Why Do Guests Stop Visiting Restaurants? (It’s Not Always the Food or the Service)

When you notice a slowdown at your restaurant — quieter Saturday nights, lower check totals, fewer filled tables – you may think it’s because of your food or service. After all, the reason customers aren’t returning must be one of those two things, doesn’t it?

Well, focusing on just food or service overlooks a crucial third pillar of any successful restaurant: its technology. From the way you construct emails to your mobile app or website, technology plays a big role in how guests perceive your brand. And if you stay ahead of the curve when it comes to implementing new guest engagement technology, you can connect with guests in ways that separates you from the competition.

Unfortunately, some restaurant owners who implemented technology with the best intentions and believe they’re applying best guest engagement are often making critical mistakes. In many cases, the way restaurants use technology to engage with customers is what’s driving those customers away.

Here are five ways your guest engagement technology might be causing more harm than good.

1. A lack of messaging segmentation. Emails are a crucial tool for restaurants to market to their visitors. But when they send the wrong messages to the wrong consumers, they can end up turning visitors away. For example, let’s say a restaurant sends out an email about a special “kids week” to all of its subscribers. Undoubtedly, some of the subscribers with children will appreciate that message.

But what about the subscribers who don’t have children? Not only has that restaurant sent an email that’s completely irrelevant to them (which may decrease their email open rates in the future), but those patrons may actively avoid the restaurant during “kids week!”

2. It takes too long to process feedback. Restaurant owners have more ways than ever to receive feedback. From old-fashioned, in-person complaints or praise to surveys, loyalty data, review websites, and social media, the amount of feedback can be overwhelming. And overwhelming amounts of information mean that information will be missed.

When customers get the sense that their feedback isn’t being heard, they lose faith in the restaurant, feel disconnected and disrespected, and stop visiting.

3. Too Many Apps. A study found that U.S. consumers spend 80% of their time using apps on just five of them. Certainly, out of the thousands of apps available, a restaurant already has a challenge to get theirs in regular usage.

And some restaurants actually have more than one app, separating programs like online ordering and loyalty programs. This is annoying for customers who only have so much attention — and so much space available on their phones.

4. Non-mobile responsive web pages. Consumers use their mobile devices, both at home and on the go, at astonishing rates. So, of course, when they want to find information about a restaurant or perhaps place an order from that restaurant, they expect to be able to do that quickly and easily.

Unfortunately, some restaurant websites render well on mobile devices … but many don’t. Restaurant websites that require visitors to zoom in or move the screen to find information are incredibly frustrating for visitors. Worse yet, some website functionality doesn’t work on mobile devices at all.

Consumers’ attention spans and patience for lagging technology is incredibly low. Instead of trying to navigate a website that doesn’t render well on mobile, they’ll simply leave the site.

5. Inefficient Comping. When a restaurant inadvertently makes a mistake on a customer’s meal, it’s reasonable to offer to comp either part of it or the entire meal. But, while comping a meal in the moment may satisfy a consumer, it doesn’t help the restaurant build more business.

With the right technology, a business can soothe a customer’s frustration, turn a negative experience into a positive one, and create more business for the future.


I discussed this topic in a recent webinar. In this presentation I shared real stories about restaurant technology that drove me away from certain brands and explained what you can do to prevent guests from leaving your restaurant.

Watch our free “Why I Stopped Eating at Your Restaurant and How You Could Have Stopped Me from Leaving” webinar now.

Stephen Stone

The Author
Stephen Stone is a content marketing specialist at Paytronix. With a Bachelors Degree from Fitchburg State University and a Masters in Communication Management from Emerson College, Stephen is well-versed in all things communication.

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