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CONSUMERS HAVE A NEW LANGUAGE FOR RESTAURANT QUALITY 'I Know What I Want and I'm Going to Get It'

 CHICAGO, May 21 /PRNewswire/ -- Consumers have a new level of expectation in restaurant service and they're not going to settle for less, according to a new service study released today by MasterCard International at the National Restaurant Association Show in Chicago.
 In the survey, conducted by Yankelovich Partners Inc., restaurant patrons, critics and restaurateurs speak out on such issues as restaurant service, pet peeves, tipping and even the differences between men and women on dining values. Yet, these audiences have different opinions on the "Restaurant-Goer's Bill of Rights," a six-item bill of rights introduced by MasterCard last year to help to improve restaurant- goers' dining experiences.
 Consumer's expectations for four of the items on the Restaurant- Goer's Bill of Rights increased dramatically over MasterCard's first service survey, conducted last year. These include:
 1. Asking to sit elsewhere
 2. Reservation snafus
 3. Substitutions or special orders
 4. Asking for a different waiter
 Consumers More Aware of Their Rights
 When asked if it was within their right to ask to be seated elsewhere when unhappy with their seating location, 91 percent of consumers said they are entitled to do so -- up 16 percentage points (75 percent) over last year's respondents.
 "Reservation snafus" were the biggest annoyance. Eight-nine percent of consumers -- more than twice as many as last year (44 percent) -- said they are annoyed when something goes wrong with a reservation, such as not having a table ready at the reserved time or losing reservations entirely.
 Substituting items on the menu and requesting special orders also ranked high on consumers' minds. Seventy percent of the consumers said they should be able to substitute food items or even request an item that's not on the menu. Last year, only 33 percent of consumers believed it was within their right to make such requests.
 However, when it comes to asking for a different waiter, consumers -- and even some critics -- seem hesitant of their rights. This year, 48 percent of consumers and 59 percent of restaurant critics said they have the right to change waiters, compared to 31 percent and 43 percent last year, respectively. By comparison, changing waiters was one of the key issues for restaurateurs, with 87 percent saying it is perfectly acceptable for patrons to ask for a different waiter (up from 73 percent last year).
 "It is unusual to see such dramatic leaps in service issues," said Watts Wacker, managing partner for Yankelovich Partners. "These key areas are a testimonial to a major consumer sentiment of both annoyance and an absolute unwillingness to accept less than their expectations in restaurant service.
 "Many consumers today are feeling 'victimized.' As a result, they have a great desire to be in control and will do whatever it takes to avoid becoming a victim. Therefore, if things don't go as expected, customers will be quick to place blame and, in the case of restaurants, are likely to leave an establishment and never return."
 Service Important in Restaurant Selection
 Of the top 10 reasons patrons say they select one restaurant over another, six have to do with service, three with food, and one with value. The aspects of service consumers say are most important to them are correcting mistakes, bringing orders correctly, friendly and well- trained waitstaff, and quick service.
 According to Wacker, these findings are consistent with other national studies which define good service as:
 1. Mastery of the Basics. ("Doing what you're supposed to do
 better than anyone else.")
 2. Consistency. ("Providing a consistent level of service time
 after time.")
 3. Fixing mistakes.
 "This survey shows us that it isn't necessarily price that drives a person to one restaurant over another -- it's value, and things like service quality and the little extras make a big difference in consumers' minds," said Ellen Alexander, vice president of restaurant marketing for MasterCard International. "Today's customers are more demanding, but they're also more likely to acknowledge improvements in areas such as service and repay those improvements with their loyalty."
 According to the survey, more than twice as many restaurant-goers say service in full-service restaurants has improved in the past five years (34 percent vs. 17 percent). Consumers were asked about several other industries using the same question in a recent issue of the Yankelovich Monitor. Only supermarkets were perceived by consumers to have improved more than restaurants, while service in industries such as airlines, lodging and department stores has worsened.
 Good service can mean increased profits for restaurants. Restaurant-goers report that they tell an average of six people about a positive dining experience. Additionally, most will return to the restaurant an average of four times. Assuming an average cost of $10 per meal, the effect of good service is worth about $100 per customer for most restaurants.
 By contrast, those who have a bad dining experience tell five people about that experience. Three in four never return to give the restaurant a second chance, while the rest return only twice, on average.
 "With more than 4,000 restaurants failing last year, good service is more than good business -- it's survival," Alexander added.
 Restaurant-Goers' Pet Peeves
 Improperly handling reservations is a pet peeve for many restaurant-goers. The most common complaints are not having a table ready at the reserved time (31 percent) and losing reservations entirely (32 percent). Fewer customers complain about waiting for the entire party to be seated, not seating a smaller party at a large empty table or being unable to make a reservation.
 Customers are divided on the most annoying thing a waitperson can do while taking an order, citing most frequently unfamiliarity with the menu (29 percent), not providing separate checks (26 percent) and reciting specials
aloud (26 percent). Not surprisingly, the worst thing a waitperson can do, according to customers and critics, is be rude.
 Finally, 50 percent of restaurant patrons surveyed dislike having the gratuity added to the bill without being told.
 Complaints: Let Your Voice Be Heard
 Men are more likely than women to let their voice be heard. Men are more likely to believe they can:
 -- Ask for a different waiter (53 percent vs. 43 percent)
 -- Send back food (48 percent vs. 39 percent)
 -- Change an order (35 percent vs. 28 percent)
 When problems with service do occur, however, close to 85 percent of the restaurateurs hope customers will report problems directly to management -- yet only 21 percent of consumers actually do, according to the MasterCard survey. Patrons' most common response (27 percent) to poor service is to reduce the waitpersons tip.
 Tipping
 The average tip restaurant-goers report leaving for satisfactory service edged down slightly from 1992 to 1993, from 16 to 15 percent. The amount critics report tipping, on average, and the amount restaurateurs recommend, edged up to 17 percent.
 The MasterCard poll surveyed a random sample of 800 restaurant patrons, 75 restaurateurs and 75 restaurant critics nationwide. In its second year, the MasterCard Service Survey measures attitudes on service in the restaurant industry in an effort to help restaurants enhance service.
 -0- 5/21/93
 /CONTACT: Ellen Alexander of MasterCard International, 212-649-5117, or Claudia D'Avanzo or Katie deNourie of Fleishman-Hillard Inc., 404-659-4446, for MasterCard International/


CO: MasterCard International ST: IN: SU:

BR-RA -- AT002 -- 1111 05/21/93 09:37 EDT
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Date:May 21, 1993
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