Study Identifies Restaurant Flaws That Leave a Bad Taste in Diners’ Mouths

Study Identifies Restaurant Flaws That Leave a Bad Taste in Diners' Mouths

Bad odor and dirty surfaces cited as top factors for a lack of repeat business

Study Identifies Restaurant Flaws That Leave a Bad Taste in Diners' MouthsLoyalty programs aren’t the only way to build repeat restaurant business. A new survey commissioned by Cintas Corporation and conducted by Harris Poll identifies common issues that would keep Americans from returning to restaurants. Conducted online among 2,034 U.S. adults ages 18 and older, the study found that 97 percent of U.S. adults would be influenced to not return to a restaurant if they experienced some type of issue related to the facility.

“Even with a master chef in the kitchen, a dirty restroom or unattractive entryway can leave a bad taste in a diner’s mouth,” said John Engel, Senior Marketing Manager, Cintas. “Repeat business is vital to the success of any restaurant. Restaurant managers must ensure that their employees are READY to address facility flaws to keep diners returning.”

The top five factors that would turn diners away from a restaurant include:

  • Dirty surfaces (e.g., tables, chairs, booths, dust on decor, dust bunnies on floors) – 86 percent
  • General bad odor – 85 percent
  • Dirty restrooms (e.g., floors, stalls, mirrors, odor) – 80 percent
  • Dirty/slippery floors (e.g., wetness, dirt/dust) – 72 percent
  • Entryway cleanliness (e.g., cigarette butts, overflowing trash cans, unkempt appearance) – 70 percent

Consumers also cited plumbing issues (e.g., toilets and/or sinks not working) (68 percent), broken or cracked glass (e.g., counters, windows) (53 percent), noise (e.g., loud music, loud employees, phones ringing) (47 percent), dirty/discolored ceiling tiles (47 percent), poor outdoor patio conditions (37 percent), lighting issues (e.g., light fixtures out, not working properly, poor lighting) (36 percent) and other issues (21%) as factors that would influence them in choosing to not return to a restaurant.

The study also found that gender plays a role in which factors influence a customer to avoid a restaurant. Women are less likely to return to a facility with a dirty entryway (75 percent) than males (64 percent). More women (72 percent) also said a plumbing issue would prevent them from returning to a restaurant, compared to 63 percent of men.

Older Americans, ages 65 and older, said that dirty/slippery floors would influence their decision to return to a restaurant (88 percent vs. 61 percent ages, 18-34).

Study Identifies Restaurant Flaws That Leave a Bad Taste in Diners' Mouths

The survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Poll on behalf of Cintas from June 7-9, 2016 among 2,034 U.S. adults ages 18 and older. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables, please contact, please contact Christina Alvarez at

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