COLUMBUS, Ohio — The forgettable experience you had at that new restaurant may have been less about the shoddy service or mediocre menu and more about the weather. A recent study found that diners are about three times more likely to leave bad reviews for a restaurant when it’s raining.
Researchers at The Ohio State University also confirmed that, sure enough, crummy weather can influence bad moods, which, in effect is linked to diners viewing their dining experience in a more negative light. Those bad moods can also extend to restaurant employees, who may be less friendly or empathic to diners.
“Restaurants can’t control the weather, but it may affect how customers review them,” says co-author Milos Bujisic, an assistant professor of hospitality management at the university, in a release. “A rainy day may put employees in a bad mood and that will affect their service. Managers need to explain that to their employees and work to keep them motivated.”
For their research, the authors reviewed comment cards left by diners at 32 restaurants in Florida, all of which were part of the same fast-casual dining chain. They then compared each review to the weather from that day using records from the National Climatic Data Center.
They found that rain, higher temperatures, and barometric pressure all seemed to be associated with poor reviews. It should be noted, however, that steamy weather in Florida tends to be worse than in most parts of the country, and higher barometric pressure in warmer regions is often linked to hotter temperatures.
In a second portion of the study, researchers surveyed 158 adults across the country who had visited a restaurant within the past day. Diners were asked to rate how much they’d recommend the restaurant to others. They were also asked to rate their own mood, and then describe the weather conditions during the visit.
Researchers found that when the weather was nicer, diners rated their own moods more positively. They also found that when participants were in better moods, they were more likely to recommend the restaurant to others — showing that happier moods were linked to positive recommendations, not the weather.
For the final segment of the study, the authors surveyed 107 people living in the Midwest, Northeast, and Northwest regions of the country about a recent dining experience. Participants indicated if they’d dined during unpleasant conditions — very cold, raining or snowing — and were polled on their mood and overall experience. They also reported whether they would give a positive word-of-mouth review to others about the restaurant.
The authors found that when the weather was pleasant, they tended to be in more pleasant moods — which was linked to a higher rating of the restaurant and better word-of-mouth review, compared to those who ate in unpleasant weather conditions.
Their conclusion: weather, especially rain or unpleasant conditions, can affect how much a person enjoys their visit to a restaurant.
“Restaurant managers may see more than the usual bad reviews on certain days, and it may have nothing to do with the service or the quality of the food,” says Bujisic, who says the effect on mood can spill over to employees, too. Which is all the more reasons that managers should pay attention to the forecast and do their best to keep servers and diners feeling good on wet days.
“Think about creative strategies to make customers happy. Maybe offer a free drink or play more upbeat music,” adds co-author Vanja Bogicevic.
The study was published online by the Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Research and will be featured in a future print edition.