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Marketing Insights

20 Things A Restaurant Customer Hates But Won’t Tell You

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Restaurant and food business is tough. But you got into it because of your love for food. You have an advantage many businesses don’t. You and your staff interact with your customers everyday and have the opportunity to know first hand what they like, don’t like and would love to have from you.

Other businesses have to pay a lot of money for consumer research or fly by the seat of their pants guessing what will convert a prospect into a raving fan. It doesn’t take research to know why people go out to restaurants and bars. People go out as a reward, to have good food, for entertainment and enjoy time with friends. Some people like trying new places and different cuisines. What makes them come back again and again? They will come back to places they had a great time at, enjoyed the food and staff. 

Some of these comments I have thought but not said to restaurant staff.

I’m Karen Kerski, experienced branding and direct response expert and constant dinner. I’ve advised businesses, read so many pages of business analysis and helped mold many strategies for small and medium size businesses with local to worldwide footprint.

The following is real feedback from customers like yours. Most people are polite, avoid controversy and won’t tell you what they are thinking. Some of these comments I have thought but not said to restaurant staff. This is an opportunity to innovate and make your establishment remarkable so your place becomes the restaurant of choice. A loyal customer can be your biggest asset when they can’t stop talking about how great your place is. 

This is some of the most valuable feedback you could get and I am providing as a gift. 

  1. “Cranky pants wait staff or snooty hostesses erase all the good stuff about a restaurant.”
  2. “I have a gift certificate but I can’t use it at happy hour, holidays and weekends when I have the time to enjoy your establishment.”
  3. “I hate when a menu item doesn’t have a full description and leaves out ingredients like mushrooms and olives.”
  4. “It’s super annoying that your tables wobbles.”
  5. “I hate when they say the wait will be 30 minutes and they really know it’s 1-1/2 hours.”
  6. “I’d like pleasant surroundings not facing a messy bus station.”
  7. “Why not charge less and give me an appropriate portion size? This could feed a family of four.”
  8. “Can you provide a flashlight? It’s so dark I can’t read your menu.”
  9. “I hate small print. Can’t you afford bigger font size so I can read your menu? I am not even 60 yet.”
  10. “I hate when the wait staff serves our food then disappears and doesn’t check back to refill our drinks.”
  11. “Excuse me, I need some utensils and condiments to eat the food you just dropped off.”
  12. “If you automatically charge gratuity tell me and mark it prominently on my check so I don’t leave 45% tip.”
  13. “Loud, complaining and obnoxious people should have their own private sections with screaming babies”
  14. “Thanks for vacuuming when I’m eating my steak. Are you in a rush for me to leave?”
  15. “I’d like real brewed iced tea you made, not instant and not made in a coffee maker so it tastes like coffee grounds.”
  16. “No flowers are much better than dusty, old fake flowers.”
  17. “I understand measured drinks, but how come that tables wine glasses are way full.”
  18. “I just fixed my coffee, it’s perfect and then the waiter filled it up and messed it up.”
  19. “I said water with no ice, those are ice cubes.”
  20. “I hate their rest rooms. They are always so smelly and look like they haven’t been scrubbed in a decade.”
  21. “Full parking lots are a sure sign it’s a good place but not having enough parking is a deal breaker.”
  22. “I love coupons because it entices me to try new places but hate it when they have restrictions like not valid on Saturdays or after 4pm weekdays. I work and can’t do lunch.”
  23. “The best service is seen, available and not bugging you like a pesky fly. Nothing irritates me more than a waitperson that asks me 25 times “is everything okay?”
  24. “Same goes for a robot manager, who does the same thing.”
  25. “I once received a thank you note from a restaurant, I was shocked and impressed.”
  26. “I like to know what items are truly healthy on the menu.”
  27. “I enjoyed reading about how the restaurant got started and who the chef was.”
  28. “This is a fancy restaurant why do they use bottled salad dressings and canned tomatoes?”
  29. “I wish you would have told me it came with three sides.”

This list is ever changing – a work in progress. It started out as a top 10 list and has grown to almost 30. Did we miss anything? Send me your insight: positive or hateful restaurant experience to add to the list.

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