April 2019 Culinary Depot Blog Posts

    5 Most Common Restaurant Complaints

    Keeping customers happy is a key to success for restaurants. Ideally, the combination of delicious food, outstanding service, and a comfortable atmosphere should leave customers satisfied. But not all visits go as planned. While dissatisfied customers complain about a wide range of things, this post will cover 5 of the most common restaurant complaints and what you can do about them.


    Impolite Servers


    impolite server


    Servers are the heart and soul of any restaurant. And no matter how tasty your food is, you’ll have a tough time getting customers to return if they have a bad experience with the server. In most cases involving a customer who complains about an impolite server, it’s best to apologize and offer a free dessert or drink. Of course, you’ll always want to hear your server’s side of the story as well. If you notice a trend where a lot of customers are having issues with the same server, it’s probably time to have a more thorough discussion.

    It’s important to keep in mind that everyone holds servers to different standards. So something that one diner considers impolite might be perfectly fine according to another customer. Servers should avoid calling customers by pet names like “honey” or “dear.” Although some customers will be okay with that, it’s not worth the risk of offending those who aren’t.

    The best way to ensure customers are satisfied with your servers is by hiring the right people and training them well. Make sure they’re aware of your expectations and hold them accountable when they don’t live up to them.


    Dirty Utensils / Table


    dirty utensils


    When it comes to dining out, a clean eating environment is just expected. So leaving leftover food debris on a table or silverware is a surefire way to get on the bad side of a customer. And now with state-of-the-art commercial dishwashers that can clean several hundred racks per hour, there’s no excuse for dirty dishes or utensils. As far as dirty tables go, a lot of that falls on how diligent your staff is. If they’re good workers who are well-trained, they should be able to keep things spotless. An occasional mistake is forgivable. But if you find that several customers are complaining about the cleanliness of your tables, it might be time to step in and hold someone accountable.


    Cold Food


    cold food


    Another common restaurant complaint stems from diners receiving cold food (assuming the meal is supposed to be hot). Customers usually work up quite an appetite by the time an entrée arrives. They travel to the restaurant, wait to get a table, and sit patiently while the meal is prepared. If the food is cold when it arrives and the customer’s hunger is at its peak, they’re probably going to be a little irritated.

    There are a couple ways to combat this issue. The first is by ensuring meals that are being served to the same table finish cooking at the same time. This can be challenging, especially when your restaurant is busy or you’re serving a large party. Another option is to outfit your kitchen with equipment that will help keep dishes hot. A commercial microwave is the traditional choice. Other options include holding cabinets and drawer warmers. Cook and hold ovens cook dishes and keep them warm until they’re served.


    Being Rushed


    being rushed


    This transgression could fall under impolite server, but it’s important enough to get its own category. Rushing a customer out the door can manifest in several ways. The most egregious is removing a plate before they’re finished eating. Some people take their time with a meal, taking breaks and savoring every last morsel. Even if it looks like a customer is finished, always be sure to ask them first. Only when a diner confirms that they’re done should you remove their plate.

    Another way customers feel like they’re being pushed out the door is when a server delivers the restaurant check without being asked. A diner might’ve had their eyes on a tasty dessert or another cocktail. So to receive the check before they’re ready can make them uncomfortable weird about ordering anything else. So as if it’s not bad enough that you’re disappointing the customer, you’re also losing business. It’s always best to make sure customers are ready for the check before delivering it.


    Automatically Adding Tips of 18% or Higher


    gratuity added


    There are some surprises that people like. Finding out a large gratuity has been automatically added to their bill is not one of them. If you feel like you absolutely have to include gratuities to help protect your servers, try to limit it to when serving parties of 6 or more. And make clear from the start that it’s the restaurant’s policy. If a table has a bad experience with a server and is forced to pay an 18% gratuity, you can be sure that they’ll never be back again.


    As most experienced restauranteurs have learned, there are infinite ways that customers can complain. This post covers just 5 of the most common restaurant complaints. And while practicing damage control is one way to handle the complaints, the better option is to prevent the issue that causes them. By training your servers to prevent issues before they arise, you’ll receive fewer complaints from customers and earn repeat visits.  

    Opening a Restaurant Checklist

    For many people, opening a restaurant is a lifelong dream. But as with most dreams, making it come true can be challenging. Someone doesn’t become a restauranteur overnight. In fact, opening a restaurant is often a long, drawn-out process that can wear down even the most passionate potential restauranteurs. This post will make the process a bit easier by providing a simple-to-follow checklist for opening a restaurant. 


    Decide On Your Restaurant Concept


    restaurant concept


    Owners always have the option of franchising an already well-established restaurant. While doing so requires them to pay a franchising fee upfront, it also gives them immediate brand recognition. The built-in customer base provides a leg up on the local competition. But for owners who want to craft a restaurant in their own vision, proper time and consideration should be given to the restaurant concept.

    Your restaurant concept includes its food, menu, atmosphere, and service style. Even your restaurant’s name should make sense in the context of everything else. Ideally your concept should be unique enough to differentiate your foodservice from other establishments. But at the same time, a concept that is too unique might alienate potential customers. So it’s a delicate balancing act. Food is the foundation of any successful restaurant, so try to base your concept around what dishes you offer.




    restaurant location


    It’s always best to thoroughly scout surrounding areas before buying or leasing a building. After all, you don’t want to open a pizzeria down the street from a town’s favorite pizza joint. The more foot traffic a location receives, the more potential customers you’ll have. Of course, buildings in busier locations are costlier. It’s also important to know the demographics of your community. If you’re in a college town, fast food and fast casual will likely fare much better than fine dining establishments.

    The savvy move when it comes to identifying a good location is to find an up-and-coming area that’s undervalued in the real estate market. If you anticipate the area will receive more traffic in the near future, it could make a perfect location of your restaurant. Buying or leasing a building that was previously set up as a restaurant can help save you some money. Rather than having to do construction to set up gas and water lines, everything will already be in place.


    Raise Funds


    raise funds


    If you’re wondering how to open a restaurant with no money, the simple answer is to get some. Cash is just another of the many things needed to start a restaurant. So whether you want to borrow it from a friend or a family member, take out a loan, or just dip into your savings, you’ll want to figure out the money situation upfront. After all, there’s no point in putting in hundreds of hours into brainstorming and research if you don’t have the wherewithal.

    If you’re relying on investors to fund your restaurant, you’ll likely have to present a detailed business plan. And even if you’re not relying on outside investors, formulating a business plan is a great way to know exactly where you’re going. A good business plan should include everything about your restaurant – concept, location, revenue projections, estimated costs, and local competition are just some of the many topics it should cover.


    Equipment / Supplies


    commercial kitchen equipment supplies


    Commercial kitchens operate most smoothly when they’re outfitted with the right restaurant equipment. Different types of kitchens require different appliances. So what you need will largely depend on what type of establishment you’re opening. If you plan to open a fast food restaurant, be sure to reference our fast food restaurant equipment list for a breakdown of the essentials.


    Secure Licenses / Permits


    licenses permits


    The proper licenses and permits are essential requirements for a restaurant. A business license is the first thing you’ll need. If you plan to sell alcohol, you’ll need a liquor license as well. Proper protocol for attaining these licenses varies depending on your exact location. So either ask other restauranteurs or search the Internet for what needs to be done.

    Once construction is finished and its equipment is in place, you’ll have the option to schedule a pre-opening health inspection. These types of inspections aren’t mandatory. And although they can delay your opening, they also help you correct issues before they become too serious. There’s no grade involved with these inspections, but the comments do become part of the public domain. So if you’re unsure if your restaurant satisfies local requirements, consider hiring a consultant who can let you know if your set-up looks okay.


    Hiring Employees / Training Procedure


    hiring and training employees


    Although the role of robots in restaurants continues to expand, actual human employees are still important as ever. That’s why hiring the right people should be a top priority for restaurant owners. After all, service is one of the aspects that customers most remember about their meal. Good service enhances the experience, while bad service can scare patrons off forever. When hiring servers, experience and personality should always be considered. If you think a friend or family member would make sense as a hire, you should be 100% sure. The last thing you want is for your business to get in the way of your personal relationships.


    When it comes to how to start a restaurant business, there’s no one path to follow. Everyone approaches it differently, so do what’s right for you. The one bit of advice that all restauranteurs should heed is to not rush into it. Starting a business is expensive and time-consuming. So always take time when making important decisions that could potentially affect the fate of your restaurant.