Blame it on the rain.


Bad Yelp reviews are the bane of every business's online existence, causing some chefs to decry the site's bias toward the negative. But a recent study gives owners of restaurants at least one reason why customer satisfaction may fluctuate from one day to the next: The weather.

Researchers led by a team from Ohio State University studied how weather patterns and climatic factors affect customer comments in restaurants, and the results were published last month in the Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Research. Customer comment cards were collected from 32 Florida restaurants all within the same (unnamed) national fast-casual chain. Rating the comments on a five-point scale, the researchers also gathered weather reports from each restaurant’s specific location on the day of the comment and compared the data. According to OSU, while 14 weather variables were examined, three seemed to have an effect on the tone of comments: rain, temperature, and barometric pressure.

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According to the study’s findings, customers were nearly three times more likely to leave a negative comment on a rainy day. Additionally, higher temperatures also saw an increase in negative comments. The results were bolstered by those of two other online studies which concluded that being in a bad mood (which can affect people’s moods) lead customers to give less-than-positive word-of-mouth reviews. Watch a video explaining the findings below:

“The mood of customers is going to change depending on the weather, and eventually that is going to influence how they are going to respond to their evaluation of the restaurant,” OSU assistant professor of hospitality management Dr. Milos Bujisic says in the video. Another group of people who could be in a bad mood because of the weather? The staff, who could then translate that into a less positive experience for customers.

The professors behind the study did acknowledge that weather was not the biggest influence on a diner’s review, but it did have an effect nonetheless. “It may be a smaller factor, but it is something that managers should pay attention to,” assistant professor Vanja Bogicevic said in a post on the school’s website. The bottom line is that customer’s reviews, at least on rainy days, should be taken with a grain of salt. Even if the quality of food and customer service is the same, it might just be the weather — and there’s not much a chef or manager can do about that. However, the researchers suggest that keeping an eye on the weather and making efforts to boost customers’ moods on those days — like free drinks or upbeat music — could potentially counteract a dip in overall satisfaction.

Read OSU’s article on the study here and find the full study (available with a subscription) here.