Filthy Forks, Wisecracking Waiters Among Restaurant Diners’ Complaints

What an amazing number of things can go wrong when you set out to simply enjoy a meal in a restaurant. Here’s a roundup of what diners dislike most.

Top diner gripes are dirty tables, utensils or restrooms, garnering even more complaints than food, according to a survey by the National Research Center of Consumer Reports.

Men and women agree equally on the major complaints. Women tend to be slightly more upset about dirty or ill-equipped restrooms than men.

Server problems also figured strongly in diner unhappiness. Almost three-quarters of respondents (72%) cited impolite or condescending servers, followed by servers’ sloppy appearance or hygiene (67%) and server pressure in the diner to finish or leave (61%).

Other service complaints included servers removing food or beverages before the diner finished (59%), slow service (51%), not bringing water until asked (27%), calling the diner pet names such as “honey” or “dear” (24%) or becoming confused over which diner gets which meal (17%).

Some people want to know what’s in that Blooming Onion; others not so much. But the two groups were similar in their percentage, with a small percentage (14%) pointing out when not enough nutritional information is given, and a similar number (16%) feeling that so much nutritional information is given that it’s a turn-of to eating.

In descending order of irritation, other complaints are:


  • Meals or beverages served at incorrect temperatures (66%);
  • Meals not what was ordered (62%);
  • Food doesn’t look or taste as described on the menu (54%);
  • Tips of 18% or more automatically added to check; table not ready more than 15 minutes past reservation time (tied at 50%);
  • Inaccurate calculation on check (48%);
  • Tables that are too close together (39%);
  • Loud or distracting diners at other tables; poorly situated table near a door or the kitchen, for example (both 38%); and
  • Nearby diners talking or texting on cell phones (30%).


The National Research Center of Consumer Reports surveyed 1,003 adults in March for its findings.