Could your desserts menu elevate you from 4 to 5 star reviews?

They’re a relatively small part of your menu right? Typically 20% of the bill for a family eating 3 courses. Many people don’t have one so, if 70% of your customers abstain, how important are desserts to your food business anyway?

The biggest risk to your food business?

Let’s think about the biggest risk to your food business. What is this? Rising food costs? Rising staff costs? The risk of equipment (e.g. freezer) failure? I believe there’s something far more potentially dangerous to your food business than any of these things……….. a bad reputation.

People will go away and talk about their experience, they’ll tell their friends about it and they might write about it in an online review. We all know that exhilarating feeling when……. Ping!…….. the email comes in, diner X has left a new review. Your heart stops just for a moment, dread, excitement, trepidation all hit at once as you click to open the review. Then relief as you read a good review, joy even. Or that sinking, sickening feeling as you read a terrible review. Anger at the one sided point of view, at your lack of a right to reply. It’s out there, anyone can access it. Will it damage my business? Well, yes, potentially it will, particularly if it’s followed by more of the same.

Do desserts affect your reviews? Google thinks so

Desserts are the last thing that customers will eat at your place. Of course, the whole dining experience and the service that goes with it is important, but arguably the dessert is the thing with the greatest potential to leave a lasting impression, yet often the part of the menu given the least thought at menu development stage.

A 2014 study by Jurafsky et al supported by a research grant from Google and the Centre for Advanced Study in the Behavioural Sciences at Stanford University concluded that mentioning dessert is a significant predictor of a higher rating. The following graph is taken directly from that scientific study and a link to the full paper can be found at the end of this blog post.

Coupled with this research is the well known ‘Peak and End Rule’ – a psychological heuristic in which people judge an experience largely based on how they felt at it peak (positive or negative) and its end. Using this theory it is reasonable to conclude that even if someone has had a shocking experience with their main course, an outstanding dessert experience could pull it back. Conversely, if they’re loving their meal up to dessert and then are served something special the review could be elevated to top marks.

Does the ice cream matter?

And what about the ice cream? Ice cream is ice cream right? You might as well save a little on your margin here, use a cheap cash and carry product, full of air, that disappears off the tongue immediately after that slight crunch you feel as you bite down on the icy texture, leaving an over-sweet after taste. Your customers won’t be able to tell the difference between that and an artisan product made using fewer, quality ingredients to give an unforgettable taste, more interesting flavour and a luxurious mouthfeel. Or will they?

Maybe ice cream is an example of one of the many small changes you could make to your menu to ensure you are leaving your customers with the right lasting impression. One that will keep them coming back for more, and encourage them to tell their friends – real or virtual – about your place.

A recent survey by Tripadvisor revealed that 84% of diners will choose your restaurant based on online reviews and that 84% of people trust online reviews as much as their friends (Tripadvisor – Influences on Diner Decision-making Survey). Also almost three quarters of people said they would avoid a restaurant if their friend gave them negative feedback (Touch Bistro – Restaurant Insights Report).

Are you leaving your customers with the lasting impression you would like them to have? Look out for my next blog post which includes top tips for great dessert menus and how to make more money from them.

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