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Friendly’s ensures a relevant menu with new mobile menu testing platform

August 5, 2013

Friendly’s taste testers can fill out a survey on an iPod touch

Restaurant chain Friendly’s is using a new mobile survey platform so it can speed up the process for adding new items to the menu that customers want.

Friendly’s partnered with On The Spot Systems to create the SaaS mobile tool and began using it in January to conduct internal and consumer taste panels at its test kitchen in Wilbraham, MA. The mobile survey lets Friendly’s get real-time feedback and introduce new items to its menus.

“The survey results are tabulated in real-time through the On The Spot Systems client portal, which gives Friendly’s menu development experts instant access to understand how each menu item rated across a variety of aspects in addition to just the flavor, including portion size, appearance and value,” said Ken Kimmel, president of On The Spot Systems, Newton, MA.

“According to Friendly’s, the use of mobile has shortened the menu testing cycle by several weeks for each round of test panels a product goes through before release into restaurants,” he said. “They also feel that the use of mobile surveys and automated email report delivery has made their team feel more confident in making better decisions about the readiness of a product to launch on the menu.

“This means instantly identifying exactly which modifications may need to be made to the item for success across all indicators.”

Mobile menu tests
Friendly’s uses On The Spot System’s platform to conduct its test panels for new menu items and variations on the restaurant’s popular classics.

Once panelists taste a menu item, they are given an iPod touch that is mounted on a bamboo board to make it easy to hold. Then panelists answer survey questions via the iPod touch.

A panelist filling out the mobile survey

According to Mr. Kimmel, panelists find this to be more fun and engaging than the traditional paper and pencil surveys. With the new system, panelists tend to be more willing to leave open-ended text responses than with previous survey formats.

Friendly’s research and development team is then able to assess the responses to the new items and variations and respond accordingly in a faster and more efficient manner. They no longer need to take the time to process data from paper forms.

By using the mobile survey format, Friendly’s is able to adapt to customer feedback in real time, which is extremely important in the restaurant industry today. With consumer being able to voice feedback instantaneously on social media networks, it is important for restaurants to be ahead of the game and get feedback before the Twitter world does.

On The Spot has rolled out this mobile survey platform for other restaurants as well, including Bonefish Grill, the Ninety Nine Restaurants and Carrabba’s Italian Grill.

A Friendly’s menu

Beyond reservations
Friendly’s and On The Spot seem to be taking mobile beyond its typical uses in restaurants.

Eat24 is currently using mobile to work on managing the actual ordering and payments in restaurants (see story).

Similarly, OpenTable is working on creating a mobile commerce feature in its application (see story).

Meanwhile, Friendly’s is using mobile in a more behind-the-scenes way that lets the restaurant company seamlessly update its menus and enhance its dining experience.

“Brands like Friendly’s are continuously challenged to impress with their understanding and awareness of what consumers want,” Mr. Kimmel said. “The ability to be attuned to the newest trends – and the ones that are fading – forces restaurants to be agile, especially with their menus.

“Mobile provides restaurants the ability to monitor perceptions and optimize menu products with greater efficiency and accuracy than offered by alternative methods,” he said. “On The Spot Systems in particular has pioneered the ability to track performance all the way down to the location level.

“This ensures consistency and awareness of operational differences in preparation, appearance, flavors or portions that may result in varied feedback and assessment.”

Final Take
Rebecca Borison is editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York

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Rebecca Borison is editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily and Mobile Marketer. Reach her at

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