The 7 Biggest Pet Peeves Customers Have About Restaurants

The 7 Biggest Pet Peeves Customers Have About Restaurants

Here’s the ugly truth: you could be driving your restaurant customers nuts and not even know it.

To help you identify pet peeves in your restaurant, we’ve created a list of top annoyances that can hurt your repeat business. We’ll give you solutions to each pet peeve, too.

Why is it so important to fix these issues? Good news travels fast, but bad news travels at warp speed. According to a survey from Dimensional Research, 95% of dissatisfied customers tell others about their bad experiences. More than half of those grumpy patrons will tell their terrible tale to at least five people, which is all the more reason to get rid of these pet peeves fast.

Here are the top seven pet peeves of diners:

1. Lack of dinnerware

Let’s say your staff delivers a piping hot appetizer smothered in cheesy goodness to a table of hungry customers. They’re about to dig in, but they realize they don’t have silverware or plates. In that split-second, the waiter has already scampered away to attend to another table. This kind of inattentive service is one of the biggest customer complaints, according to a Zagat poll.

Make the hostess responsible for silverware as soon as customers are seated, and make sure the waiter brings dishes when delivering the appetizer. Have the waiter ask if there’s anything else needed before leaving. That way, if the waiter does forget dishes the customers can ask for them.

Download our free customer loyalty success guide to learn how to drive customers back 2x more.

2. Calling customers by pet names

Do you have a waiter who calls your customers pet names like, “honey” or “dear?” While your employee probably has the best of intentions, 24% of customers are bothered by it, according to research from Consumer Reports. If you or your wait staff have a close relationship with particular customers you know well, this may fly. However, if you have a waiter oozing with this kind of “charm” with all customers, including new ones, you may have to ask him or her to dial it down a notch.

 3. Dirty or poorly equipped bathrooms

Customers don’t just judge your restaurant by its food and service, but by your restrooms, too. You could serve the best cocktails, or be known for a killer appetizer plate, but if your restrooms are dirty or poorly equipped, your customer satisfaction rating will go in the toilet. (Pun intended.)

Consumer Reports says 77% of restaurant customers list unclean bathrooms as their main gripe.

Have staff check the bathrooms regularly throughout the day, attend to messes quickly and be sure the facilities get a deep clean on a regular basis.

4. Only giving bread or water upon request

Some restaurants only give customers bread and water if it’s asked for. As an owner, it makes sense not to waste anything, but your customers don’t see it that way.

Customers often compare their experiences with others around them. If they see other tables with bread and water, they think, “Why not me?” If you’re worried about waste, as a happy medium, have your wait staff actively ask each table if they want bread or water rather than forcing customer to ask for it themselves. This way, you’re being considerate of

In drought-stricken areas like California where conserving water is a must, many restaurants place signs on every table explaining why water isn’t brought out by default. Still ensure your waiter staff asks rather than leaving it up to the customer.

5. Not being informed about a loyalty program

If you have a loyalty program and neglect to mention it to your customers, you’ll be in the doghouse. Customers want to know about reward programs, especially if it means they can save money by signing up. Ninety percent of customers will likely sign up for a loyalty program that’s connected to their favorite restaurant, according to Technomic Inc.

If you have a loyalty program, have your staff mention it to each table and post signs advertising the program in high traffic areas.

6. Mentioning specials without prices

Every restaurant offers specials. Whether you’re offering fresh fish or a seasonal dessert, it’s always a great idea to have your wait staff mention them to customers when they arrive. However, if you don’t mention the prices, you’ll drive your customers nuts, so include the cost of each dish during the “here are today’s specials” spiel. You also don’t want customers to feel deceived if they opt for a special, only to be floored by the price afterwards. It’s better to be upfront and honest.

7. Reusing the same towel to wipe down every table

You have to turn tables over quickly in the restaurant business. It’s common for bussers to dump dirty dishes into a bin, wipe the table down and repeat the process at the next table. Watching that same, dingy rag mop up slop on table after table is a customer turnoff. Make sure the cloth is changed out frequently, or consider using pre-wet wipes to clean each table.

Have any pet peeves of your own? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Want to know how restaurant wait staff and increase their tips by 21% while improving the customer experience? Read our post: 3 Free Ways Small Restaurant Owners Can Increase Employee Satisfaction.

Lisa Furgison
About the Author
Lisa Furgison

Lisa is a writer at Fivestars, a freelance journalist, and co-owner of a media company, McEwen's Media.

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