causation-based survey to tell you the “how” and “why”.

But first, what’s a causation-based survey?

As the name suggests, these are surveys that help you uncover the causes of issues, so you can better investigate and fix anything that could lead to guest dissatisfaction.

To create a causation-based survey, you first want to break down an entire guest experience into different operational categories, such as food quality, accuracy, speed of service, hospitality and more. You can even come up with your own operational categories based on the areas you want to measure, although we have battle-tested survey templates to go off of inside Tattle.

Then for each operational category, you want to list out the underlying factors that could contribute to a satisfying or dissatisfying guest experience. For example, under “food quality”, you can have texture, flavor, temperature, presentation and freshness. Under “accuracy”, you can have entrees, sides, special instructions, incomplete order and allergy requests. Under “hospitality”, you could have friendliness, greeting, farewell, eye contact and smiles. Basically, whatever you want to measure, you can put that into a causation-based survey.

Isn’t that too many questions to ask? Well, the answer is no.

Due to the intuitive design of these surveys, the guest can quickly go through the survey without feeling like they’re answering a lot of questions. In fact, Tattle’s causation-based surveys can collect up to 55 data points with an astounding 94.7% average completion rate!

By structuring your surveys this way, you can better uncover root causes of issues and know exactly what you need to fix in order to turn more of your guests into those happy, loyal, repeat customers.

We have an entire survey template guide for you to see more detailed instructions on how to formulate your own causation-based feedback surveys.

Common Question 2: “Tell us about your experience.”


You might think that you’re making it easy for the guests by leaving the question open-ended, but text entry questions aren’t in fact helpful for either you or your guests.

For your operations team, open-ended text comments leave them with no control over the things you want to measure, since the guests could simply write about anything they want. For example, if you really want to solicit feedback on your food quality, there’s no guarantee that your guests will comment on that (they might end up only venting about a particular server that night, for example). That means you’ll likely end up with a blind spot regarding the performance of some very important operational categories.

Secondly, a text box very likely ends up capturing only the opinions of the extremes — those who either loved or hated their experience. It’s not a small lift to write up sentences and recount an anecdote. The only people who are motivated to do so are likely those who felt very emotional about their visit. That results in you leaving out the vast majority of guests who likely have very valuable input about where you could improve operationally, but wouldn’t bother to write down sentences.

Lastly, text entries are extremely difficult to structure and analyze. Sure, you can try to read through all the comments, but it would be a tremendous amount of work to properly categorize each comment and tease out what the anecdotal feedback is trying to convey. Some restaurants resort to word bubble analysis in order to scale up their text analysis efforts. But the issue with word bubbles is that it only shows you how many times a word is mentioned, without providing the full context and sentiment around how the word is mentioned. 

As you can see, text entries are supplemental to your guest surveys at best, and by no means can be relied on as the main form of feedback collection.


Instead of kicking the ball to your guests’ court and let them brood over what feedback to give, you can regain control by designing a causation-based survey. For specifics on how to do so, please refer to the previous section.

We just want to quickly highlight a few other reasons why this would be the best practice for collecting feedback. First up, you’re actually making your guests’ lives much easier by guiding them through the structured survey and all they have to do is toggling on the scale of satisfaction how they felt about each operational category and underlying factor. Data has proven that this survey method is way easier on the guest — on average 94.7% of all guests complete the survey once they finish the first question, even though each survey collects up to 55 data points! This is because the intuitive survey design makes it feel like you aren’t really answering many questions at all. 

Secondly, you get to take over control of what type of feedback you want to collect. Want feedback on your new pickup process? Incorporate it in your causation-based surveys! Want to understand if people like your new LTO? You can even collect menu item level feedback in these surveys. What’s more, you get to standardize the questions asked across all locations, so you can establish an objective benchmark for comparing performances across the organization. 

As you can see, this revamped survey design is truly a win-win for both your operations teams and your customers.

Common Question 3: Asking for order details.


Does half of your survey consist of questions such as order date, time, location, channel (dine-in, delivery, takeout etc.), ordered items etc.?

First of all, we applaud you for trying to attribute the when, where, what and who of each feedback submission. It’s of absolutely crucial for verifying the truthfulness of the feedback, and for investigating the root cause of issues.

However, you’re wasting the guests’ time on questions that don’t provide direct value on operational improvements. Not only will guests likely abandon the survey due to the mundane details, but also you don’t get to ask as many operations related questions that will inform your teams how to improve.

So if we don’t want to fly blind without these transactional details, but also don’t want to waste survey questions on such information, what should we do?



What if we tell you there’s a way to still obtain all the information you need on the order details, without having to ask the guest for it at all?

One word — integration.

By integrating your feedback platform with your ordering, POS and loyalty providers, you can centralize guest information within the same dashboard. Not only will you have the order details associated with each feedback submission, but also you can see how many times the guest has visited, what their previous orders are, what prior feedback they have provided, their prior correspondence with your guest relations ream and whether they are a loyalty program member or not. 

That’s why Tattle integrates with most restaurant techstack out there to unlock this level of insights for our restaurant partners, so that they can focus on operational insights and guest recovery.

Thanks to such integrations, Tattle triggers automatic survey emails or SMSs to each customer 90 minutes after a transaction, with a survey link pre-populated with order details — so the guest doesn’t need to fill it out manually. For restaurants using Tattle, they can see the each guest’s full provide including their order, feedback and communications history all within the Tattle dashboard. This make it incredibly easy for General Managers or guest relations teams to investigate issues and resolve any complaints instantly.


At the end of the day, it’s essential to remember that feedback is not a one-way street. Restaurants must foster an open and welcoming environment that encourages customers to voice their opinions freely. By actively seeking out feedback and demonstrating a genuine willingness to listen, we can create a sense of partnership with our customers—a relationship built on trust and mutual understanding.

You can watch a quick video to see how the Tattle platform works to generate all the insights you need to make the above decisions. Or even better, book a live demo with our team to get started!

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