Negative restaurant reviews: study reveals top complaints of diners

Wow, {{ count }} of you have read this

With modern technology at our fingertips, it’s easier than ever to leave a review about a recent experience we’ve had with a brand. Whether it’s a raving review or a disappointed one, one thing is for sure: reviews are highly influential and have the power to shine a light on your business or put out its flame. And this is especially true in the dining industry. 

Feed It Back has recently revealed what the most common complaints are about bars, pubs and restaurants in a new study. The findings were gathered between January 2018 and September 2018 from tens of thousands of reviews from Facebook, Google and TripAdvisor. 

The Feed It Back study found that the most common complaint amongst restaurant customers was 'speed of service', with 20% of negative feedback “relating to slow food service or long wait times”. Other popular complaints referenced time taken between courses, as well as “seeing other customers, who ordered food after them, receive it before them” (we all know that feeling!). 

When it comes to pubs and bars, the results were slightly different. The most common complaint was quality of food, with “19% of customers disappointed with how their meal tasted”. When drilling down further, the statistics showed that the disappointment frequently lay with “poor execution” of traditional dishes, such as chips and roast dinners. 

As well as the quality of meals and waiting times, staff members also played a part in these negative reviews. “Whilst interactions with staff drove complaints for both sectors, restaurant-goers placed greater weight on their servers with six out of the top ten complaints being related to the efficiency, engagement and attitude of wait staff”. 

When I go out to eat, one of the things that plays a part in my experience is atmosphere and décor, so I’m not surprised that this was also a top concern for others: “Pub and bar diners' grievances focused more on the venue and its surroundings, with over 20% of complaints referencing 'atmosphere', access to an 'outside space', 'cleanliness' and 'value for money' as chief bugbears.” 

As an entrepreneur in the dining industry, I can’t say I am overly surprised by these results. It seems that above all else, diners want quality food and they want it in a timely fashion, which is completely reasonable. I also agree that, although a key part of the dining experience, the venue’s atmosphere and attitudes of wait staff are not as important compared to the final product.

The unfortunate truth about reviews is that no business can avoid them, and you are sure to encounter at least one negative review while running your business. But surely just one negative review out of countless positive ones won’t hurt? Unfortunately, they can. So much so in fact, that just one negative review takes a whopping 40 positive ones to offset it

So what can be done about negative reviews? Could they actually be turned into a positive, relationship-building experience? Pratik from Entrepreneur believes so. “Responding to negative reviews will not only work to appease a disgruntled customer, it may help grow your business and present it in a new light.”

 Being given the chance to make things right with a customer could not only mean you win back their business, but it also shows others that your business is happy to take responsibility for a poor experience in a proactive manner. 

When it comes to your response, Pratik advises responding punctually: “When customers go to the trouble of submitting a review or trying to make contact through social media, they expect an answer fast – over 40 percent want an answer within an hour!” 

Patrik’s next piece of advice is to respond in a professional manner and not let anger and frustration take over: “Let cooler heads prevail. Apologise, if needed, by saying you are sorry for their experience, and explain how this is unusual within your business.” 

Finally, Patrik says to redeem the bad experience with an incentive in order to entice them back through the door. Perhaps offer them a free dessert next time they dine with you, or 25% off their subsequent bill. Your customers are sure to appreciate the gesture! 

Although reviews are unavoidable, that doesn’t mean businesses can’t learn from them. Being able to meet customer demands such as offering vegan menu options or offering more choice in non-alcoholic drinks such as Kolibri, is only a good thing. Reviews offer an opportunity, and it’s what we do with that opportunity that matters most.