Prepare to get an earful when you ask restaurant-goers what they don’t like about a dining experience. Online local restaurant guide Urbanspoon sure did, as patrons found plenty of fault in the way operators run their restaurants and in the way their fellow customers behave while in them. Seattle-based Urbanspoon compiled its list by noting how many times site users complained about a certain behavior in online reviews.
Of the items mentioned most frequently, 10 of the top 15 involve restaurant-mandated procedures and policies; five relate to how other patrons behave.
At the top: unruly kids. Family dining is thought to be currently on the rebound and enhanced kids' menus are frequently cited as an important 2014 trend. But more kids might equal more problems for restaurant operators, as unsupervised children topped Urbanspoon’s list of customers’ pet peeves.
Other dining room complaints include:
• Overly cuddly couples.
• Customers who talk on their phones—a common complaint handled expertly here by Larry David:
• Nosy neighbors, i.e., fellow diners who eavesdrop on nearby conversations.
• Rowdy patrons whose noise level prevents others from enjoying a quiet dinner together.
There’s not much a restaurant owner can do about these situations that doesn’t risk alienating the offending customer. If you have a maître d’, host or hostess who’s good at handling problem people, situations like these are where they can prove their mettle. But operators can readily make changes to internal policies and procedures that bug customers if they so choose.
Here are 10 aspects of the restaurant-going experience that drive customers crazy:
• Slow service. Also receiving many complaints: too-fast service.
• No substitutions, particularly galling to those parties where one member has allergy concerns.
• Unexplained waits, especially with open tables in plain sight and there’s no line for seating. This Seinfeld captured the frustration we've all felt at some time: