Ohio State University Assistant Professor of Hospitality Management Milos Bujisic and team have published in the Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Research a paper based on research that the authors say demonstrates a correlation between weather factors and restaurant reviews and complaints.
Altogether, the researchers looked at 14 different weather variables, but found only 3 that could be related to customer comments: rain, temperature and barometric pressure.
In a study of consumer comment cards at 32 Florida chain restaurants, the researchers found that patrons were 2.9X more likely to leave very negative comments on days when it was raining, vs. dry days. Higher temperatures and higher barometric pressure were also related to negative comments in Florida. (High temperature - and high BP which in hot climates is associated with rising temperatures - may not produce negative comments in climates unlike that of Florida.)
In another study, researchers asked people who had visited a restaurant in the last 24 hours to (1) describe the weather conditions immediately before the restaurant visit and (2) rate their mood and state what kind of word-of-mouth review they would have given the restaurant.
Pleasant weather correlated with better moods, and better moods - but not the weather per se - correlated with more positive reviews.
In a 3rd study, the researchers looked at people living in US regions of variable, 4-season weather: Northeast, Midwest, Northwest. Researchers asked some people if in the past 7 days they had visited a restaurant in good weather, asked others if they had visited a restaurant when it was very cold, raining or snowing. Researchers then asked people who fit one profile or the other questions about their mood at the time, their dining experience, and what kind of review they would have given the restaurant.
As reported by those interviewed, pleasant weather was related to better moods, better ratings and better reviews.
Prof. Bujisic says that bad weather may affect the moods of restaurant employees as well as those of customers, and that could lead to poorer service in poorer weather.
This research is interesting, but I'd be careful about investing money in trying to nullify weather effects on your reviews, for several reasons:
- Florida study (#1) may be relevant to sub-tropical climates only, as researchers have pointed out.
- Small sample sizes: 158 in study #2, 107 in #3.
- Asking people "what they would have done" is always risky. People tend to tell researchers what they think they want to hear.
That bad weather might impair employee performance is a valid and insightful observation, and probably worth looking at further.
Low-cost actionable item for restaurateurs: In bad weather, be especially nice to both employees and customers, and be as tolerant as possible of bad moods/behavior on the part of either.