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Restaurants Are Slipping In This One Important Quality Category, Customers Say

Amid a major labor shortage, establishments are having a hard time keeping up with cleanliness.
FACT CHECKED BY Mura Dominko

Last year was largely a year of take-out and delivery as far as restaurant businesses were concerned, courtesy of the unchecked COVID-19 pandemic. But as vaccines became widely available across the United States and on-site dining made a comeback, diners returned to restaurants in droves.

According to Nation's Restaurant News, there has been consistent sales growth across the restaurant industry for five consecutive months, with the sector as a whole seeing the strongest increase in sales in more than three years.

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However, customers have returned to severely understaffed restaurants. Across the industry, from all types and levels of establishment, fast food to fine dining, casual restaurants to resorts, the American food service industry is experiencing a marked and ongoing labor shortage. And with a lack of staff comes a problem with cleanliness.

Recent data has found a precipitous 13% drop in customer satisfaction with levels of cleanliness in full-service restaurants. Customers have expressed dissatisfaction with the state of everything from restaurant bathrooms, tables and floors, as well as high-touch items like cutlery and tableware. The drop has been even more drastic (16%) for limited-service restaurants, including many national fast-food chains, where reports of unclean bathrooms and dining areas have been compounded by complaints of trash and food waste left uncollected about the stores.

While sympathetic of their customers' concerns, many restaurant owners, managers, and employees are also desperate for understanding from patrons as they are spread thin amid the labor crisis. "Please go in with the understanding that we are all understaffed," said Denver-based Bridge & Tunnel Restaurant Group owner Joshua Pollack.

On the other hand, data showed that customer satisfaction with food and service was much higher. Over 50% of food mentions on review sites and social media were positive, which presented a 6.5% increase compared to the same time period in 2019. Satisfaction with restaurant service has also improved by 4.8%.

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Steven John
Steven John is a freelancer writer for Eat This, Not That! based just outside New York City. Read more