While the restaurant industry has been largely dominated by typical chains for years now, there may soon be a change in the market. Recent reports have found that smaller restaurants and chains are scoring much higher in customer satisfaction, though there's some work left to do before they fully achieve new levels of business.

Smaller chains see higher happiness
According to the American Customer Satisfaction Index, recent data has shown that smaller restaurants are gaining higher levels of customer happiness as the scores larger chains receive continue to drop. In 2013, Americans ate out an average of four times per week, which is a 60 percent increase in the past few years. This has led to overall satisfaction rates rising slightly, up 1.2 percent in the last year.

Smaller restaurants and chains have seen the highest growth in that time, reaching an improvement of 2 percent. In comparison, many notable larger chains fell anywhere from 1 to 6 percent. This means that small businesses in the restaurant industry, if they keep focus on their customer bases, have a real chance to gain market share from their larger competitors.

Still work to be done
That said, there are still steps that companies can take to further improve their reception, Technomic reported. With rapidly increasing competition completely changing the market, any leap or improvement of technology may be enough to help restaurants grow their reception further.

Consumers told the news source that one way to improve their purchases in the current restaurant market would be that of convenient delivery or ordering services. Other important aspects include more than half of diners wanting an upscale and relaxing atmosphere. Almost 20 percent of them would walk out of one establishment and try another if they couldn't get this level of quality.

Other changes that can improve patronage, customers reported, include delivery and menu upgrades. More than a quarter of shoppers expect fast food or fast-casual restaurants to deliver. Another 53 percent said that healthy options are important, and 63 percent said they fully expect to find these items on the average menu.

Hospitality and restaurant industry piece brought to you by Marlin Equipment Finance, leaders in food service equipment financing. Marlin is a nationwide provider of equipment financing solutions supporting equipment suppliers and manufacturers in the security, food services, healthcare, information technology, office technology and telecommunications sectors.