Restaurant Gripes Usually Have Nothing To Do With the Food

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Dirty tables, ill-equipped restrooms and rude servers are among the top complaints of people when dining out. But what about bad food – where does that rank?

According to a recent national survey by Consumer Reports, diners are generally more annoyed by cleanliness issues in restaurants than they are by mediocre food. But diners’ No. 1 gripe is dirty utensils on the table, a complaint registered by 76 percent of survey respondents.

I think it’s understandable that diners don’t want food-encrusted forks on the table. It’s not very appetizing.

Here are a few survey highlights, along with the number of people who listed them as a complaint:

  • Dirty or ill-equipped bathrooms – 73 percent.
  • Servers with a sloppy appearance or poor hygiene – 67 percent.
  • Meals or beverage served at the wrong temperature – 66 percent.
  • Tables too close together – 39 percent.
  • Gratuities of 18 percent of higher automatically added to the bill – 50 percent.

CR surveyed more than 1,000 Americans to find out their top restaurant gripes.

Not surprisingly, the results also show that you can’t please everyone. For instance, while 16 percent of diners said restaurants that provide too much nutritional information are a turnoff to eating, another 14 percent complained that there’s not enough nutritional information available.

Click here to check out the CR restaurant gripe-o-meter.

I think my biggest complaint when eating out is a rude or inattentive server. Even if I have a bad meal, a good server can really save the dining experience if they’re friendly and pay attention to my needs.

What’s your biggest restaurant pet peeve? Share your comments below or on our Facebook page.

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Comments & discussion

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  • Michael Smiley Gawthrop

    Oh, the servers definitely make or break the restaurant experience. I can do my own tale of a two restaurants… had the same problem at two different restaurants (with a somewhat large group, 6 people, on a busy night when the kitchen was short staffed). First restaurant, we were seated, never got any silverware, waited 15 minutes for appetizers with no explanation, waited another 10 for our main course, and the kitchen “forgot” to make one of our meals (we found out later that the server forgot to enter it into the register, two of us ordered the same thing and she only put it in once), we never got refills, and the manager blamed it on the full moon (this was an entire week after the full moon, not that it matters since it would have been a horrible excuse even if it had really been a full moon). Second restaurant, as soon as we sit down the server apologizes that there will probably be a long wait in the kitchen, but she’d be happy to bring us out some bread or soup on the house to tide us over while we waited for our order, checked in with us frequently to let us know that they were still working on our order, it hadn’t gotten lost in the shuffle, never let our glasses run empty, and at the end the manager came out to apologize again about the wait and gave us coupons for free drinks on our next visit with an invitation to come back and see them on a good night (which sweat heart, your staff has already proven that even a bad night is a good one there).
    Needless to say, we’ve gone back to that second restaurant several times now… the first restaurant we never returned to. And these were both the exact same circumstances just handled differently. Service matters.

  • ModernMode

    Gratuity is a voluntary action. You give it based on the service you receive. If they add it to the bill automatically, it is now a fee. I don’t do business with restaurants that add fees to the bill.

  • James Hazelton

    Two experiences with national chain that were not fast food, with cloth napkins: The first is a very nice Italian Restaurant who advertise on national TV. My date and I sat at a booth while there were tables opposite. There was a grossly over-weight lady sitting at the table closet to us who could not possibly close her legs while seated. The woman was wearing a very short skirt that rose to a dangerous level, again while seated. The neighboring party was eating when we were seated and they left the table when we were near finished. The bus crew swooped in to reset the table. One cleared the table and left enough silverware and four napkins on a chair seat after another wiped off each seat with a cloth towel and after the table was cleared he used the same towel to wipe off the tabletop! We were shocked. I asked the innocent lad if he ever heard of Ecolii; he had not obviously. I emailed the parent company to explain my concern and suggested that they use one towel to wipe chair seats, perhaps red, and a pristine white cloth to wipe the table. They responded most promptly that they had no control over their franchise restaurants! They should get control. Each and every time I tell that horror story I use the name. They will never know how much business they have lost due to ignorance and a deadly little bacteria they anoint their tables with.

    Another national chain steak house offered boneless ribeye in several sizes. I ordered one 11 ounce ribeye, medium rare, specifically NOT medium. I suspected that this steak house might be having problems when the bartender was also our server and the bar inventory was seriously depleted. (Three longnecks in a glass enclosed display full of ice that would hold 24 bottles do not a serious impression make). My steak arrived and my heart sank. I foolishly thought the kitchen would cut their largest cut, 22 ounces, in half, so my 11 once cut could be cooked medium rare. They didn’t do the logical thing; they SLICED the 22 ounce steak in half. My steak was nearly well done as soon as it was properly seared. I did not complain except on ‘Yelp’. If anyone is interested I know of a free standing restaurant for sale or lease…

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  • Dale Thomas

    I can’t stand it when a server brings me a beverage and their fingers are wrapped around the brim of the glass/cup.

  • ohiogreg

    Servers/bartenders who don’t pay attention. I stopped going to a particular restaurant after I walked out on the same bartender (who also happened to be the Assist Manager) because I never could get my bill.
    All 3 times I waited up to 30 mins after asking for my bill before I walked out.

    Ridiculous!!

  • Brian Abel

    My biggest complaint other than cleanliness is broken promises. I used to cook and I am aware that many establishments do not like serving meat rare. I happen to like rare and if I trust the establishment I will order rare. If a server takes my order and then serves me a well done burger I get a little upset especially if they then tell me it is their restaurants policy not to serve undercooked meat….I generally find a few things on any menu that I can be happy with. if they tell me upfront that they cannot do rare, no problem. if they make me wait and find out the hard way that is unpardonable.