Poll reveals what keeps diners happy

From tap water to doggy bags, rushed sittings to service charges, a survey has revealed what diners really want when eating out.

The poll of 2,000 respondents discovered what keeps diners happy. But results also show how restaurants can sometimes make a meal of customer service.

The survey was commissioned to mark the 10th year of ‘The Good Food Guide’ annual reader-nominated restaurant awards, which recognise the best neighbourhood eateries up and down the country.

Proving community matters, 22% of those polled said supporting the community was their main reason for dining at their local restaurant. This was closely followed by 20% of respondents believing cuisine is far more authentic in their local favourite establishment.  

Some 40% of Brits said local independent restaurants should simply offer a point of difference to larger chains. They claimed this was all that was needed to keep their loyal custom.

A few incentives wouldn’t go amiss, though, it seems. 38% of people said a free glass of bubbles on their birthday would sweeten the deal. This was closely followed by 33% of diners saying the championing of local produce on the menu was what they look for most when dining out in their neighbourhood eatery.

Despite the recent trend for ‘set menu only’ restaurants, over half (55%) of diners said they preferred an à la carte menu because they like more flexibility in choosing what they want.

Whether for environmental or price reasons, four out of five (80%) said tap water should automatically be put on their table. 

Over half polled (52%) said both customer service and the quality of the food are equally important when dining out.

And the most annoying example of bad customer service? A quarter (26%) said their biggest bugbear was waiters rushing them through their dinner, with another quarter (25%) saying getting your order wrong was the biggest no no.

Waiters making diners feel they aren’t posh enough was another high choice (22%) and one in ten (10%) said their biggest gripe was a waiter asking if a meal is okay when they have a mouthful of food.  

When it comes to the bill, 59% of disgruntled diners would ask to have the service charge removed from the bill after a bad dining experience.

However, younger generations are much more uncomfortable asking than older age groups: only 47% of 18-24 year olds feel brave enough to ask, with this rising to 66% in the 55-plus bracket. 

It seems the new French law forcing restaurants to offer ‘doggy’ bags would be welcomed in Britain. Although almost half (49%) of those polled said they wouldn’t be too embarrassed to ask for a doggy bag to take home leftovers, 57% said they’d prefer to be offered one at the end of the meal. Again, younger age groups are much more embarrassed to ask, with this dropping dramatically in older age groups .

The survey does suggest that men may leave less of their dinner, though, with a quarter (24%) of men admitting they don’t have a need for a doggy bag (compared with 14% of women). 

‘The Good Food Guide’ editor Elizabeth Carter said: “While there’s no doubt that diners are looking for excellent value from their local restaurants – 80% said free tap water should automatically be put on the table – being rushed through a meal is their biggest annoyance.

“As a regular victim of the two-hour booking slot and that other common wheeze – the second sitting – I believe local restaurants can offer genuine value, and a point of difference, by giving diners the time to enjoy a meal at a pace that suits them.”

The ‘Good Food Guide’ Local Restaurant of the Year Awards uncover the very best dining establishments, nominated not only for their food, but also for the outstanding customer service they offer. 

The awards will recognise the best dining establishments across 10 different UK regions and are based on public nominations.

A panel of ‘Good Food Guide’ judges will then choose the most outstanding for their overall winner. 

To take part in the awards, restaurants can encourage their diners to nominate them online, at www.thegoodfoodguide.co.uk/lroty , or by making official postcards available in their restaurants during the nomination period – until May 16.

‘The Good Food Guide’ is asking the public to nominate restaurants that are independently run and owned by the chef or a hands-on proprietor, are committed to local produce in line with the seasons, can demonstrate a strong relationship with local suppliers, have a commitment to the local community, offer regularly changing menus at reasonable prices, are family friendly, give a genuine warm welcome and show a passion for delivering all of the above.

Last year’s regional winners were: South East and Overall Winner, The Miller of Mansfield (Goring, Oxfordshire); London, Boqueria Tapas  (Brixton, London); North West, Lunya (Liverpool); North East, Lockwoods (Ripon, Yorkshire); Northern Ireland, James Street South (Belfast); Scotland, The Gardeners Cottage (Edinburgh); Wales, The Gallery (Barry); Midlands, The King and Thai (Broseley); South West, Ben’s Cornish Kitchen (Marazion, Cornwall); East England, The Leaping Hare (Stanton, Suffolk).

Last year, The Miller of Mansfield in Oxfordshire won the overall award of ‘The Good Food Guide’ Readers’ Restaurant of the Year 2016.

Owner Mary Galer said: “We’re still over the moon. Our local regulars were all excited to be a part of our award but since we were announced as winners we’ve also had new customers visiting us from all over the country.”

The poll was commissioned by supermarket chain Waitrose, which publishes the Guide.

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