Shortly upon arriving at Longitude LLC’s office May 17, Springfield Diner owner Omer Onder was asked if he was nervous or excited to hear customer survey results.
“Oh, I’m excited,” he said, following with laughter that filled the branding agency’s conference room.
He was there to learn what 94 people thought of his restaurant.
Longitude CEO Dustin Myers set the stage for the survey reveal, letting Onder know that there are a lot of positive takeaways.
“I think we’ve got some good data to look through,” he said, noting the number of responses was a pretty good test sample. “But we did ask some questions of what could be better, so I think you’re going to like what you hear from them.”
The 11-question survey is part of the branding process the agency is delving into to determine how the restaurant is received and can be improved.
Based on the results, a quick snapshot of survey respondents revealed 36% ate at the restaurant once a month, followed by once every three months at 25%. Weekly diners made up the smallest segment at 14%. The largest percentage of customers visits between 9-11 a.m.
“The overall experience and perception was really good,” Myers said of customers rating the dining experience on a scale of 1-7. The highest ratings, 6 and 7, garnered a combined 69% of the responses.
Customer comments of the dining experience were largely positive, but some criticism of poor service and uncomfortable seating popped up. As Myers read off the dozens of comments, Onder stayed silent and nodded his head occasionally.
After the last of the dining experience comments was read, Jeremy Wells, Longitude’s chief marketing officer, asked Onder for takeaways.
“I feel really emotional right now because lots of them said ‘great food, great atmosphere’ and I want to thank all of them,” he said.
Still, he acknowledged service issues he’s experienced at the diner, which opened in March 2018. Particularly in the early period, he said there were times when servers didn’t show up for work or left in the middle of a shift.
“I’d have to serve, I’d have to cook,” he said. “I’d have to take care of customers. These were problems in the past, but now we have seemed to solve these problems, I hope.”
While survey respondents selected breakfast food as the menu option they liked the most, the Mediterranean cuisine, of which there currently are only four dishes, had a strong showing of 33%. A follow-up question revealed 52% of diners answered “most likely” to eat at the restaurant if the menu was changed primarily to Mediterranean food but still offered some popular American options.
“I’m not suggesting you get rid of them entirely,” Wells said of non-Mediterranean menu items. “I would just be working in that mind as you’re looking at the results of the survey. Most of these people visit once a month or less. Obviously, you want that to be more frequent.”
According to sales summary data Onder shared with Longitude, from opening through April 24, customers on average spent $14.60 per visit. Of those visits, the Mediterranean breakfast rates the third-most popular menu category, behind American breakfast options and country burgers.
However, Myers said the Mediterranean menu presence does create some branding uncertainty when it comes to verbiage used by customers when asked what words best describe the eatery.
“Classic American Diner” rated at the top with 49% of the respondents, but 28% selected “unsure/not sure.”
“This to me shows there’s confusion,” Myers said. “I think that’s one of those areas through this process that we’re going to fix.”
The restaurant’s name is also on the agency’s future discussion agenda.
While a name change isn’t for certain, Onder said he’s open to the idea.
“But not like greasy spoon,” he said with a laugh.
“If you’re taking a more Mediterranean approach, that needs to be reflected in the name,” Myers said. “We’ll figure out how to approach that.”
The name is among topics to be covered in the agency’s branding workshop planned for mid-June. Longitude also plans to connect Onder with some restaurant consultants to provide advice leading into the workshop.
In the interim, Onder said he plans to add several more Mediterranean breakfast dishes to the menu. Taking confidence away from the survey to make additions, Onder said he’d have to test concepts in the kitchen and educate staff on them before the items make their debut.
One new addition that won’t be waiting is Mediterranean night.
The special event debuted 4-8 p.m. May 4, with a set menu for $13 featuring shish kebabs, meatballs, soup, salad and dessert.
“In just 45 minutes, we sold out,” Onder said of the 60 customers served that night.
Based on that success, he said the next Turkish night would be May 25 and held every Saturday thereafter.
Wells said Mediterranean night could serve as a test to determine any Mediterranean menu options to add.
“I think there’s a unique opportunity for aligning with what your customers are enjoying and want more of,” he said.
Pappy’s Place came under new ownership; Napleton Autowerks/Missouri Inc. moved; and St. Louis barbecue chain Sugarfire Smokehouse made its Springfield debut.
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