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New Survey: Customers Are Turning Away from Restaurants Facing Labor Challenges

Source: Canva

The restaurant industry in the United States is still down 750,000 jobs compared to pre-pandemic levels, stressing out restaurant operators everywhere.

But what effect does that have on your customers? Do they notice? Has their patience run thin after three years of labor shortages?

We surveyed 1,000 Americans who dine out at least once a month to get the latest insights into how your customers perceive the labor shortage, and what they want you to do about it.

This article covers:   

  • What customers really think about the ongoing labor crisis
  • Why even sounding busy on the phone can impact your bottom line
  • How to take the pressure off your staff with the latest advances in restaurant tech & AI

Let’s see what our respondents had to say.

Customers Are Noticing The Decline In Service Quality

The quitting rate in the hospitality industry is a shocking 4.6% – higher than any other industry. We can all intuit the effect this has on your customers, but for the first time, we have hard numbers to validate the assumptions:

  • 51% of respondents feel independent restaurants have been impacted the most by not having enough staff to take orders, cook food, and handle deliveries – followed by major chains (36%) and mid-sized regional restaurants (14%).
  • 33% say they’ve noticed longer wait times to get their food, diminished customer experience due to overstressed staff (32%), and longer wait times just to place an order (17%).
  • 39% of people are likely to write a negative review after visiting a restaurant suffering from staffing issues, long wait times, and order inaccuracy. 

Restaurant customers expect a smooth and satisfying experience when they dine out, and it’s clear to some that many restaurants are not delivering on that expectation. 

Read More: Short On Labor? How Restaurant Technology Can Reduce Labor By 21% 

91% Of Diners Have Only 3 Minutes To Spare

Source: HungerRush Study

For the next set of questions, we focused on two key aspects of the customer journey — the ordering process itself, and your restaurant’s atmosphere.

Here’s what they said:

  • Please Don’t Hold. Turns out your customers — just like most of us – aren’t particularly patient. 91% are willing to be on hold for 3 minutes or less. 25% expect to place an order in less than 2 minutes, and 19% in less than one. The key takeaway? Speed is critical for today’s modern diners. Get those phones answered ASAP.
  • You Sound Busy. Does your QSR sound busy over the phone? If things sound hectic or your staff seem stressed, that doesn’t fill your customers with confidence. 57% of respondents aren’t confident a busy store will take their order correctly if they need to modify an item. And 19% avoid order modifications if they can tell a restaurant is busy — meaning customers aren’t getting what they really want and you’re missing out on potential revenue.

These frustrations require innovative solutions. Restaurants in our network have found success using AI phone and text ordering to remove any perception of busyness, eliminate hold times, and redeploy their where it matters. No more taking employees out of the kitchen to answer the phone during the evening rush – let an AI bot handle it.

“Restaurant owners and operators have to understand where customers are feeling disengaged and how they can work to ensure their overall experience with the restaurant is a positive one or else it will impact their brand loyalty. When restaurants embrace technology to empower their staff, many common areas of complaints from customers can be resolved, or eliminated completely.”

— Olivier Thierry, CRO of HungerRush

Here’s the good news: the vast majority of your customers (72%) said they would opt to use an automated phone bot to place an order depending on the situation. And with 95% order accuracy, no bottleneck on receiving multiple calls, plus never forgetting to upsell, AI can help restaurant owners overcome these challenges.

The Hiring Hamster Wheel Keeps Turning

The final set of questions we asked our respondents was about seasonal hiring. Seasonal hiring is common for most restaurants, especially during times of staff shortages, but it also creates a lot of friction for your customers. Our respondents told us:

  • 28% of diners experienced increased order inaccuracy 
  • 24% felt that it took longer to order food
  • 12% mourned the loss of a personal connection with their staff

These numbers are significant. Restaurateurs need to ensure that their onboarding and training programs help seasonal staff integrate into the business so customers don’t feel an impact from new and untrained staff during your seasonal hiring period.

“There is no shortage of restaurants to choose from for consumers, which makes it essential that restaurants are creating personalized, streamlined, and connected experiences at every touch point.”

— Olivier Thierry, CRO of HungerRush

There are solutions. Think: 

  • Adopting smarter hiring practices. Ask staff to recommend potential hires. No one wants to recommend someone who reflects badly on them, and working with friends can lead to a happier work environment.
  • Empowering and respecting your employees. Reward your employee of the month for their hard work with a surprise day of paid vacation or a free meal for them and their family.
  • Giving them reasons to stay. Invest in their training and provide growth opportunities. If your staff know hard work pays off, they’re more likely to stick around in the long run.

Get the full rundown on best hiring practices right here.

Keep Your Customers Coming Back For Seconds, Even When You’re Short-Staffed

The labor shortage is a serious challenge for the restaurant industry, but it doesn’t have to be a deal-breaker for your customers. 

As our survey shows, customers have noticed the decline in service quality and are less likely to return or recommend your restaurant if they have a poor dining experience.

Don’t let the labor shortage keep you from serving your customers the way they deserve. By leveraging the power of technology to automate your processes and increase efficiency, you can still delight your customers every time.

The post New Survey: Customers Are Turning Away from Restaurants Facing Labor Challenges appeared first on HungerRush.