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:
More pet peeves
• Typos on the menu. They send the wrong message.
• Dirty glasses and silverware.
• No partial-group seating. Customers can’t understand why you won’t seat them until all members of the party have arrived.
• Wordy menus. Foodies aside, many customers think they’re given way too much information about ingredients and preparation methods.
• Weak drinks. Even in the age of mixology and craft cocktails a lot of customers apparently just want a stiff drink.
• “Can I get...?” Customers don’t like having to request items they’re used to seeing on tabletops. They cite silverware, napkins, salt and pepper shakers, bread and water.
But while we’re listing complaints about dining room behavior, let’s look at one that’s brand new: customers who wear Google Glass. Not only do the tech elite who own these wearable computers make their fellow diners uneasy, in part because of the device’s creepy live streaming capability.
They also offend restaurant operators. The latest Google Glass incident took place last month at New York City restaurant Feast. When the restaurant’s manager asked a Glass-wearing customer to please take off the device while eating due to privacy concerns of other patrons, the customer said “no” and left. A nasty online review soon followed—fair enough—immediately followed by 13 additional equally nasty one-star reviews from alleged patrons whom management thinks have never been in the restaurant.
There have been similar incidents elsewhere.
The message to operators: if you value your restaurant’s online reputation, don’t cross a member of the Google Glass community. Many restaurants already have no-cell-phone policies in place—perhaps not enough, according to Urbanspoon’s list of dining room pet peeves. Your customers may thank you if your restaurant has a Google Glass ban in place—as some already do—before the devices become more widespread.
On the other hand, at least one chef, L.A.’s Kogi BBQ Taco Truck founder Roy Choi, has embraced Google Glass. He explains the upside here: