Most Common Restaurant Guest Complaints

Most Common Restaurant Guest Complaints

Does your restaurant need a little help to bring in more customers? Your place doesn’t need to be worthy of a showcase on “Kitchen Nightmares” to know that it could use some help. If you can look around on a Friday night and see empty tables, it’s time to ask if there are things happening in your restaurant that might be driving customers away instead of welcoming them in. Even if the food coming out of your kitchen is mind-blowing, things like lighting, noise level, and serving staff can be enough to send even your regulars packing. Here are the most common customer complaints about restaurants and what you can do to fix them: 

Unpleasant Temperatures

Walking into a cool restaurant on a hot, sunny summer day feels amazing — for the first five minutes. Then, that arctic blast becomes about as unpleasant as the scorching temperatures outside. When it comes to the optimal temperature for your restaurant, you want to find that happy balance of “pleasantly temperate, bordering on cool,” rather than “so cold everyone is chattering.” If you’re struggling to fill every table most days, stop and assess your thermostat. 

Customers aren’t going to come back if they spend the entire meal uncomfortably cold (or hot). If you don’t want to fiddle with your thermostat six times a day, consider investing in a smart thermostat and program in specific settings. This is also a good way to give your manager(s) access so they can adjust the temperature as needed. A good rule of thumb is to check in with your host/ess. They aren’t running around as much as your waitstaff, so if they’re chilly, you can bet your customers are as well. 

Cleanliness & Upkeep

When a restaurant space looks grimy or worn out, most customers take this as a tell-tale sign about what happens in the kitchen — and no one wants to eat at a restaurant with an unhygienic kitchen. Make sure you keep up with a rigorous cleaning regimen, but also take the time to replace worn carpeting and beat-up furniture. No matter how clean those items get, they’ll still convey a message of general unkemptness. 

The other thing to keep in mind is that the level of cleanliness goes beyond just the dining room. You should be concerned with cleanliness and upkeep throughout your entire space, with a particular focus on anywhere customers might go — which means making sure your bathrooms are pristine. There are few spaces that make a customer feel concern about hygiene like a dirty bathroom. You don’t need to go the full nine yards and have fancy lotions or hand towels; just make sure everything is cleaned regularly, the soap containers are refilled, and there are a few extra rolls of toilet paper. 


There was a strong trend for a while toward “mood lighting” in restaurants — that is, the idea that dimming the lights at sundown was a great way to create a cozy date-night mood. Now, we’re not saying that’s wrong, but if your waitstaff needs to use a flashlight to help customers read the menu, the lights are probably a bit too dim. At the same time, too-bright of lighting can make customers feel like they’re sitting under spotlights if your restaurant is too bright after sundown. Find the happy medium by putting your lights on dimmer switches and, depending on your branding, accent with candles, oil lamps, or other small light sources to provide lighting that is helpful without being intrusive. Just make sure your space isn’t so dim that it feels like you’re trying to hide something! 

Worn-Out or Dirty Menus

Your menus are a telltale sign about how much care is given to your restaurant’s daily operations. When menus are worn out, covered in stickiness, irreparably stained or watermarked, or generally worn out, that can be a clear signal to your customers that you don’t put a lot of effort into upkeep. The follow-on assumption is that you aren’t putting care into your food quality if you aren’t putting care into other simpler elements of the operation. Menu printing can get expensive, especially if you’re using paper that gets easily damaged. The best way to keep your menus from scaring off customers is to switch to waterproof paper menus or something more durable so you can keep your menus clean without showing signs of wear. As a bonus, waterproof paper menus using TerraSlate paper are easy enough to print yourself so you can make sure your menus always look great!


Fun, upbeat music can be a great way to create an atmosphere that carries your branding in a subtle way. Say, for example, that you provide modern takes on southern cooking. Playing some country music or Americana would be a great way to further your brand. However, don’t push your branding in a way that compromises your customers’ ability to converse. For most individuals, going out to eat is a way to kick back, relax, and enjoy time with others. Whether it’s a business dinner, a romantic date night, or family night out, your customers want to be able to appreciate each one another's company. Ambient music is a great way to add atmosphere, but make sure your music isn’t so loud that it inhibits conversation or you may find that customers go elsewhere for a night out. 

Along these same lines, it’s also your responsibility to take care if you notice a customer causing a disturbance. “Live and let lie” is a good axiom, but only to a point. Yes, allow your customers the freedom to cheer a favored sports team, if you provide TV coverage. Expect a certain level of noise around the bar on weekends. But if you have a boisterous toddler running around the tables and screaming, that might be a scenario in which you speak to the customers. Basically, noise and laughter are great signs of your customers enjoying themselves — which means they’re more likely to come back — but when one or two customers start disrupting everyone around them, it’s your job as the owner/manager to politely ask them to take it down a notch. You may risk losing the business of that one table, but it’ll be better in the long run when your customers know they can trust your restaurant for an enjoyable, comfortable atmosphere. 

Keep Your Restaurant in Great Shape

When it comes to things that bother customers, the overarching theme is that the details really do make a difference. Whether it means changing up your lighting or tossing out your old, ratty menus, a few easy tweaks can make a world of difference to your customers. 

Here at TerraSlate, we want to help you attend to those details and keep your restaurant inviting — without blowing your budget. Our waterproof menus are colorfast, heat-resistant, and rip-proof, all of which are invaluable for restaurant life. Better still, you can use our waterproof paper in any laser printer or copier so you can print new copies any time you need! Just know that you won’t need to do much menu printing because our paper products are all made to remain vibrant and easy to clean, no matter what your restaurant throws at them. Connect with us to learn more, and shop online today!

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