Caring for Upset Customers in the Restaurant


Why Do Customers Complain?

Even if all food service personnel do their best to please the customers that come through their doors, not everyone will find satisfaction with the service offered. Guests usually have their reasons for complaining, but it is up to the restaurant staff to rectify the problem and make a positive lasting impression. Occasionally, a customer will find something that offends their taste enough to bring it up to the server or manager. Typically, this is due to one or more of the following:

  • Slow service
  • Rude servers
  • Inattentive servers
  • Incorrect orders
  • Dirty dishes
  • Dirty facility
  • Poor quality food and drinks

Listen and Acknowledge

When a customer has a problem, they tend to bring it up with the server, or an employee working in the Front of the House (FOH) first. It is this employee’s job to listen attentively. He or she must find out, as politely and compassionately as possible, what seems to be the problem. This employee should take the time to hear out the issue completely before determining what can be done. Sometimes the customer just wants to be heard, and having an employee acknowledge the issue is all it takes to settle the problem. In other cases, however, it is helpful for a manager to get involved.


The next step is for both the server and the manager to step in and apologize. Even if the offense was not intentional—and it hardly ever is—the apology will set the guest’s mind at ease and help to dissipate the negativity.

Rectify the Problem

From here, the server or manager must do what he or she can to fix the problem. The goal is to go above and beyond the expectation so that the guest’s distaste is transformed into contentment. This can take many forms, depending on the complaint.

  • The meal is remade and comped
  • The guest is given a dessert on the house
  • A new server is assigned, if needed
  • A coupon for a free meal is given to the guest

It always helps to compensate, or comp the food in question. However, this is no substitute for top-notch customer service. Even if a meal is compensated for a guest or a free meal coupon is given, it takes sustained attentiveness, politeness and positivity to recover the customer’s trust.

Thank the Guest

Finally, it is important to thank the guest for giving you the opportunity to repair the problem. Training your servers to always thank the customers simply for coming in will do wonders.

Correct the Situation

After all is mended, the manager should take the time to debrief the team tactfully, so as not to place blame. Communicating the circumstances helps to assess the situation, preventing the same thing from happening in the future.


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