6 Common Customer Complaints in Restaurants

In all parts of the world, restaurants are vulnerable to an unshakeable reality: customer complaints. No matter how good the service, restaurants will always deal with potentially unhappy guests. 

The best way to tackle these tricky situations is to practice good, honest communication with customers. Otherwise, bad service mixed with poor communication can make difficult situations get worse.

Want to increase the proficiency of your restaurant’s service? Tell us about your experiences.

Here are some helpful tips to manage customer complaints in restaurants. 

Customer complaints in restaurants provide an opportunity for feedback (via Flickr courtesy of Dodo Pizza World, Creative Commons 2.0)

6 Common Customer Complaints in Restaurants

All restaurants deal with them at some point. So it is best to know which complaints come up most frequently. This way, everyone can deal with common problems efficiently. 


1. Dirty Utensils

Clean, fresh, hygienic — all restaurant guests expect venues to serve food in top conditions. Of course from time to time in busy hours, slips occur. Dirty utensils are never deliberate, but a customer may complain about a food-encrusted fork without acknowledging the high demands on a restaurant’s staff.


2. Inadequate Service

Sometimes customer complaints in restaurants can be personal. For a long time restaurant complaints have been mostly concerned with bad service. Generally, this means customers have had gripes with the way staff treat them, from seating to paying. 


3. Meal Dilemmas

Food quality regularly crops up on surveys concerned with top-ranking customer complaints in restaurants. Issues with food temperature, mistakes made in the order, and overall quality are vital to any restaurant’s operations. Even the best kitchens make mistakes, but a restaurant’s reputation stands on its most important ingredient: food.


4. Rush Hour

Diners want to enjoy their meals at a reasonable, relaxed pace that suits them. However a recent survey discovered that 26 per cent of diners feel rushed through their meals.


On the restaurant’s side, this issue is a hard one to balance. It is a major annoyance for diners — but for restaurateurs it is about making the most from their tables. We offer a sure-fire solution below, but in the meantime try to think about all the times diners have appeared unsettled due to time constraints at your venue.

5. Bad Waiting Times

No-one likes to stand around with an endless wait in sight. Like the seating area in a dental surgery, this is unpleasant for guests who are out to enjoy themselves, not suffer.

A test of patience, restaurant customers usually complain about how long they wait. The issue has a damaging effect on restaurants: one academic review found that bad waiting times cut a restaurant’s revenue up to 15 per cent.

6. Tables Not Ready At Reservation Times

Like most, restaurant guests relish quality service. Yet when unexpected circumstances arise, dining out can quickly become unpleasant.

The point of making reservations is to avoid having to wait. So understandably, a great deal of customer complaints in restaurants concern this issue. One diner said to The Village Voice that when waiting for 45 minutes for a reserved table, their “blood starts to boil”.

Via Flickr courtesy of Tom Driggers, Creative Commons 2.0

What is a Conflict Resolution Strategy?

Complaints are inevitable, and like so restaurant staff need a strategy, a shared plan, to deal with the most common complaints quickly and efficiently. A conflict resolution strategy allows restaurants to deal with customer complaints in a meaningful way. Laying the groundwork with a method is a skill that staff will develop on.

For restaurants themselves, building a conflict resolution strategy has various benefits. For instance, they can lead to better reviews online, a fantastic way to maintain a healthy reputation in public. A strategy also keeps your restaurant staff prepared when necessary to ensure guest happiness, whatever goes wrong.

Building a Conflict Resolution Strategy

This is mostly about creating a step-by-step plan for your restaurant team to follow. After writing one up, go through these three points with staff to ensure everyone is clear on how to manage customer complaints in restaurants.

  • Nip the bud. Train staff to address a complaint straight away, promoting listening skills and customer engagement. Customer complaints are difficult situations — but they will only get worse if left alone to further anger customers.
  • Narrow the problem. Focus on the main theme of the complaint. This is to clarify the exact nature of the problem, to ensure that staff display their concern, that they are making an effort to identify a solution.

Negotiate a solution. Time to step in and offer up a reasonable solution with the customer. Remember to engage in a dialogue, always allowing the customer to speak first. Restaurants can find common ground with customers. Though it takes some effort, a negotiation pays off in the end.

Via Flickr courtesy of SurveyHacks.com, Creative Commons 2.0

6 Tips to Avoid Customer Complaints in Restaurants in 2022

Unfortunately, there is no magic potion to miraculously do away with customer complaints in restaurants. However, to ensure as few complaints as possible, restaurants can employ some practices and boost overall guest satisfaction.

1. Subscribe to Hygiene Guidance

Standards in cleanliness from food to utensils are paramount in any hospitality venue. You can turn to governmental authorities for guidance on best practices to keep your restaurant’s services hygienic. The Food Standards Agency in the UK for instance offer free advice and consultations.

2. Avoid Animosity

A complaint concerning inadequate service can get personal pretty quickly. Train staff to recognise the common insults irate customers may use. Avoid personal rebuttals and follow the conflict resolution strategy above, even when emotions are running high.

3. Apologise and Guarantee Better Service

Restaurants should follow food complaints with absolute humility, offering the guest a complete return on either their money or dish. Follow up these sorts of complaints with correct courtesy.

4. Communicate Table Policies

If customers complain that they feel rushed, make sure to communicate beforehand your restaurant’s table policies. There are tactics available, such as sharing an online menu to cut down on customer dwell time and thus avoid any ill-feelings during dinner. 

5. Offer Wait Time Estimates

Customers complain about waiting times because they never expect them. Alternatively with a free restaurant app, you can give customers accurate wait time quotes, enabling customers to see an end in sight — a timely and effective strategy.

6. Use Standby Seating to Prepare Tables

With Carbonara App, restaurants can ensure that reserved guests never have to wait for tables upon arrival. Read more about a simple technique that can drastically cut down on customers’ complaints in restaurants.

View customer complaints in restaurants as an opportunity to improve your venue’s services. Learn more about how Carbonara App can help you achieve such goals in 2022.