85% of diners will shun operators with less than three stars

The Happiness Index reveals direct correlation between chip satisfaction and five-star reviews

Innovative foodservice expert, McCain Foodservice Solutions has teamed up with The Happiness Index to unveil what makes diners happy when eating out and how these factors can lead to positive online reviews.  

The survey, carried out over six months and canvassing 1,000 UK respondents, revealed that 85% of UK diners would shun any pub, bar or restaurant which scored less than three stars on review platforms; despite only 20% of customers regularly leaving online reviews.  Diners predominantly check TripAdvisor (78%) and Google Reviews (59%) before deciding where to eat but Facebook also remains popular for pub, bar and restaurant recommendations with 26% of over 45s and 15% of under 30s using the social media platform on a regular basis for this purpose.

Great food quality (33%) is the most influential factor that would lead diners to write a positive online review, followed closely by service (27%). Menu range is also a large contributing factor to the overall happiness index but with nearly half (47%) of diners experiencing decision-making paralysis when it comes to ordering, operators need to walk a fine line between choice and simplicity.

The survey also found that the nation’s love of chips is so strong that they are often a deciding factor when it comes to giving an operator the thumbs up or down online, with 40% of diners admitting they would leave a bad review after a terrible chip experience.  The survey also reveals a direct correlation between chip quality and better star reviews – with diners rating their chips 8/10 or more going on to leave a five-star review. Taste (21%) generated the most happiness for diners, followed closely by crispness (19%) and fluffiness (17%). The humble chip is, in fact, so important to diners that three in 10 said that they would leave a restaurant if it had run out of this popular potato product. 

While the overall cost of a meal is foremost in customers minds (76%), that doesn’t mean the cheaper the meal, the happier the customer and the better the review. In fact, the study reveals that 65% of diners would happily pay more if they were reassured by a pub, bar or restaurant’s excellent online reputation. It’s also no surprise that, in an age where being ‘instagrammable’ is almost as important as the quality of a restaurant’s food, 22% of respondents stated a restaurant’s decor as a deciding factor.  Funky interiors, unusual furniture, innovative and unique buildings, which make a great photograph, are all important to diners in 2020.

Commenting on the survey, Jo Eastwood, marketing controller at McCain Foodservice Solutions said: “In an ever-changing and fast paced sector, we set out on this project with The Happiness Index to uncover the truths behind what makes diners happy and consequently what spurs them to leave positive online reviews. 

“We continually strive to help operators provide a better experience for their customers and we hope the findings support them in driving positive online reviews that deliver real business success.” 

The McCain Foodservice Solutions/Happiness Index report is available to download in full at: