25 April, 2012
‘Disney clean’ is a phrase Jim Sullivan, probably the most influential trainer in the chain restaurant market, uses to describe this most basic of ‘pass-go’ restaurant requirements. In conjunction with our partners at Ecolab, Peach BrandTrack has conducted research with consumers to see just how significant the hygiene factor is
It is simply a fundamental requirement for diners. When choosing a place to eat out, customers tell us that cleanliness and hygiene ranks highest in importance alongside food quality. It is more important than value for money—even in these straightened times.
And it’s a critical choice factor for all sectors—cleanliness and hygiene is the highest rated ‘extremely important’ attribute in our research for pub brands, for QSR brands, and for coffee and sandwich brands.
But these sectors don’t rate equally well in terms of perceived standards of cleanliness. Casual dining brands, taken as a whole, stand out for better perceived cleanliness, with the QSR brands overall rated least well.
At brand level, our research reveals some clear cleanliness champions, in the eyes of their customers—Table Table, Brewers Fayre and ASK were the three best-rated—but it also reveals a wide range of scoring within each market sector.
Even in the generally better performing casual dining sector, the range between the highest and lowest rated brands for cleanliness was over 30 percentage points. That’s hardly a level playing field, in an increasingly competitive eating out market.
Critically, given that our BrandTrack work has already established the strong link between perceived food quality and brand recommendation, we also see a clear relationship at brand level between the perception of cleanliness and food quality.
We also know that a key driver of the perception of brands’ food quality is the degree to which customers associate the attribute ‘fresh’ – and again there’s an evident relationship of this attribute to standards of cleanliness. Put simply, the best brands with the best hygiene standards are raising the probability of being recommended by their customers.
That’s the positive angle. But in terms of customer experience there are two very clear symbols of (un)cleanliness that can send out all the
wrong messages for restaurants and pubs.
When asked if dirty dishes/ glasses would negatively affect their overall experience, 77% of diners we interviewed for BrandTrack strongly agreed. And 60% strongly agreed that ‘dirty toilets make me think the kitchen is also dirty.’
Both these sentiments are clearly related to age, with more mature and retired customers much more sensitive to hygiene failings—and the results are also a little stronger among women.
Meanwhile, the UK has a rapidly growing older population, and, as Tom Peters once put it, women are “economic opportunity number 1.” The influence of these two groups can only increase.
“Cleanliness and hygiene are leading choice drivers across the board, and they underpin key drivers of brand reputation”, added Brian Moynihan, Ecolab’s Assistant Vice President, Corporate Accounts UKI.
To return to the Disney theme, cleanliness and hygiene are the bare necessities - our research shows they are leading choice drivers across the board, and they underpin key drivers of brand reputation. Are you or your competitors cleaning up?
The Peach BrandTrack research was carried out online during November 2011 among 5,000 adults in great Britain. The sample reflects the make-up of the GB population. The panel was supplied by Toluna; the online questionnaire was prepared and analysed by Peach Factory and demographix.com.