Despite your best efforts, there’s no way to please everyone — and that leads to the occasional customer complaint. Interestingly, only 14% of customers lodge complaints face-to-face at restaurants.1 Nearly 40% air their dissatisfaction on social media platforms and review sites.1
Whether you hear it firsthand or read it online, it doesn’t change the fact that your restaurant will receive negative feedback from time to time. You also have a choice about how to use that feedback. It can make you bitter, or it can make you better.
To help you manage common restaurant complaints and solutions, we’re tackling 8 of the most prevalent gripes about food, service, and atmosphere:
Restaurant Customer Complaints About Food
- Food and beverages served at incorrect temperatures: Scalding hot entrees and tepid water are a few things high on the list of customer turnoffs. Nearly 70% of survey respondents report getting temps wrong ruins their dining experience.2
- Order mix-ups: During peak rush or sometimes just a team member mind slip, serving the wrong entrée or having something go missing from an order leaves a bad taste in the mouth of 62% of customers.2
- Perceived poor value/overpricing: Pricing can be ticklish. As an operator, you take a number of factors into consideration to set price points. Customers approach pricing subjectively. If the food presentation or eating experience didn’t live up to their expectations for whatever reason, value may be called into question.
Restaurant Customer Complaints About Service
- Rude servers: Customers are easily exasperated with servers who have a condescending tone, unkempt appearance, or indifferent attitude. The same holds true for servers who make customers feel rushed to finish or leave. Lurking around tables or clearing dishes before customers finish their meals isn’t efficient — it’s uncomfortable.
- Long waits for seating/service: If it takes “forever” to be seated or served, expect to hear about it from more than half of customers. Tables not ready for at least 15 minutes past reservations times? That grates on customers in equal measure.
- Inaccurate check calculation: Servers are human, and miscalculations can happen although it’s a much more rare occurrence with tabletop and POS technology. However, being presented with a check that has the wrong total gets 48% of customers upset.2
Restaurant Customer Complaints About Atmosphere
- Untidiness: Any perception of uncleanliness is unacceptable, especially given the heightened sensitivities around COVID-19. Dirty utensils and tables are the number one customer complaint when it comes to untidiness, followed very closely by restroom neatness and poor server hygiene or appearance. Establishing simple Standard Operating Procedures tends to curtail problems.
- Poor positioning: Restaurant layouts that crowd tables together or perch diners in undesirable locations (like near a kitchen service door) is fodder for customer dissatisfaction. The general noise of table conversations and shuffling about of a lot of customers in a confined space only add to the frustration, and will be a major concern as restaurants re-open under pandemic restrictions.
Handling Restaurant Customer Complaints: 4 Best Practices
For the most part, irritated customers just want to be heard. Online or in-person, readily acknowledging complaints and offering workable solutions goes a long way to repairing what could be a strained relationship.
To rectify common customer complaints in restaurants, use these 4 best practices3:
- Listen: Give the customer your undivided attention
- Empathize: Express an understanding of why the situation would cause frustration
- Apologize: Be sincere and respect the customer’s feelings
- Fix: Acknowledge and take full responsibility for the mistake and explain specific next steps you’ll take to correct it
You can stay ahead of some of the most common complaints by effectively communicating with your employees and rewarding them for handling difficult customer situations.
Learn more in our Restaurant Employee Retention Guide below.
1Jay Baer, 8 Habits Restaurants Must Adopt to Dominate Online Customer Service, Undated
2Consumer Reports, Americans’ Most Common Restaurant Complaints Go Beyond a Fly in Their Soup, Consumer Reports Gripe-o-Meter, July 2014
3PMQ Pizza Magazine, Take the Fear Out of Handling Customer Complaints, May 2019