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Handling Restaurant Complaints – Common Problems in the Food Industry

Much like in any commerce, customer complaints in the food and hospitality industry are inevitable regardless how you run your business. To quote John Lydgate “You can please some of the people all the time. You can please all the people some of the time. You cannot please all the people all the time”. While some customers are naturally fastidious, sometimes complaints go beyond discovering flies in their soups which is off-putting enough as it is. Dirty tables, grimy utensils, lack of hygiene, uncomfortable seating, unkempt furniture, unpalatable food and poor services can deter visitors from returning to your establishment. What’s worse, social media allows people to vocalize their dining experiences to the public – not all are high praises but scathing criticism which are posted on various platforms such as Yelp, Facebook, and Tripadvisor. As a restaurant owner, you can prevent these situations from escalating by handling these complaints accordingly. Understanding the nature of the complaints and why they are being made can help you formulate solutions to improve customer experience.

Restaurant Complaints: What Efforts to Make

Running your own dining establishment is a high-risk business proposition. Whether you are a novice in the business or a veteran, you are likely to encounter restaurant complaints at some point in your career. Ensuring a pleasurable experience for your patrons all the time can be difficult. Competition is heavy and there are a myriad of details to perfect whether they are minor or major. In fact, studies show that 60 percent of businesses fail within the first year of operation. When someone even makes the slightest infraction seem like a catastrophe of what was supposed to be a casual night out, it can seem personal to both the customer and operational staff. Whether the complaint is as simple as delivering something the customer did not order at a fast food eatery to lack of service at an upscale gourmet restaurant, how you handle customer complaints can make a difference. You would use the same approach if you were given feedback in person or online. When addressing negative comments or complaints, it’s especially important to remain calm, attentive, apologetic, and sympathetic regardless of their severity in efforts to ensure the success of your venue. Doing as such can also help you develop strategies to combat the problems being brought to your attention.

Service or Lack Thereof

First impressions are important and last. Patrons notice and remember service before anything else. A survey of 1,003 people was taken by Consumer Reports about their gripes with eating out and found that they were most disappointed by poor customer service. Customer satisfaction is the key to the success of your restaurant. The way you handle your customers along every step of their experience at your restaurant determines your retention of them. Rude and impolite servers, uninformed staff of the food featured on the menu, waiting longer than necessary for your meal, being served meals you didn’t order, misrepresentation of the food you order from what was described on the menu, feeling rushed to finish your meal by the server, having your meal removed before you finish, not being served water unless asked, and patrons being referred by pet names are enough to drive them away. If they weren’t greeted upon entry or departure or shown to their tables, they might mention that on an online restaurant review. All of these problems can be prevented even before they occur. Taking such preventative measures entail restaurant management tips that are dedicated towards the customer’s experience with service that will encourage him/her to return to your venue. As the digital arena continues to expand, online restaurant reviews increasingly have an impact on your success.

Poor Hygiene

Presenting your customers with stained silverware, dusty glasses and dishes with remnants of food caked on to them could brew trouble for your restaurant. But more serious matters such as food poisoning and other illnesses caused by infestation or being served with food prepared by unclean equipment could potentially have your restaurant permanently shut down. Either way, they are detrimental to the future of your business. Restaurant cleaning and maintenance are crucial for ensuring the consistency of your business. Poor hygiene, be it dirty toilets, torn up furniture, putrid odors permeating the dining area, or grimy dinnerware, is a common customer complaint that needs to be addressed. Methods of restaurant cleaning vary depending on your priorities, the damage and the item that needs cleaning. If needed, you can recruit a cleaning service company to upkeep the hygiene of your entire venue. At most, you should educate your staff on the importance of cleanliness.

Unbalanced Restaurant Design and Layout

Restaurant bar stools and chairs setting

A restaurant layout and seating plan should factor the type of food you serve, the number of guests per table you expect to seat, maximum safe occupancy of your establishment, the number of patrons your staff can serve, as well as other elements that affect restaurant performance, traffic flow, and customer experience. The seating capacity depends on the restaurant tables and chairs you use. Poorly situated restaurant furniture can not only generate chaos at service but also pose as a safety hazard where both the servers and the customers are put at risk of injuries. Tables that are too close together make it difficult for the wait staff to serve and for the customers to have a conversation. Having a detailed layout plan can help you decide on the table’s shape and size that are proportional with the right seating. The furniture you use should be of high quality ergo allowing your guests to dine in comfort. But above all, the space between the furniture and in which the server delivers meals should be sufficient.

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