Canadian restaurants to set the table on expectations

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According to Vice-President Susan Sanei-Stamp “Ensuring that strategies are in place to minimize, or ideally eliminate, potential bad experiences at a restaurant is key. But even more important is understanding what guests mean when they refer to an experience as having been bad.” Given the prevalence of word-of-mouth and the increased use of peer-reviewed channels, earning a trusted spot in the minds of guests becomes a prized goal.


In a competitive environment, restaurants cannot thrive against the onslaught of negative word-of-mouth. Endorsements go a long way in driving guest counts while bad experiences are a sure way to jeopardize this. The latest Harris/Decima poll reveals that roughly one-in-five guests have had a bad restaurant experience in the past 3 months. They have then gone to tell an average of 7 other people about this – the number increases to 10 among more affluent Canadians and potentially grows even more when considering that at the time of the experience, most were not alone at the table.

The poll reveals that the presence of an award and/or favourable ranking can influence expectations. When seeing an award/ranking at a restaurant, nearly one-in-two (46%) Canadians report being confident that they’ll have a good experience while four-in-ten (42%) say they feel reassured in their decision to visit that restaurant. In fact, they go on to identify 3 key areas they are most interested in seeing evaluated: overall food quality, service quality, and value for money.

Adds Sanei-Stamp: “Restaurants are working harder than ever to differentiate themselves in order to compete and yet what they’re being evaluated on by their guests are generally considered table stakes in the industry. Losing focus of these fundamental elements can have dire consequences.”

Harris/Decima is a member of the CRFA (Canadian Restaurant and Food Services Association) and works closely with the food services industry to support their continued success.

Each week, Harris/Decima interviews just over 1000 Canadians through teleVox, the company’s national telephone omnibus survey. The data for this poll were gathered between May 10 and May 14, 2012. A sample of the same size has a margin of error of 3.1%, 19 times out of 20.