How To Manage Difficult Customers In Your Restaurant

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Whether you own a restaurant, cafe or pub, you’re bound to have at some point. The truth of the matter is that you will have to inevitably deal with difficult or fussy customers, no matter how wonderful your food or service is.

What speaks volumes, however, is your customer management style – which is key to your restaurant’s reputation and success. Read on to see what best practices we recommend taking on board:

Having A Diverse Menu

Having an inclusive menu may just stop those fussy customers in their tracks. 

At times, customers’ frustrations can stem from not feeling catered to – particularly if they have specific dietary requirements. By clearly labelling which items on your menu are vegetarian, vegan, dairy-free and gluten-free, customers are more likely to feel accommodated and confident when ordering. You can easily add in these labels when creating your menu in an online menu maker tool like Menuzen – which happens to be 100% free!

In the case of any allergies, your waitstaff should let customers know that your kitchen would be happy to remove ingredients from dishes if necessary.

Ask Customers For Feedback

When it comes to customer management, another proactive approach we recommend is to earnestly ask your customers for their feedback.

This is because only 1 in 26 customers raise their complaints with restaurant staff. By that logic, any customers leaving your restaurant unhappy might be inclined to leave a negative review online – making it important to nip any bad experiences in the bud.

If you sense that a customer might not be enjoying their meal, this is a great chance for your staff to reach out when clearing empty plates or topping up diners’ drinks. A simple question such as “Did you enjoy your meal?” or “Is there anything we can do to make your evening better?” may just bring to your attention any issues that need rectifying.

Resolving Customer Complaints

If your customer does in fact have a complaint – either about your service or a menu item – be sure to remember the golden rule: the customer is always right.

While you may not always agree with a customer, you should always aim to view the situation from their perspective. Remember, every challenge is an opportunity for growth. 

When managing customer complaints, it is vital to:

  • Listen and pay attention – When letting your customer have their say, never cut them off or try to refute any points. Customers are coming from a place of dissatisfaction and want to be heard. By practising active listening, you’ll be instantly building rapport.
  • Show empathy – Echo the customer’s frustrations and try not to view customer complaints as personal attacks. Sometimes, they can be a reflection of a customer’s mood that day. Your customer is human with feelings, and should be treated as such.
  • Get all the facts – If needed, don’t be afraid to clarify the issue with your customer. By getting all the relevant details, you can trace the problem back to its root and understand which areas need improvement.
  • Keep calm – Regardless of whether a customer raises their voice, you must maintain a calm demeanor at all times. Lower your voice and speak slowly, and never match a customer’s tone if they are verbally abusive. This will help to deescalate the situation. 
  • Give a sincere apology – By acknowledging a customer’s complaint, you’re showing them that you accept responsibility for the issue at hand. You have nothing to lose with a simple ‘sorry’, which can be effective in softening the most disgruntled of customers.
  • Offer solutions – Moving forward, you may decide on some form of compensation.  This could be a complimentary menu item or discount on a future meal. If the matter is more serious or unable to be resolved immediately, be sure to record the complaint and follow up with the customer using their contact details.
  • Thank the customer – Above all, you should always thank the customer for their business and kind understanding throughout the entire experience. 

Train Your Staff Accordingly

With the aforementioned communication strategies in place, you can make your customers feel valued and listened to – but that’s not where it ends. 

Standards for customer management should be consistent across the board. As such, training your staff on your restaurant’s code of conduct and customer complaint procedures is a must. This means you can rely on your staff to do the right thing in the event of your absence.

Training your staff to become empathic communicators will not only assist them in settling customer complaints, but it will also help them to build relationships with customers. 

After all, it takes every team member in your restaurant to deliver a seamless dining experience!