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Dining out? Study predicts why you'll return Add to ...

What makes a person like a restaurant and want to go back to it? Two U.S. academics say they have the answer.

John Antun, director of the Culinary Institute at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and Robert Frash Jr., chair of the retail, hospitality and tourism department at the College of Charleston, South Carolina, have developed a 20-item scale they say can accurately predict whether or not diners will like a restaurant and go back to it.

While things such as service, food and atmosphere rank high on the scale, so too do the social experience and the availability of healthy menu options.

"Food, service and atmosphere have always been critical factors in a restaurant's success, but recent literature suggests restaurants have become a significant social outlet for people. And our research showed us diners also rank 'health' high among the factors that will determine whether or not they'll return to a restaurant," prof. Antun said in a release.

To develop the scale, called DinEX, researchers asked restaurant owners and operators to weigh in on "guest expectations." That list was eventually whittled down through focus group testing and a nationwide telephone poll.

The research results, published in the current issue of the Journal of Foodservice Business Research, could help restaurants market themselves and better understand what customers are looking for when they head out to eat, prof. Antun said.

What do you think is the most important thing about a restaurant that makes you want to go back to it?

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