Labor Shortage Leads to Negative Dining Experiences, Survey Reveals

Customers believe that the shortage of workers is causing a decline in customer satisfaction due to longer waiting times, errors in orders, and employees feeling overwhelmed, revealed a recent survey by HungerRush. The company has released findings focusing on the effects of labor shortages in the industry and their impact on the overall dining experience.

“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. 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,” said Olivier Thierry, CRO, HungerRush.

What causes frustrations among customers?  

As people begin to dine out again, they are facing the challenges posed by labor shortages in various types of restaurants. According to 51% of consumers, independent restaurants are the hardest hit by a lack of staff to handle tasks such as taking orders, cooking food, and managing deliveries. Major chains are seen as the second most affected (36%), followed by mid-sized regional restaurants (14%). These labor shortages have resulted in increased frustrations during the dining experience, with the top three issues being longer wait times for food (33%), a decline in customer satisfaction due to overworked staff (32%), and delays in placing orders (17%).

These findings relate to the areas where consumers perceive the most significant staff shortages, namely servers, counter staff (including drive-thru, phone, and cashiers), and cooks. Ensuring a positive customer experience is crucial for restaurants, as 39% of individuals are inclined to leave a negative review after visiting a restaurant that is struggling with staffing problems, long wait times, and order inaccuracies.

It is necessary to focus on the entire customer journey  

Given the large number of restaurant choices, it is crucial to prioritize creating a personalized experience at every stage of the customer journey. The main focus should be on the ordering process, as 91% of consumers stated that they are only willing to wait for a maximum of 3 minutes on hold. Moreover, 25% of respondents expect to complete their order in under 2 minutes, while 19% anticipate a time frame of 1 minute or less.

Restaurant owners and operators should also prioritize creating a pleasant dining environment for their customers, as a chaotic and noisy background negatively impacts their overall experience. In fact, 57% of consumers lack confidence that a busy restaurant will accurately handle their personalized or modified menu requests.

Additionally, 19% of consumers actively avoid making any order modifications if they sense that the restaurant is busy in the background. Implementing technology tools to adapt their business models, reduce or eliminate wait times, and enhance order accuracy can be beneficial during challenging times. In fact, 72% of consumers expressed their willingness to use an automated phone bot to place an order depending on the circumstances.

Technology to the rescue   

The majority of restaurants experience fluctuations in staffing levels and turnover, particularly during periods of labor shortages. These shifts in seasonal hiring patterns create additional challenges in the customer experience. Consumers often encounter increased order inaccuracies (28%), longer wait times to place their food orders (24%), and a loss of personal connection with seasonal staff (12%).

It is crucial for restaurant owners to prioritize seasonal hiring and ensure a seamless onboarding and training process to minimize the impact on customers when new and inexperienced staff members are onboarded. By implementing user-friendly and efficient technologies such as POS and ordering systems, restaurants can expedite the training process. Embracing technology is a solution that can alleviate challenges while also saving restaurants time and money.

At the end of last year, HungerRush released a report to offer an in-depth look into consumer restaurant trends in the last couple of years.