Why Receiving Advice Can Be Annoying

Food for Thought

I’ve been noticing that restauranteurs generally don’t like customer advice. Without pointing the finger at anyone, I wanted to figure out why this happens because I can relate in my business too.

Firstly, I’ve noticed that advice is abundant in specific areas but scarce in others. For instance, in application development, there is no shortage of advice or suggestions in the area of user-interface design. Somehow, everyone thinks they are UI experts. I guess it’s because they use it every day in the same way they frequent restaurants. The amount of exposure makes them feel they know enough to offer their opinions.

It happens in graphic design and branding too. Again, because of the exposure, we feel we are entitled to have our opinions. When the logo for the London 2012 Olympic Games was revealed, the public went up in arms. The vast majority of the criticisms, I’m sure, the branding agency had already considered. Responding to them must have been tiresome.

Unsolicited advice is generally perceived negatively, but if someone like Danny Meyer offered unsolicited advice, I would think most restauranteurs would appreciate it. Ultimately, I believe the annoyance is about quality and quantity.

Here is what I think is the core of the problem:

In offering advice, we assume that the beneficiary is the recipient, but this is not always the case. Giving advice is enjoyable, just as complaining about an ugly logo is enjoyable. When you offer suggestions about what restaurants should serve, you are the beneficiary. You derive vicarious pleasure as if you are a chef, blissfully unaware of everything else that goes into building a successful restaurant. But, annoyingly for the restauranteurs, the assumption is that you are doing them a favor when the opposite is true. It’s a double-whammy; not only that restauranteurs have to do something they don’t want to do (entertain you), but they are made to feel indebted.

It comes down to this: We need to be more aware in general that we are the beneficiaries when we offer advice on a topic that we think we know just because of the exposure. We breathe as long as we live, but it doesn’t mean we understand how it works.