What diners grumble about more than anything else, per a recent study, is bad service. And this comes as no surprise, at least not to me.
Bad food -- whether it's soggy fries or a steak that's a tad rare -- is more forgivable in that the waiter or waitress can simply bring you another item. Restaurants get busy, especially on Fridays and Saturday nights. No harm, no foul.
But poor service leaves an indelible impression -- a bitter taste in our mouth. I recently went to an Outback restaurant and had one of the worst dining experiences of my life. The waitress never came around for refills and forgot to bring me ketchup, mustard, and mayonnaise for my burger. My friend complained that this soup was cold and he requested that she heat it up for him, to no avail. Needless to say, we asked to speak to the manager, after which we received what we wanted.
Many people get so ticked off after receiving terrible service that they not only turn against the waiter -- but the restaurant itself -- and refuse to go back. And rightly so. We work hard all week. We're not just spending our hard-earned cash on the food, but on the overall experience. If the manager fails to put the customer first, he risks seeing patrons bolt to the competition. It's as simple as that.
On the other hand, those who prioritize their clientele will be rewarded with higher sales, glowing reviews on the internet and through word-of-mouth and, more importantly, loyal customers. Without a loyal following, a restaurant doesn't stand a chance of surviving.