There is a saying that we cannot please everybody. But in the food business, you need to accept that your business exists to satisfy and please your target customers. They are the main factor that will determine if your business will thrive or fold up.
Restaurateurs should always look for ways on how to make their customers happy. And if anything causes them to feel otherwise, as a business owner, there is no other option for you but to be involved, to intervene, and to focus on finding a solution. Also, the competition in our industry is so tight that neglecting even the littlest customer complaint will surely backfire through a tainted reputation, old customers going to the next restaurant instead, or employees and suppliers withdrawing their support.
What are the most common customer complaints received by restaurants and cafes? We have come up with a list topped with ways on how to avoid them.
Dirty floors, dirty tables, dirty restrooms, dirty utensils. These issues top our list. Well, who wouldn’t complain about dirt? Dirt equates to poor hygiene and that doesn’t match well with a food business. No matter how sumptuous the meal is, if it is served in an unclean environment, or if it was prepared using unclean tools and utensils, by staff who look untidy and unhygienic, then any customer will lose his or her appetite. Also, the obvious mess present in a restaurant tells so much about how the owner operates the business. Is he a very disorganised person? Doesn’t he care about health and safety at all? These are just some questions that we don’t want our customers to be asking, right?
Let’s start with the dining area. In a fast-paced environment where customers come and go, it is not an excuse to just wipe a table quickly and leave it to be occupied by the next customer. Your waiters should make it a point that the tables are free from oil and liquid residues, bits of food, and of smell. After cleaning the table, always have a sanitising spray and a clean cloth to wipe the table again. Let the sanitising solution dry on the table to ensure that it is not just spotless but also disinfected. After that, check the seats and the floor for any bits of food too.
Next, the restroom. There should be a protocol that needs to be followed when cleaning the restroom. It is not acceptable to clean public restrooms just once a day. Restrooms are used more than twice in an hour so have a periodic cleaning routine for it. Ensure that countertops, faucet, sinks, urinals, toilet, light switch, and door knob are all working, squeaky clean, and sanitised.
Assign staff who will take care of cleaning tables, floors, rest rooms and washing the dishes. Food handlers should not come into contact with potential germ carriers since they might unknowingly spread germs and cause cross contamination. But this is sometimes unavoidable so to make sure that your hands are always clean. Make it a habit to wash your hands thoroughly before handling food.
Poor Customer Service
Your receptionist, food servers or waiters, the restaurant manager, and even yourself are the top representatives of your business. You are all the front liners who interact regularly with your customers every single time they walk into your establishment. That is why all of you should be careful not to leave a bad impression to your customers. Slow service, impolite behaviour, and sloppy appearance are the top complaints of customers. Here are ways on how you can address them.
Slow service or long wait time has been an existing problem ever since the boom of restaurant business. Food servers or waiters should be able to provide an estimated time before the meal can be served to set the expectation of your customers. Same goes for restaurants with queue lines. You can also provide additional amenities or entertainment inside your restaurant to keep your customers busy while they are waiting for their food. You can have TV installed inside your place, offer free access to wi-fi, or hire a live band perhaps.
Customers also relate a sloppy appearance to poor customer service. It is hard to see a person acting smart and alert when his appearance is sloppy. And this is the same with customers being welcomed by poorly dressed and groomed hosts and food servers. This can be addressed by establishing a dress code or by getting your staff a uniform with your logo in it.
Lastly, food and hospitality businesses require people who take great delight in communicating and providing good customer service. You should then establish and maintain a team culture that practices politeness, professionalism, patience, and hard work.
Food Does Not Meet Expectations
When the food that was served didn’t meet your customer’s expectations, they will definitely raise a complaint or at least will let you know about their dissatisfaction. Incorrect meal served, food and drinks not served at the right temperature, and food that doesn’t look and taste the same as what’s described in the menu are the top complaints about food not meeting expectations.
Poor Dining Area Arrangement
You might get complaints from customers who are bothered by too much noise from the other table or if they feel that the dining area is a bit cramped. These examples are still valid complaints that need to be addressed because these are all still part of your customers’ dining experience. Anything that can make your customer uncomfortable while eating inside your restaurant might negatively affect their experience.
You should then take the time to consider your restaurant's layout and interior design and arrangement. Don’t book beyond your restaurant’s seating capacity. Provide space allowance not just for the tables and chairs but also for your customers and staff to be able to move freely and without any obstruction. This will give your customer enough space while dining.
Are these information helpful? Did we give you ideas on how to better address customer complaints? Remember that the best way to prevent these situations is if your entire operations is well-managed and properly monitored. If you need help on that area then you can download our Operations Manual sampler for free. Just click this link.