The Biggest Reasons Restaurants Lose Customers

 In Bar & Restaurant Operations, Customer Service

Let’s face it. Every restaurant at one point or another is dealt the reality of lost customers. And while it’s impossible to please every customer, every time, if you find your restaurant’s business declining, there’s probably a bigger issue to blame than just the slow economy, a couple of negative online reviews, or a new restaurant down the block luring in your guests. Here are some of the biggest reasons why restaurants lose customers.

  • Substandard service: Poor service is a huge deal breaker with customers for obvious reasons. No matter how great the food or ambiance is, if your service is lacking, your guests will remember it. Substandard service can include a wide gamut of issues, from a slow kitchen to rude or inattentive server. For more on this topic, you may also like to read one of our earlier Smart Ideas blog posts: How Many Sales did your Staff Lose Today?
  • Uncleanliness and bad staff hygiene: In a Zagat article, Restaurant Deal Breakers: 10 Things That Will Make You Never Come Back, lack of cleanliness and staff hygiene were at the top of its list of customer deal breakers. It’s safe to say that an occasional hair or critter on the plate or dust balls hanging on ceiling fans, are never acceptable. But beware of less obvious cleanliness clues that could be scaring your customers away, too, such as a disheveled looking server with a stained shirt.
  • Failure to be flexible: Lack of flexibility is a common trait that failing restaurants share. This could include a restaurant’s inability to reinvent its menu to meet changing customer demands or stringent management policies that turn off guests, i.e. an unwillingness to accommodate special orders or seating requests. The most successful restaurants always strive to go above and beyond for its customers, and being flexible is an important part of that.
  • Gouging customers: While many of us are willing to splurge on an exceptional dining experience, nobody wants to feel like they’re getting nickeled and dimed, for instance, being charged an extra $2.00 for a slice of cheese or a $5.00 sharing fee for splitting an entrée. When pricing out their menu, it’s essential for restaurants to make customers feel like they are getting the most value.
  • Dated or non-existent web presence: With more than half of Americans with smartphones, you better believe that the quality of your restaurant’s online presence is a big part of the equation. And in a world where so many people form their opinions about where to eat based on what others are saying about the restaurant on popular review sites like Yelp, having a weak online presence or not connecting with your customers on social media are two mistakes you’ll definitely want to avoid.
  • Bad management: The management team with whom restaurant owners entrust their day-to-day business operations is paramount. Problems with a restaurant’s performance most often starts from the top.

What do you think are the biggest culprits responsible for lost customers? Chime in using the comment box below.

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