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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.