Groundbreaking Survey Reveals How Diners Choose Restaurants

Internet Research is Second Step Needed to Validate Word of Mouth Restaurant Recommendations

Angelsmith, a digital marketing agency, today announced its analysis of the company’s first Influential Dining Survey and the development of the Dining Decision Ecosystem, a new framework that provides insight into how and what most influences diners when selecting restaurants.

The survey revealed that consumers rely on a series of crucial steps before making a dining decision. In approximately 8 out of 10 times (80.1 percent), a personal word of mouth recommendation is supplemented with additional research.

Restaurant Dining Recommendations

Respondents were ask to rank the most important places they use for additional restaurant research after receiving a recommendation from a trusted friend.  User generated review sites (27.7 percent) and the restaurant’s website (27.0 percent) were in a near statistical tie as the most important places consumers turn.  Other friends (25.2 percent) and food blogs (16.4 percent) were ranked as the second most important places for additional restaurant research.   Rounding out the top responses, Google search was ranked as the 3rd most important place to look by 16.5 percent of those who do additional research.

Restaurant Dining Decisions

All of these pieces work together to move the consumer from the consideration phase to their ultimate dining decision.

Based on the survey results and Angelsmith’s category experience, The Dining Decision EcosystemTM outlines the symbiotic relationship between awareness, trial and recommendation, and validation in the consumer’s process. If any of these elements are missing, restaurants run the risk of losing out on gaining new customers.

  1. Awareness:

Earned and paid media drive awareness for those consumers who are passionate early adopters of restaurant and food review content.

  1. Trial & Recommendations:

Family, friends and co-workers with both the personal experience and / or the information to pass along recommendations.

This phase is where awareness can rapidly accelerate through social circles and the recommended restaurants become part of a larger consideration set with other dining options.

  1. Validation:

User-generated review sites, bloggers, and restaurant websites sway undecided consumers and legitimize final decisions.  If the recommendation isn’t validated by external sources, the restaurant can be vetoed.

“The dining influence survey puts data behind what could be considered the dark art of restaurant marketing,” said Carin Galletta Oliver, Chief Innovation Officer at Angelsmith and the survey’s primary analyst. Oliver adds, “The Dining Decision Ecosystem was developed to illuminate the top contributing factors and the crucial steps that need to take place before a consumer parts with their dining dollars.”

Although there were varying degrees of influence cited, regardless of dining frequency, more than 79 percent (79.5%) of survey respondents reported influencing their friends, family, and co-workers. This is an eye-opening statistic, which demonstrates that given the opportunity, just about anyone can influence a dining decision within their social group.

Dining out is a commonality shared by most people, therefore both passive and active recommendations are exchanged frequently as a natural part of daily social interaction. Tips about new restaurants flow from passive conversations but Angelsmith’s survey uncovered a subset of highly influential diners who are responsible for active recommendations.

This subset, comprised of 15.3 percent of respondents, reported that they were ‘always asked’ for restaurant recommendations from friends. Everyone in this subset reported influencing their friends’ dining decisions and nearly more than 9 out of 10 (98.6%) reported being actively sought for restaurant recommendations.

Additional data and analysis from the dining survey can be found at

Restaurant Dining Frequency

Survey Methodology

The first Influential Dining Survey was conducted by Ink Foundry, a word of mouth marketing agency, in the first quarter of 2012 and tallied results from the more than 500 restaurant and food bloggers, restaurant influencers and frequent diners associated with the agency.  Survey analysts include Carin Galletta Oliver, William ‘Bill’ Freed and Ryan Owens. The survey was delivered to select individuals in Ink Foundry’s email databases and through social media channels. The digital survey was hosted on and was designed to provide a better understanding of how diners make restaurant decisions.  Prizes were given to randomly selected survey participants.

About Angelsmith

Founded in 2001, Angelsmith is a digital marketing agency that is especially proud of its work in entertainment, digital gaming, restaurants, wine, beer and travel. Headquartered in Sausalito, CA, the agency also has teams in Los Angeles and Chicago. Ink Foundry and Angelsmith merged in early 2012.  Angelsmith pairs top notch content and engagement strategies with technical solutions that get people talking about the dynamic companies it serves. Angelsmith can be found at