Reputation Management

New York Restaurant Finds Out Why it Keeps Getting Bad Reviews

SweetIQ girl working on computer
Picture of food on phone

Are you too busy taking photos of your food rather than eating it? Stuart Dootson/Flickr

Many restaurants work very hard to keep their customers happy, but faced with bad reviews, one such establishment in New York decided to find out why! 

A nameless establishment had been trying to work out why, given that the service they had offered over the year, customers had slowed down significantly over the last ten years.

“We are a popular restaurant for both locals and tourists alike,” the owner said. “Having been in business for many years, we noticed that although the number of customers we serve on a daily basis is almost the same today as it was ten years ago, the service just seems super slow, even though we added more staff and cut back on the menu items.”

The person of the unnamed establishment said that many of the common complaints it saw on review sites, not just for it but also other restaurants in the area stated that service was too slow.

The restaurant hired a firm to help solve the conundrum and it quickly discounted slow service by the waiting staff and kitchen staff.

Faced with how to solve this problem, it choose a novel way to compare what it did ten years ago with what it does today: by looking at old CCTV footage and although the restaurant had gotten rid of its old analogue tape system, it did manage to locate tapes still in the CCTV recording devices dating back to 2004.

Armed with these tapes from July 2004, it compared these with digital footage from the past month.

Despite having virtually the same number of customers shown in both videos, the behavior of the guests provided some pretty substantial clues to why service had become so bad.

In 2004, 45 customers entered the restaurant and three requested to be sat elsewhere. The waiter showed up instantly and customers gave their orders within about eight minutes.

Of the 45 orders, only three sent food back. Waiters kept an eye on things and responded when they were needed. So far, so good!

The new digital footage showed markedly different behavior by customers in 2014. Out of 45 customers, 18 asked to be sat elsewhere. Before the customers opened menus, they took smartphones out to do something else. While waiters responded instantly to tables, the first problem for customers was that they couldn’t connect to WiFi and demanded help from staff.

While most customers needed more time before ordering, presumably because they were too busy on their phones to order, even when menus were presented to customers, instead of reading through them and choosing something to eat, customers would continue to use their phones, ignoring the menu and then asking for more time to choose what to eat.

It took customers 21 minutes before they were ready to order. Most of the customers would then take three minutes taking photos of what they ordered. A significant proportion would take pictures of each other with their food; this took a further four minutes.

This messing about with taking photos of food would led to nine customers sending food back to reheat.

“Obviously if they didn’t pause to do whatever on their phones the food wouldn’t have gotten cold,” the restaurateur complained.

The photo taking didn’t stop. About 27 customers asked waiting staff to take group photos with 14 of these asking staff to take another photo as the first one wasn’t good enough. Small talk between photos added another five minutes.

The restaurateur said that in most cases customers were much more involved with their phones than with the food itself and this meant a restaurant visit took on average 50 minutes longer; solely because people were using their phones more.

The owner said he was grateful for every customer coming into the restaurant and added, “after all there are so many choices out there. But can you please be a bit more considerate?”

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