Where to Dine? The Importance of Factors in the Decision Process

Reasons to Dine at the Club

When dining out for the evening, what drives the decision process on where to go? Over the past year, McMahon Group surveyed over 2,200 private club members across the country to understand this thought process. We asked members to rate the importance of various factors when they are deciding where to go, whether it is their own club or a local restaurant. The chart below shows the results.

Of the factors tested, all but two were rated important by majorities (57% to 95%) of respondents – Wine List/Selection (important to 45%) and Dress Code (important to 40%). The most important factors, rated important by 79% to 95% of respondents, are all related to dining operations. Clearly the most important is Food Quality, followed by Menu Variety, Professionalism/Training of Service Staff, Speed of Service and Meal Value for Price.

Private Club Impact

If private clubs want to compete with local restaurants for their members’ dining business, they must be able to compete head-to-head with local restaurants in areas related to food quality, service, menu variety and value. The good news is that through our extensive survey research over the past 10 years, McMahon Group has seen significant improvement in member satisfaction with their club’s dining offerings, in particular with overall quality and food consistency. Three factors in the decision-making process that private clubs should be able to capitalize on when competing with local restaurants are:

  • Lack of crowding/wait time for a table
  • Ability to get a table without a reservation
  • Convenience of location
  • Half of all members live within three miles of their club and three-quarters live within seven miles

Other factors not tested in our surveys that would also be considered competitive advantages private clubs have over many local restaurants include:

  • Ease of parking
  • Opportunity to dine and socialize with friends and fellow members
  • View looking down the first fairway
  • Outdoor/Terrace dining
  • Friendly staff that:
    – Greets you by name
    – Knows where you like to be seated

Differences/Similarities by Age Group

With only one exception, the relative importance of the various factors when deciding where to dine is consistent across all age groups of private club members. It comes as no surprise that choosing a place to dine with a family-friendly atmosphere is considerably more important to younger members than it is to older members.

In our research, an interesting finding is that the relative importance of the various factors is about the same for men as it is for women. The only difference between the two groups is that all factors are more important to women than they are to men. While I’m unsure about the scientific significance of this finding, it probably has something to do with why I normally defer to my wife’s better judgement when we are deciding where to dine.


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About Tom Strutz

Hailing from the Los Angeles area, Tom left sunny Southern California at the ripe old age of 17 to attend the United States Military Academy at West Point.  After graduating with a degree in Civil Engineering, he spent 11 years on active duty in the Army and then another 11 years in the Army Reserves, eventually retiring at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.  Along the way, Tom earned a Master’s Degree in Hotel & Restaurant Management from Florida International University in Miami.  During his 22-years in the Army, he had a chance to see the world, with assignments in South Korea, Germany, the Pentagon, Virginia, Indiana, Florida, Alabama, Maryland and Washington state.

Tom has been with the McMahon Group since 1990, serving as head of the survey and market research division.  During that time, he has worked with over 1,500 private clubs on a wide variety of survey and research projects, achieving the rank of “Survey Guru” at McMahon.

Over the years, Tom has been a jack of many sports – golf, tennis, racquetball, squash, water skiing, snow skiing, running – but a master of none.  His current pastime passions are gardening, cycling and nature photography – often combining the latter two on rides at a lake near his home in suburban St. Louis.

Tom and his wife Marlene have two children in their 20’s.  Katy is an artist working at an animation studio in Portland, Oregon, and Marcus is studying Mechanical Engineering at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

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