What keeps customers coming back to a restaurant and what keeps them away

The restaurant business is not an easy one and success depends on a number of factors.

I’ve often wondered why some restaurants make it and others don’t. So I reached out and asked people who dine out to share what keeps them going back to a restaurant and what keeps them away.

canstockphoto9523807The food

Liking the food is the No. 1 reason customers will choose a restaurant. They want it to be delicious, using quality ingredients, served hot with good portions and prepared the way they asked for it.

The price has to be a fair reflection of the type of food and the establishment. Extra points if you use ingredients sourced locally.

Service (pay close attention if you work for tips)

Many said they won’t return to a restaurant if the owner and wait staff are rude and unfriendly — no matter how good the food is.

Customers want to be taken care of when they go out to eat. They want the owners and wait staff to pay attention to them and be friendly and courteous.

They expect their servers to know the menu, be experts about the dishes and help them select the best meal for them.

Get them in and out

Customers are willing to wait a certain amount of time to get seated, but there is a limit to how long, especially when there are hungry kids involved.

Once seated, they want a server to be right there with menus and to take drink orders. They want the food to arrive within a reasonable period of time.

Bringing the check promptly when a customer is ready to go leads to a bigger tip.

However, people don’t want to feel like they are being rushed through their meal.  They want their appetizers before the meal and they don’t want to be asked over and over by theIr server if they are done with their food.

Dirty restrooms = flushing away $$$

I’ve had this experience, as have many others. You order your food then head to the restroom.

You walk in and it smells like it hasn’t been cleaned.  The waste basket is overflowing with used paper towels, there is toilet paper on the floor and the counter tops are wet.

You head back to your table and wonder how clean the kitchen can be if they can’t be bothered to clean the restrooms.

You don’t order a second beverage or dessert because you don’t want to be there long enough to have to use the dirty restroom again.

Restaurants that provide a clean, comfortable and welcome restroom score big points with customers, who will stay longer, eat and drink more, spend more money and come back again.

Keep it clean

In addition to clean restrooms, customers expect clean tables (not sticky), chairs, menus, glasses, plates, utensils and floors.

Keep it quiet

Many said they won’t return to a restaurant if the music or ambience is so loud they can’t hear people talk.

Not being able to hear your table mates can put a real damper on “date night” or the chance to catch up with friends and family.

People go out to eat for the overall experience. As Walt Disney used to say, “everything speaks.” If you take care of all of your customer’s senses — taste, touch, sight, smell and hearing — they will take care of you!

Granted, things go wrong in every business and that is especially true for restaurants. Customers are for the most part forgiving as long as the restaurant staff recognizes the mistake, apologizes for it and goes out of their way to “make it right.”   That level of service goes a long way towards keeping customers happy so they will give you a second chance.

Now go check your restrooms!


Deb Neuman

About Deb Neuman

Deb thinks Maine is a great place to do business and loves telling the stories of Mainers proving that it can be done! An entrepreneur at heart, she enjoys helping others with the same drive to create and innovate!