Your Ultimate Guide to Overcoming Common Restaurant Complaints and Solutions
As a restaurant owner, you know that customer satisfaction is essential to your success. But no matter how hard you try, sometimes customers aren’t happy with the service or food they receive. It can be disheartening when your efforts don’t meet expectations, but it doesn’t have to be a death sentence for your business.
By recognizing and addressing common customer complaints, you can turn an unhappy meal into an opportunity for improvement. In this blog post, we will discuss some of the most common restaurant complaints and solutions you can use to ensure a positive customer experience.
Read on for helpful tips on addressing customer concerns in a restaurant setting!
Common Restaurant Complaints and Solutions
1. Restaurant Customer Complaints About Food
Overcooked Or Undercooked Food
Customers complain about their steak being too tough and chewy, or a burger that’s either not cooked enough or burnt to a crisp. No matter the dish, these complaints can be frustrating for customers and an embarrassment for the establishment.
The solution to this problem is effective communication. Restaurant staff members should communicate with customers to prevent some issues from occurring in the first place. Servers must ask customers how they like their food cooked and ensure that the kitchen staff knows the customer’s preferences. By actively communicating, chefs can ensure that dishes are prepared to the desired level of doneness. Additionally, if customers are unsatisfied with their meal, staff should be ready to take the dish back and cook it to the customer’s specifications.
One of the most common complaints in restaurants is an order mix-up. This could involve a customer receiving the wrong item, an incorrect beverage or topping, or a dish prepared differently from how they ordered it.
The best way to address this complaint is for the restaurant staff to be proactive. Before serving the customer, the staff should ensure that they have prepared the order correctly and double-checked the ingredients or other details with the customer before delivering it to the table.
If a mix-up does happen, the staff should apologize and quickly take action to correct the mistake. This may include preparing the correct order, offering a complimentary item or drink, or giving a partial refund to the customer.
It is important for the staff to remain professional and friendly when dealing with complaints and always strive to leave the customer with a positive experience.
Absence of Certain Services Or Products
A restaurant may disappoint customers by not providing expected services or products. For example, some may anticipate a full-service bar, only to discover the restaurant doesn't serve alcohol.
To avoid this issue, restaurants should be transparent with customers about the products and services they offer. It's crucial to list all available options on the website and menu, so customers can make informed decisions about whether the restaurant is the right choice for them. The list should be easily accessible and prominently displayed on the restaurant's website and menu. This way, customers can quickly get the information they need to decide whether the restaurant meets their needs.
Dietary Restrictions Not Accommodated
Customers often feel frustrated when they cannot find food items on a restaurant menu that accommodate their dietary restrictions. This can be especially frustrating for individuals with allergies or other medical conditions that require special diets.
The solution: Restaurants should ensure that their menu provides options that accommodate various dietary restrictions. They could include vegetarian, vegan, or gluten-free items. Additionally, they should have knowledgeable staff who can provide guidance and suggestions to customers with dietary restrictions.
Restaurants should also be willing to make substitutions and accommodate special requests whenever possible. This will help customers feel comfortable and welcome in the restaurant, even if their dietary needs differ from the standard menu items.
Furthermore, it is important to be transparent about ingredients and food preparation methods so customers can make informed decisions. Ensuring that customers feel that their dietary needs are respected and taken seriously will lead to a better overall customer experience.
Food and Beverages Served At Incorrect Temperatures
The complaint of food and beverages being served at incorrect temperatures is a frequent problem in the restaurant industry. Customers expect their food to be served hot and their drinks cold for optimal enjoyment. If not, it can spoil the entire dining experience.
The solution to this problem is simple: ensure that food is kept at the proper temperature before being plated and served. Additionally, restaurant staff should check the temperatures of cooked and pre-cooked food items before serving them to customers. For beverages, staff should pre-cool glasses and ensure that drinks are served at the desired temperature. Finally, having quality equipment that can maintain temperatures is also essential. By following these steps, restaurants can help prevent food and beverages from being served at incorrect temperatures.
Perceived Poor Value/Overpricing
Many customers feel frustrated when they believe that they did not receive enough value for their money after dining at a restaurant.
To set themselves apart from their competitors, restaurants should aim to offer additional value with their dishes. They can achieve this by providing a variety of specials, discounts, and value-priced dishes that offer customers more for their money. This can be achieved by creating set menus with complementary items or offering promotions such as two-for-one specials. In addition, restaurants should be transparent about pricing by clearly displaying prices on the menu. This will enable customers to make informed decisions and avoid feeling as if they have been overcharged.
2. Restaurant Customer Complaints About Service
Poor Customer Service
Poor customer service is one of the most common complaints in restaurants. Customers may experience slow responses to requests or orders or a lack of knowledge and care from the wait staff.
The best way to address poor customer service is to ensure the staff is properly trained. Waitstaff should have a friendly attitude toward customers and be knowledgeable about food, drink, and service offerings. Managers should also be available to respond to customer complaints quickly and address any issues with the staff. Additionally, providing incentives for good customer service, such as a bonus for outstanding service or special recognition for customer comments, can help encourage staff to provide excellent customer service.
Rude Front of House Staff
Customers often complain about the front of house staff who are rude or ill-behaved. This includes the use of aggressive language, unprofessional conduct, or disregard for customers. Customers expect to be treated with respect and courtesy, and any negative behavior from staff can quickly ruin their dining experience.
The solution is to have friendly and polite staff who provide excellent customer service. Front of house staff should be trained on how to interact with customers, and clear expectations for acceptable behavior should be communicated. Make sure there are systems in place to address customer complaints when they arise and take the time to speak with employees who exhibit unprofessional behavior. Additionally, lead by example; managers should set a good standard for customer service and strive to create a pleasant environment for both customers and staff. Hold employees accountable for their behavior and ensure they follow established customer service guidelines. By taking these steps, customers will have a positive experience with your staff.
Long Waits for Seating/Service
Customers expect efficient service but may become frustrated when they are forced to wait longer than they would like, especially when hungry. This can lead to a negative experience, causing customers to become impatient and less likely to return.
The solution: Restaurants should strive to hire and train enough staff so that they are prepared to meet the needs of customers. They can also implement online reservations and waiting lists to help customers plan their visits better and reduce the wait time once they arrive.
In addition, restaurants may increase their seating capacity and staff members to reduce long waits. They should also communicate any delays or wait times to customers so they know what to expect.
Ensuring customers have a pleasant experience right from the start is key to making them want to return.
Inaccurate Check Calculation/Check Inaccuracy
A common restaurant complaint is an inaccurate check calculation. Customers may feel they were charged incorrectly or that the amount on the check does not match the itemized list of what they ordered.
This can be a frustrating issue for both customers and staff, as it can lead to time wasted in troubleshooting the issue.
To prevent this, restaurants should invest in POS (Point of Sale) systems to calculate checks and keep detailed records of transactions. POS systems provide more accurate billing, help minimize human error, and speed up the checkout process. POS systems have various features, such as integrated payment processing, inventory tracking, and loyalty programs. They also allow restaurants to accept various payment methods, from cash to credit cards.
Ensure that each check calculation is accurate by double-checking prices, verifying quantity, and reviewing any discounts or coupons that may have been applied before presenting it to a customer. Additionally, providing customers with an itemized receipt after their meal outlining each item they ordered and the associated cost is important. This will clarify and assure customers that their check calculation is accurate.
It is also important to have a customer service policy in place should mistakes occur. Restaurant staff should be trained to handle these complaints professionally and courteously, such as offering to correct the calculation or providing some form of customer compensation. This will help customers feel heard and valued, thereby increasing customer satisfaction.
One of the most common complaints about restaurants is that of inattentive servers. Customers can experience long wait times without being greeted or served, which often leads to an overall poor dining experience and frustration among guests.
To combat the problem of inattentive servers, restaurant owners should ensure that all staff members are educated on the importance of providing prompt and attentive service. Servers should also be encouraged to monitor their tables and check in frequently with customers, addressing any special requests promptly and professionally.
Moreover, restaurant owners should create a culture of respect for customers’ time and ensure that wait times are kept to a minimum. Restaurant managers should hold all staff members accountable for providing excellent customer service. By implementing these measures, restaurants can create an enjoyable dining experience for all their guests.
Poor Meal Pacing
Customers often complain about meals being served too quickly or taking a long time to arrive.
To address this complaint, restaurant owners and managers should ensure that kitchen staff is properly trained on meal pacing guidelines. This includes teaching them the order of service and how to anticipate customer needs. It is also important for staff to be aware of any changes to the kitchen schedule, so they can inform customers and manage their expectations.
Additionally, staff should be aware of what other food items are ready in the kitchen and when, as this can help them keep track of time. They should also communicate with wait staff throughout the night to monitor how long each dish takes and adjust accordingly.
Providing customers with a timeline for when to expect each course helps set expectations and helps the pacing of the meal. By having clear communication between staff and taking proactive steps to manage meal pacing, restaurants can help ensure that meals are served appropriately.
Absence of Different Modes of Payments
One common complaint among restaurant customers is the lack of different payment options. With fewer and fewer people carrying cash, it is important for restaurants to offer a variety of payment methods, including credit cards, debit cards, and even digital payments. By offering several payment options, customers can choose the one that works best for them.
To implement this, restaurants should look into partnering with payment processors that can handle various forms of payment. This will help create a more seamless payment process for customers and make it easier for the restaurant to keep track of payment information. Additionally, restaurants should ensure that their payment processing services utilize EMV payment and PCI standards to protect customer information and reduce the risk of fraud. This will help to create a safe and secure payment experience for customers.
3. Restaurant Customer Complaints About Atmosphere
One of the most common complaints in restaurants is untidiness, which can manifest itself as unclean tables, utensils, or even restrooms.
To address this issue, restaurant staff should keep all areas clean and tidy by wiping down tables, sanitizing utensils after each use, and regularly disinfecting restrooms. They should also be trained to properly put away dishes, utensils, and clean restaurant equipment, keeping the floors free from trip or slip hazards.
In addition, setting up a schedule for regular deep-cleaning of the floors, walls, and seating areas, as well as stocking up on cleaning supplies, is important. Finally, staff should receive regular training on proper cleaning techniques and protocols to ensure that customers have a pleasant, clean dining experience.
Poor Seating Arrangement
Poor seating arrangements can be a major source of frustration for restaurant patrons. Not having enough space, sitting too close to other tables, or being seated in an area with too much traffic can all cause discomfort.
To avoid this, restaurants should focus on providing enough seating space and thoughtful layout plans that are comfortable for guests. Furniture should be arranged in a way that reduces overcrowding and allows tables to be spaced out so that customers have ample room to move around. Restaurants should also consider the noise level of different areas of their establishments and adjust seating accordingly. Furthermore, restaurants should be aware of any potential hazards in the seating area and take measures to prevent them; poorly maintained chairs, sharp edges on tables, and tripping hazards should all be addressed.
With these considerations in mind, restaurants can ensure that their seating arrangements are safe and comfortable for all patrons.
Too Hot Or Too Cold Room Temperatures
Restaurant patrons often complain that the room temperature is either too hot or too cold. This can be a difficult complaint to address since different people have different temperature preferences. However, there are a few solutions that can help address this issue.
Firstly, ensuring that the air conditioning or heating system is in good working order and properly maintained is important. Badly maintained systems may not be able to cool or heat the restaurant to an acceptable temperature adequately. Additionally, it is beneficial to use ceiling fans to help circulate air and create a more comfortable environment.
Restaurants should also ensure that their staff is aware of customer complaints regarding the temperature and can take action to address them as soon as possible. This could include adjusting the thermostat, turning on or off fans as needed, and offering customers blankets to help them stay comfortable.
Poor restaurant lighting can be a major issue, making it hard to read menus, see food on the plate, and enjoy the atmosphere. Poor lighting can also be a safety hazard. The solution is to ensure that the restaurant has adequate lighting. This includes adding more light fixtures and replacing dim or burnt bulbs. It is also important to consider the type of lighting used in the restaurant, as different types of lighting can create different atmospheres.
One of the most common complaints from customers about restaurants is poor lighting. This can make a restaurant feel uncomfortable, unappealing, and unsafe for customers. To address this issue, the restaurant should evaluate their existing lighting and consider making improvements such as increasing bulb wattage or installing dimmer switches to allow customers to adjust the lighting level for a more comfortable dining environment.
Too Loud (Noisy and Bad Music)
Complaints about restaurants being too loud are common. Noise can come from both loud conversation and blaring music, making it hard for customers to talk and enjoy their food. Excessive noise can also be distracting and unpleasant.
The solution to this problem is for restaurants to manage the noise levels in their space. They should consider reducing the volume of background music during peak hours and using softer music throughout the day. Restaurants should also periodically monitor the noise levels in their dining rooms and make changes as needed.
By doing this, customers can enjoy their meals in a quieter and more pleasant atmosphere. Good acoustics and moderate music levels can enhance the dining experience and create a welcoming ambiance.
Remember, a restaurant's success depends not only on the quality of its food but also on the overall experience it provides to its customers. So, pay attention to the noise level in your restaurant, and make sure it's not too loud.
4. Online Ordering Complaints
One of the most common complaints restaurants receive regarding online orders is that customers receive the wrong item, food gets cold during delivery or takeout, and there are long wait times.
To address these issues, restaurants need an efficient and effective system to manage online ordering. Integrating a restaurant POS system with the restaurant’s website or third-party delivery services can drastically reduce mistakes, optimize order preparation times and shorten wait times for customers.
A good POS system should include features that help streamline the process of managing online orders, such as order management, payment processing, and delivery tracking. With these features, restaurants can easily monitor and manage customer orders, track payments and ensure that food arrives quickly and accurately.
5. Pricing Complaints
Pricing complaints are one of the most common customer grievances. Customers may feel that a dish is too expensive or be surprised by unexpected charges for upsells such as extra condiments or side dishes. Unexpected auto-gratuities can add insult to injury. Delivery and service fees can also be deterrents when ordering takeout or making reservations.
The solution is to be upfront and honest with customers about pricing. Clearly display menu items and their associated costs, including delivery fees and other charges, so that customers know exactly what they are paying for. If possible, offer a la carte menu options or discounted bundles so that customers have the freedom to choose how much they spend. Additionally, restaurants should create transparent policies and communicate them to customers so that they understand any additional fees or auto-gratuities. By providing clear pricing information and being upfront about any additional charges, restaurants can reduce the likelihood of customer complaints due to pricing confusion.
6. Technology Complaints
One common complaint about restaurants is that their website or online ordering platforms do not work properly. Customers may have difficulty navigating a confusing user interface, encounter bugs, or find it challenging to complete their orders. To address this issue, restaurants should ensure that their websites are regularly tested for glitches and updated with the latest technology. Additionally, restaurants should strive to keep their online ordering platforms user-friendly and intuitive.
Another complaint that restaurants often face is inflexible self-service ordering kiosks. These machines can be challenging to use, causing some customers to become frustrated and abandon their orders altogether. To address this issue, restaurants should ensure that their self-service kiosks are up-to-date with the latest technology and offer various payment options. Additionally, these machines should be regularly tested and maintained to ensure they are working correctly. Finally, restaurants should provide clear instructions on using the self ordering kiosks so customers can easily place their orders. By addressing common technology issues such as website glitches, confusing online ordering platforms, and inflexible self-service ordering kiosks, restaurants can ensure their customers have a pleasant and seamless dining experience.
Handling Customer Complaints In a Restaurant
When handling customer complaints in a restaurant, there are several important steps to follow.
First and foremost, remain calm and professional at all times. A customer who is already frustrated will only become more so if they are met with an unprofessional attitude. Listen carefully to their complaint, and make sure you have understood their issue correctly.
Once the complaint has been heard, apologize to the customer for any issues they may have experienced, and thank them for bringing it to your attention. This will help show the customer that you value their opinion and take their complaint seriously.
Next, take the necessary steps to address the complaint, such as offering a refund or a complimentary meal. Afterward, check in with the customer to ensure they are satisfied with how their complaint was handled, and thank them for bringing it to your attention.
Finally, document the customer complaint and any action taken to address it. Having a record of customer complaints will help you identify areas that need improvement and take action to prevent similar issues in the future.
By following these steps, you can ensure that customer complaints are handled in a professional, efficient manner. In doing so, you will strengthen your customer relationships and ensure that customers continue to return to your restaurant.
Frequently Asked Questions About Common Restaurant Complaints and Solutions
As a restaurant owner or manager, it's important to be aware of common customer complaints and have effective solutions in place to address them. To help you navigate these situations, here are some frequently asked questions about common restaurant complaints and solutions.
What Are the 4 Types of Complaints?
There are four types of complaints that customers can raise with a company. These include:
- Product or Service Complaints
- Billing and Payment Complaints
- Customer Service Complaints
- Refunds and Exchanges Complaints
What Makes Customers Upset?
Customers can become upset for various reasons, such as:
- Poor customer service
- Delays in delivery
- Unexpected fees or charges
- Hidden costs
- Poor product quality
- Incorrect orders
- Lack of responsiveness from customer service representatives
Additionally, customers may feel frustrated if they feel their concerns or complaints are not taken seriously or addressed promptly. These issues can lead to customers feeling disrespected, undervalued, and dissatisfied with their overall experience.
What Is the Top Complaint In the Restaurant and Food Service Industry?
A survey conducted in March 2014 by the Consumer Reports National Research Center with 1,003 adults found that approximately 73-76 percent of customers' primary complaints were unclean tables, utensils, or restrooms.