In a comment, I made one serious suggestion about how the manager could engage the customer in a conversation and solicit some accurate feedback.
If you’re a manager and your goal in a conversation is to be sociable and nothing else, then don’t ask about the quality of the food. Talk about something else.
But if you’re seriously seeking feedback on the customer’s experience, then you can conversationally ask more focused questions to steer the dialogue in the direction you want it to go.
But don’t fool yourself into thinking that your product is awesome just because a customer says it is. In a social setting like the one Mike describes, I believe people are gearing down from a long day and don’t want to get involved in a serious conversation of this sort. They’re going to dodge a potentially draining situation by being polite even when it involves the use of white lies. They’ve already had enough stress in their day and they don’t want to add to it by risking a conversation where someone, even a manager, might get his feelings hurt.
I’m not lyin’. You can follow me on Twitter. I’m txglennross