What bugs you about restaurants? Plenty, according to a newly published survey from Consumer Reports.
The survey, which appears in the August issue of Consumer Reports, was conducted by the publication’s National Research Center in March and included 1,003 adults. As it turns out, there are dozens of ways a restaurant can turn off its customers. Among the most commonly cited:
- Filth. Roughly three-quarters of respondents cited dirty utensils as a reason to gripe about a restaurant. About the same percentage mentioned dirty or ill-equipped restrooms, and 67 percent cited “servers with a sloppy appearance or poor hygiene.” Women in the study were slightly more likely to complain about dirty restrooms than men. (No surprise there.)
- Other People. Thirty-eight percent said they’re annoyed by loud or distracting diners at other tables, and 39 percent hate it when tables are too close together. Thirty percent are annoyed by nearby diners talking on cell phones or texting at the table.
- Food Issues. Sixty-six percent of respondents cited “meals or beverages served at the incorrect temperature.” More than half mentioned food that doesn’t look or taste as the menu describes, and 62 percent said they’ve had it up to here with servers bringing them the wrong order.
- Service Out of Sync. Do you hate impolite or condescending servers? So did 72 percent of respondents in the survey. They also hate it when they feel the server is rushing them (61 percent), when their table isn’t ready more than 15 minutes past the reservation time (50 percent) and when service is slow (51 percent).
No Shortage of Annoyances, But Technology Can Help
If you own or manage a restaurant, clearly there are many ways to get on your customers’ last nerve. Fortunately, there are ways restaurant technology can help mitigate much of the danger.
Take, for example, the problem of keeping restrooms clean and well-equipped. Especially during busy times, restrooms should be inspected every 15 or 20 minutes, if possible. One idea might be to use a staff paging system that would free up host staff to do regular restroom inspections while still remaining available to run the front door. Another is to install a push-for-service button in restrooms that allows customers to quickly alert managers to unsatisfactory conditions.
Service is an area where technology can be a big help in alleviating customer complaints. A few quick examples:
- With a waitlist management system, waiting for a table becomes a less tedious process. Instead of milling around the host stand, customers can take a coaster pager and go get a drink in the bar, knowing they won’t miss hearing their name called. As a bonus, the host stand area is less chaotic and quiet. People hate noise. Also, waitlist management helps ensure diners aren’t kept waiting long when they have a reservation.
- In a Fast Casual setting, table-tracking systems can help restaurants serve food at the proper temperature more consistently. When food is ready, servers no longer have to wander around looking for table tent numbers while the food gets cold. A system like the LRS Table Tracker also speeds up service and allows restaurants to turn more tables without rushing diners.
It’s a New Age for Gathering Customer Feedback
One of the biggest ways technology can help restaurants is by helping them stay in touch with customer peccadilloes in real time. Today’s survey tablets are miles better than the older ways of gathering feedback.
While the age-old comment card system might be lucky to garner a 10 percent response rate, upwards of 75 percent are likely to respond via tablet. That means a far more representative sample of opinions on a range of issues, including all the issues we’ve mentioned here. By using such a system, restaurants begin to amass feedback data that helps them fine tune the customer experience.
Also, any negative customer responses immediately trigger a text message to the manager, who can talk to diners before they go away mad and lodge damaging complaints on social media.
As is obvious from the Consumer Reports data, restaurants are unlikely to avoid running afoul of diners at some point. The best strategy is to put technology in place that lowers the chance of doing so – and that alerts you when customers find problems.
Learn How New Technologies are Enhancing the Customer Experience
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Skip Cass is the chief executive officer at LRS and an expert in operations efficiency and creating a memorable guest experience.