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Impatient generation – UK’s restaurant gripes revealed

22 November 2019 Data Insights

It pays to know the things that annoy restaurant customers most when you’re a restauranteur. Our report on the restaurant industry illuminates the most important areas to improve if you want to impress customers. We also uncovered which generation you’re likely to find hardest to please – the results might surprise you.

After a report on workplace attitudes published earlier in 2019 found that millennials were the most impatient when it came to career progression, we wanted to see if they had similar frustrations when it came to dining out.  

It turns out that the demographic dubbed ‘the impatient generation’ may have been unfairly labelled after all. At least where their attitudes to restaurant service are involved. Let’s break the results of our report down to get a closer look.


What customers want when dining out

The restaurant industry is big business in the UK and plays a huge part in British culture. Each year, 50 million adults dine out in restaurants – that’s approximately 2.4 billion eating out occasions over a 12-month period. Simply put, we love food, and everyone has an opinion on from what we eat to where and how we eat it. 

We surveyed over 2,000 Brits about their opinions and preferences when it comes to dining out and have produced a restaurant report that offers a fascinating snapshot of Britain’s eating habits in 2019. The research also highlighted the differing attitudes and opinions of the various demographics prevalent in the UK, including millennials, the retired and the empty nesters.  

Here’s a breakdown of the demographics we surveyed: 

  • Retired – Older people who are not economically active.
  • Empty Nesters – People over 35 years old and with no children living at home.
  • Older Family – Where the youngest child is 10-17 years old.
  • Young Family – Where the youngest child is under 10 years old.
  • Sharers – Under 35 years old and living in shared accommodation with other adults.
  • Couples – Under 35, living with their partner, and with no children.
  • Fledglings – Over 18 and living with parents.
  • Independents – Under 35 and living alone.


Splitting the bill

When it comes to waiting too long for a meal to arrive, it was the retired and empty nesters who were the most impatient, with 68% from each of these demographics citing this as their number one gripe. This figure is significantly higher than the UK average of 59%, while just 50% of the supposedly impatient millennials ranked this as their number one problem. 

The second biggest nuisance for Brits dining out was waiting for the bill to arrive (22%). This particularly riled the couples and empty nesters surveyed, with 22% from these demographics stating this as their personal pet peeve. The UK average was 19%, whilst 21% of millennials found waiting for the bill the biggest drag. 

And, while you might think that splitting the bill is the one thing that can raise tempers at the end of a group meal, this only annoyed 4% of Brits more than anything else. When broken down into demographics, it was the ‘sharers’ who found this most annoying (9%), followed by young families (6%). The empty nesters and retired are seemingly unflustered when it comes to the awkward scramble to split the bill, with just 1% of each group rating this as their biggest frustration.  

Arriving at a restaurant to find the table is not ready is the personal pet hate for 6% of everyone surveyed, while only 5% of millennials said this was their top annoyance. 


Bone of contention 

While waiting for food was by far the biggest bone of contention for Brits across the board, 72% admitted that any of the aforementioned problems had the potential to annoy them. Once again, the survey seemed to suggest that millennials are not as impatient as previously thought, as they were below the national average here – 65% claimed that any of these problems could irritate them. 

At the other end of the scale, it was the empty nesters that came out as the most impatient with 79% stating ‘any of the above’ could wind them up. Retirees were the second most impatient group and older families were in third place. 

While millennials have been dubbed as the most impatient generation in the workplace, it seems that they are far more willing to switch off and let their hair down when it comes to eating out socially. To discover more about Britain’s dining out habits in 2019, check out our full Restaurant Report, which offers insight into how our opinions and tastes vary across the UK.

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