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Restaurants leave customers playing the waiting game

By Luke Nicholls , 11-May-2012
Last updated on 11-May-2012 at 13:25 GMT2012-05-11T13:25:15Z

More than half of UK diners believe that speed of payment is now a more important issue for a restaurant to address than the quality of food, with 89 per cent claiming that slow payment has ruined their evening.

These are the findings of new research released today by card payment business Streamline. The poll of 2,000 customers revealed that customer service (67 per cent) and speeding up payment (51 per cent) are the two most important ways of improving standards, while only 39 per cent mentioned the quality of food.

“Restaurants forget at their peril that dealing speedily with payment is still an essential part of good customer service,” said consumer behaviour expert Donna Dawson. “A customer who has to wait to pay will feel ignored and expendable, and this situation could run the risk of non-payment.

“Customers today have no time to wait around once their meal is over – we are witnessing the death of the British queue, as ‘time is money’ for everyone in the present economy. If left cooling their heels, customers will simply vote with their feet and not return. Consequently, bars and restaurants need to be doing all they can to process payments as quickly as possible.”

Vote with their feet

Despite the traditional British reticence and sense of fortitude about how long one expects to wait, the research shows that even the Great British restaurant-goer eventually loses patience:  42 per cent of people have complained verbally about the length of time it has taken to pay, while 16 per cent have lost their temper and regretted it later.

The poll also found that most people typically expect to wait 10-20 minutes for a table, 4-5 minutes to be served, 10-20 minutes for their food and 4-5 minutes to pay for the bill.

Darren Wilson, managing director of Streamline, added: “I’m amazed that people are prepared to spend an hour simply waiting and it isn’t a surprise to hear that they find it frustrating to the point that their patience evaporates.

“It’s no good serving great food, if you then leave the customer waiting to pay because you’re too busy or aren’t able to process payment quickly. Customers will vote with their feet, and our research shows that in no uncertain terms.”

Last month, BigHospitality reported the findings from a customer service benchmarking survey which showed that 87 per cent of hospitality businesses are not providing good enough service to generate guest recommendations.

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