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What annoys South Africans most about their waiters?

Published in Restaurants · 5 March 2012
A new survey reveals the hidden issues restaurant patrons have with their waiters. The two most annoying problems, according to the survey of South African restaurant patrons, relate to issues of speed and attitude. The survey was conducted by Acentric Marketing Research in January and was designed to be representative of those living in metropolitan areas who made use of restaurants. Both conventional restaurants and fast food franchises with a sit-down section were included.

In total 69% of restaurant patrons complained about waiters being slow to deliver, while 41% complained about waiters being slow to bring the bill after requesting it. The third most frequently mentioned issue was a lack of friendliness (32%). Closely following this, inconveniences such as not bringing sauces (28%), forgetting milk/sugar (6%) or placing items on reading material (2%) were also mentioned.

Other issues, which were mentioned less often, were in order of frequency:

  • Getting orders wrong
  • Cold food/drinks
  • Being slow to approach a patron on arrival (or not returning after seating them)
  • Ignoring special instructions
  • Disappearing/not being able to get attention
  • Overly-frequent checking
  • Untrained waiters
  • Leaning over patrons or not respecting personal space
  • Trying to rush patrons

“Interestingly, South Africans under 49 years of age were significantly more demanding than older patrons. In particular issues such as ‘friendliness’ and ‘not bringing sauces/jam/butter to match dish’ annoyed younger patrons. The older generation seems to be more concerned with the mechanical aspects of the process, such as speed.” says Craig Kolb, of Acentric Marketing Research.

It seems it’s the little things matter and can make the difference between an exceptional experience or just another experience you would rather forget. “Unfortunately, only a minority of waiters have the natural charm, knowledge and self-awareness required to deliver exceptional service. This means restaurant owners need to invest more time in screening and training waiters in order to improve service delivery.” Says Kolb.

Monitoring is also crucial if there is any hope of controlling service quality. Without a quantitative measure of how your waiters are performing you have little control.

“Most restaurants rely on patrons to flag issues, but this is far from ideal as many patrons would rather not bother. Nor does it help if the manager does spot checks, as many patrons require anonymity in order to express their true feelings. While some restaurants do attempt to formalise the process with rating cards – this is research at its worst – since patrons know their waiter is going to see the answers.” says Kolb.

Technical note: The survey was conducted amongst an online panel of 369 patrons, providing a margin of error of 5.1% (95% confidence level).

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