Are These 3 Factors Keeping Your Restaurant Customers Away?

factors keeping your restaurant customers away

Great words to hear: “Wow! That restaurant was worth the wait.”

One of the biggest mistakes restaurant owners make is focusing too much attention on attracting new customers and not enough attention on creating and keeping loyal customers. It seems counter intuitive to many restaurant owners to flip the coin and pay attention to increasing return business.

But, this can be a costly mistake.

Return visitors not only provide regular income to your restaurant, but they are often your biggest fans and marketing tool. (tweet this)

A recent Empathica survey found that return restaurant visits are much higher when guests are most satisfied. The likelihood of a return visit increases from 20% to 81% when customers report a higher satisfaction rate. The survey goes on to note that when diners are “strongly satisfied” they are four times as likely to recommend your restaurant to friends, family and co-workers.

It’s also important to note the following findings about repeat customers:

  • They make up 71% of sales at quick-service restaurants
  • They make up 68% of sales at fast-casual operations
  • They make up 64% of sale at casual-dining establishments
  • They make up 63% of sales at family-dining eateries
  • They make up 51% of sales at fine-dining restaurants

We’ve started to build a case for the importance of return customers. Now, let’s talk about three factors keeping your restaurant customers away. We’ll also look at ways to turn this scenario upside down by nurturing customer relationships and meeting the needs of your diners.

#1 Dirty Restaurant Keeps Customers Away

Your customers want a clean restaurant. We don’t just mean wiping down the tables and hostess stand. Check every nook and cranny. Look in the corners of the floor and look up for dust. Customers will note dirty light fixtures and ceiling fans.

If you don’t pay proper attention to your dining area and restrooms, your customers might think this is an indication of your kitchen’s cleanliness.  You cannot afford to have a dirty restaurant.

There’s no room for superficial cleaning inside your restaurant. (tweet this) Especially in the bathroom. This space should be sparkling clean and always freshly stocked.

In addition to the building, ensure that your staff is clean, and their clothes are tidy. The appearance of your staff reflects on your restaurant just as much as the building.

Here are some areas to pay special attention to:

  1. Hair Problems: Customers should never find a hair in their food or on their table.
  2. Toilet Bowl: Clean inside the toilet bowl, around the rim and most definitely around and behind the base. According to Ed Zimmerman, “Clean bathrooms might be the most important marketing job in your restaurant. Customers consistently site dirty bathrooms as the primary reason for not returning to restaurants.”
  3. Walls: Check your walls and baseboards. Do they need a fresh coat of paint? Are there food stains? Are there mop stains on the baseboards?
  4. The Underneath: Check under the table and under the chairs. Did someone leave food or gum there? Make sure these areas aren’t sticky.
  5. Floor mats and drains: Do they smell? Clean them often so there is no residual odor.

#2 Bad Customer Service Keeps Customers Away

“Wow! That restaurant was worth the wait.” These are great words to hear if you are a restaurant owner. Even though you might want to decrease wait times, this short statement means you are hitting a home run when it comes to cleanliness, service and great food.

In fact, this statement is often followed with, “The staff was so kind and thoughtful. They took care of my needs.”

Unfortunately, though, restaurants aren’t always worth the wait, and the reason is often bad service. If your restaurant’s dining experience isn’t worth paying for, and we’re talking about service from the parking lot to hostess stand to bar and wait staff – it’s time to pay attention.

You should make sure all aspects of human interaction in your restaurant are working at peak performance. Great service all around will pay dividends in the long run.

Let’s focus on the hostess, wait staff and bar staff. We’ll list some ways that service can go wrong and tips for fixing them:

  1. Customers aren’t greeted immediately: This is critical whether your restaurant is slow or packed.
  2. Food left in the window: This is an absolute no-no. It creates grave anxiety in your customers.
  3. Ignoring tables: I recently had an experience at a restaurant that started out terrible and ended on such a positive note that I will be back. After waiting 30 minutes to be seated, we waited about 15 more minutes for a server to come and take our drink orders. About the time we had decided to get up and leave, a considerate server came over, apologized and noting that we weren’t her table, offered to get us drinks. She then came back numerous times offering timely, friendly service and a free dessert at the end. She turned a terrible situation around. We can’t say this enough – don’t leave your tables unattended!
  4. Failure to refill glasses or attend to the silverware: Just do it.
  5. Bringing out entrees separately: Don’t make anyone wait with hot food in front of them for the rest of the table’s food. Bring it all out together.
  6. Staff wears their apron to the bathroom: Please have them take off their apron before using the facilities!
Happy Restaurant Customers

Pay attention to your return customers – they are vital to the success of your restaurant.

#2 Inconsistent Food Keeps Customers Away

The quality of your food and drinks is one of the biggest things your customers notice. After all, it’s your food they came for, right?

If your food quality is inconsistent or poor, you could be keeping customers away. You probably opened your restaurant because you had a great food concept, or you were a great chef yourself. It’s important to maintain the quality and consistency of your food to keep your customers coming back.

Here are a few things to pay attention to when it comes to your food and menu:

  1. Tailor your menu so it is focused and not too large.
  2. Never serve cold food or soggy pasta.
  3. Always make sure the steak and burgers are cooked as ordered.
  4. Watch the seasoning and the salt.
  5. Worth saying again – no hair in the food.
  6. Portion sizes – ensure they are consistent no matter the chef or the day of the week. Your customer should be able to come back three days in a row, order the same dish, and have it look and taste the same each time.

The Take-Away

Return customers are vital to the success of your restaurant. Pay attention to these three factors keeping your restaurant customers away, and hopefully you’ll turn your situation around, or better yet, prevent it from happening.

Lastly, consider giving your customers something special. Loyalty programs are often successful and can aid in your efforts at encouraging return customers to your restaurant.

Have you run across any of these situations in your restaurant or one you’ve frequented? How did you solve the problem to encourage return customers? We’d love to hear your comments. Post below!

Images: Ed Yourdon and momentcaptured1


2 responses to “Are These 3 Factors Keeping Your Restaurant Customers Away?”

  1. signofthewhalect says:

    Customers are happy that’s the important.

  2. This blog looks great so you definitely know what you’re talking about!

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