Common Restaurant Complaints and How to Avoid Them
When we put time, energy and effort into our restaurant business, the last thing we want is complaints and poor reviews. It can be very disheartening and make you feel like you are failing as a business. However, being aware of the most common complaints will put you in a good place to be aware of them and work towards avoiding them. If you’re a restaurant, gastropub or hotel manager, here’s how to avoid the most common complaints.
One of the key complaints about restaurants is low-quality food. This will often depend on the price of your food, but even budget restaurants will receive complaints of poor portion sizes or bad quality. People are choosing to spend their money in your restaurant and will feel cheated if the standard isn’t what they expect.
If you have had a dish sent back to the kitchen because it is cold or not cooked right, make sure this error is corrected as fast as possible. If you make the effort to clear the mistake and respond well to the guests, they are less likely to leave a bad review.
In order to avoid this, you should focus on strengthening communication between waiting staff and kitchen staff, ensuring that all requests or changes to the dish are well explained to the chefs and that each dish is checked before it is sent out.
Profit and revenue are important for a business, but setting fair prices is even more vital. You may need to do some market research to set suitable prices for your establishment. If you feel that you offer a fine dining experience with fresh and local ingredients, you can often afford to raise your prices. People will be willing to pay more for a quality meal.
However, there is a fine line between appropriate pricing and overpricing. If you are getting complaints that the food is too expensive, perhaps you should reevaluate and determine whether or not it seems fair. People will complain more about a variety of things if they have paid more for the meal. They expect a higher level of service to come with a higher price tag, so bear that in mind.
You can avoid this by simply ensuring your prices seem fair and doing some market research. Do the maths and find out how much you need to price your menu items in order to make a fair price.
Long wait times
There’s only a certain amount of time guests can stay occupied with good conversation before they realise their food has taken more than 30 minutes to arrive. Typically, restaurants turn over tables in 2 hours. That means if you have a booking on every table every two hours, you can’t afford to have long wait times.
You should aim to serve your guests their food within an hour of their arrival and within 30 minutes of them ordering. Ideally, your guests will have their food between 15 and 20 minutes of ordering.
If you are particularly busy or short-staffed, it helps to create a distraction so that guests don’t notice the length of time they are waiting. Offering free bread and butter for the table gives them something to satiate their stomachs while they wait and will be less likely to complain.
Noisy or bad music
The atmosphere you create in your restaurant can either make or break a guest’s experience. Putting on your own playlist of favourite songs doesn’t mean everyone in your restaurant will love it, nor will it fit the atmosphere of your restaurant. People will generally be able to tolerate some music they don’t love, but if it’s loud and deafening, you’ll rack up some complaints.
Try to find music or playlists that really suit the kind of restaurant you have. For example, if your restaurant is a fine dining experience, why not test out some classical or jazz. If you have a more contemporary gastropub, you’ll be able to find plenty of playlists online that will fit the ambience you are trying to achieve. If you have a particularly noisy restaurant, you can pay for sound-absorbing panels to be installed on the ceiling or walls to help minimise any disruptive noise.
Make sure you find the right volume so that you can hear the music but guests aren’t having to raise their voices to be heard.
Rude wait staff
Your guests will be spending most of the dining experience being served by one or two waiters. This means that depending on their treatment, they may force a guest to leave a bad review or a good review.
A member of your staff may just be having a bad day or is rushed off their feet and a guest may read this as rude service. This is one of the most common complaints and can easily be avoided.
The best thing to do is ensure that you have trained your staff well. Any on-boarding you do will determine the level of service a new employee will give. Make sure they are trained by your best supervisors and know exactly what to do so they have the confidence to provide quality service. It’s also wise to avoid understaffing as much as possible. The busier someone is, the harder it is for them to meet the needs of multiple tables.
A discrepancy with the bill
Another common complaint is that the bill has been miscalculated. When a waiter is rushing around, they may forget to put certain items on the bill or accidentally click too many of one item. This is more likely if a guest has sent their food back and demands a refund. As there is no hard and fast rule when it comes to refunds in restaurants, it can be hard to deal with the bill at the end of a meal.
Even if you are undercharging your guest, it makes you look careless and paints a bad picture of your restaurant. Bills should be checked and double-checked before payment is taken to reduce the risk of a miscalculated bill. This will significantly reduce your chances of a complaint or bad review.
Bad seating arrangements
While it may not be a huge consideration for most restaurants, your table layout really matters. Often guests will complain about not being given a certain table or being seated too close to another table.
In order to avoid these complaints, space out your tables well so there isn’t overcrowding and make sure there are tables able to support different party sizes such as tables for two or six.
Lack of cleanliness
Guests hope that the restaurant they are dining in is clean and hygienic. They will be paying attention to table linens such as tablecloths and serviettes and checking they are free of stains or dirt. They will also look at cutlery and glasses for watermarks and leftover food or lipstick marks.
In order to avoid these complaints, make sure that your staff have a cleaning rota and are well trained in the correct process of cleaning and polishing cutlery and glasses. It’s also worthwhile investing in high-quality table linens or using a commercial laundry service for your tablecloth hiring. They will ensure that each piece of linen sent to your restaurant is in the highest condition, free from stains, holes and discolouration. They will also take your dirty linens and clean them before delivering a fresh set to you. This not only saves you from dealing with nasty complaints. But it also saves you time and money in the long run.
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