top of page

Caution: Speed Bump Ahead

3 Guest Pain Points Restaurant Operators Need To Address

With Memorial Day in the rear view mirror and warmer months ahead, consumers’ readiness to re-engage continues to accelerate. 63% of Americans are ready to step out, put a toe in the water and get back to some sense of normalcy. Consumer demand is exploding, yet it has not gone unnoticed by consumers that there are more and more crowds everywhere from restaurants to shopping malls and even national parks.

That’s great for businesses, but now the pressure is on restaurant operators to deliver joyful customer experiences. They need to be mindful that customers’ frustrations are also mounting and, if left unchecked, will negatively impact the restaurant recovery this summer.

Guests' frustrations with restaurants are mounting and if left unchecked will negatively impact the restaurant recovery this summer.

#1: Waning consumer patience with restaurants being understaffed

Early in the pandemic, consumers were forgiving when restaurants were short-staffed, but that patience has worn thin. June data indicates that 43% of restaurant goers are frustrated with restaurants not having enough staff, up 2x from February data. For the First Out the Door segment, understaffed frustration shot up to 56%.

· % frustrated with not enough staff when dining in at restaurant during recent visit

  • Feb 21%

  • March 26%

  • April 34%

  • May 36%

  • June 43%

Net: When you are keeping customers waiting, it’s hard to deliver a joyful experience

If you aren't staffed at 100%, contemplate whether you should be seating 100% capacity.

#2 Growing crowds = more scrutiny on safety protocols

Masks on? Masks off? Consumers are divided on this. 49% of restaurant goers expressed frustrations with customers not wearing masks -- up a full 10 points from May.

The Very Anxious consumer segment is finally beginning their journey back to restaurants, but their radar is up. Nearly half are concerned with customers not wearing masks or social distancing, as well as restaurants not taking enough visible precautions to keep them safe. While the total percentage of Guests concerned about safety protocols feels small at only 15%, the majority of these Guests find it extremely or very frustration which will negatively impact their decision to come back.

Net: Reassuring with safety is still important, especially for those who are more anxious.

Would you rather have one guest leave happy and come back again and again or have 2 Guests leave unhappy and never come back?

#3 Concern about rising prices at restaurants

Consumers are savvy enough to connect the dots about inflation and minimum wage laws impacting restaurant prices. 66% are concerned that restaurant prices will go up a lot.

Net: Be cautious with pricing actions as price sensitivity will be high in the coming months.

So now what?

The optimism that characterizes the Journey Back To Joy remains, but now there is also an urgent need for restaurant operators to address specific guest pain points or risk squelching the momentum of the recovery. Hard choices will need to be made. We can't sacrifice today's guest experience to make up for last year's lost sales.

Lead with Joy

  • Schedule appropriate staffing levels to deliver an exceptional and memorable experience. Easier said than done, yet it should be the top priority. Contemplate seating capacity with server capacity. If you aren't 100% staffed, then seating Guests at 100% is likely going to back fire.

  • Proceed with caution on pricing actions. Having sticker shock at the end of a meal isn’t joyful.

Reassure with safety

  • Be consistent with your visible safety protocols – your guests are watching

  • If you have a mask policy, keep your mask signage visible and be consistent

The strongest brands that successfully solve for these Guest pain points will separate themselves and not only survive but thrive post pandemic.

Survey data collected June 11 – June 14, 2021 by Lisa W. Miller & Associates and Prodege, LLC from a nationally representative sample of 1,000 adults 18 years and older. Trend comparisons from the Journey Back to Joy Covid Tracking Study with 29 waves of data collection and 33,000 consumer surveys collected nationwide since March 2020.

Click here to learn more about this thought provoking initiative "Gearing Up For The Consumer Re-entry & The The Journey Back to Joy"

138 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page