Have restaurants fallen out of love with their customers? Could be, says the New York Times. But many eateries are trying to fix things.
“A plaintive cry is rising from America’s dining rooms: Can we get some service around here?” the newspaper reports.
“And not just any service. Diners say they crave a night out free from QR codes, waiters who don’t seem to care and menus designed to glorify the chef and attract influencers.”
In short, customers “want to feel like welcome guests again, wrapped in the kind of warm, competent hospitality they fantasized about while the pandemic took it all away.”
Sounds like somebody needs a hug.
In any case, the Times says restaurant owners are taking the matter seriously.
“Some restaurant owners, even as they struggle to train a new generation of waiters, hosts and cooks, say they’re looking for ways to restore and even improve that essential piece of the experience,” it reports.
“They’re retiring robot waiters, making dining rooms cozier and giving servers and bartenders more time to spend with customers.”
This seems a bit like one of those “trend” stories that’s working extra hard to define a trend perhaps not everyone is experiencing.
Even so, it’s accurate to say restaurants and bars are still struggling to win back patrons now that the pandemic is largely in the rear-view mirror.
It’s my sense that high prices, not indifferent service, is the main culprit in keeping diners away.
The Consumer Price Index shows that the cost of food away from home rose 8.6% between April 2022 and April 2023.
But it’s a mixed bag, and it’s fair to say most people won’t return to an establishment that treated them poorly.
The Times cites the experience of Leann Emmert and Katrina Elder, who it says work in the film industry.
The pair used to spend weekends checking out the latest Los Angeles dining spots — and running up hefty tabs in the process. Now they’re sticking mostly to neighborhood joints where the owners treat them right.
“I do not want to spend my money at a place that can’t figure out how to make people feel cared for,” Emmert is quoted as saying.
Whatever else, it’s good that restaurants are realizing anew that customers want to know their business is appreciated.
With the cost of dining out now so high, a little hug, so to speak, can go a long way.