What makes a restaurant experience unique and enjoyable? A great menu, operational excellence, and incredible customer service. No establishment is perfect, and the business is bound to encounter tricky situations concerning the speed of food and beverage service, accuracy and quality of orders, and the overall experience.
Knowing how to handle guest complaints effectively is a key to keeping your diners happy, so train your team in this area. Here’s a quick go-to guide for resolving issues at a restaurant, as well as some of the most common customer complaints and how to approach them.
How to Handle Customer Complaints Gracefully
1. Give the customer your full attention.
Empathize with your customer and show that you are taking their complaint seriously. Avoid smiling to lighten the situation since they may interpret this as your dismissal of their complaint. When a customer feels heard and understood, it will also prevent the situation from escalating. Meeting them at eye level is a sign of respect, so remember to crouch lower to meet their eyes if they are seated while speaking to you.
2. Offer a sincere apology and acknowledgment.
It’s true what they say – unless wildly unreasonable, the customer is always right. Sincerely apologize for a mistake or an experience they found unexpectedly unpleasant. Acknowledge their feelings by saying something like, “We truly apologize for the experience–we understand how frustrating it can be to wait in line for a long time, and we are doing the most to seat you as soon as we can,” can help de-escalate the situation.
3. Be solution-oriented and think of a remedy.
Go beyond an apology and offer a solution or remedy to put your customer at ease quickly. It may be as simple as waiving the bill for a dish prepared incorrectly, offering a drink to customers waiting in a long queue, or giving a complimentary dessert to a couple whose order was wrong.
4. Follow up with your customer.
Let your customers know that your establishment values their feedback and that you constantly push to improve. A follow-up message can encourage your customers to come back. You can say something like, “We value your feedback and take it to heart here, and we’d love to invite you back to try our new-and-improved bar menu.” Reassure disgruntled guests and turn them into loyal patrons!
Common Guest Complaints and How to Respond to Them
Being short-staffed is a common concern for the food and beverage industry these days. When you don’t have the manpower, you can pick up the slack through other means. For example, you can boost your kitchen efficiency by cutting down on prep time which can take hours. Instead of spending six to eight hours making stock, you can use Knorr Pork Broth Base, which does the same job in five minutes.
Cleanliness and Sanitation
Now that you have free time on your hands, you can respond quickly to customer issues. Act fast when a customer orders or complains about a strand of hair on their dish or utensils that aren’t as clean as they should be. Replace the errant item at once. Then, apologize and reassure your customers that all service members will be reminded of sanitation guidelines to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
An Order Gets Mixed Up
Occasionally, miscommunication between your front-of-house staff and the back-of-house team can happen. Customers may be served a dish they did not order. Apologize for the mix-up, and serve the correct order as soon as possible. Remember to ask your team about the incident in a debrief, and be ready to explain to the customer in case they ask.
When you train your team, go beyond teaching the menu and how to speak to customers. Show them the value of teamwork and communication. These are essential for efficiency and can even save you money because they’ll make fewer mistakes.
Long Waits to Be Seated
If a long queue snakes outside your food establishment, remember that your front-of-house team should be more attentive in ensuring that customers waiting outside stay instead of walking away.
Also, your back-of-house team must be extra efficient: outgoing diners should receive their bill on time so new customers get seated quickly. But be honest as well. If new customers arrive and it will take 20 minutes to get them seated, let them know about the waiting time instead of offering false promises and not delivering.
Another way you can trim those long waiting periods without turning customers away is by employing technology. Allow for online reservations. Or, employ a tablet-based menu that can allow them to order during the delay. This way, they don’t have to wait a long time for their food to arrive.
Now that you know how to handle guest complaints assuredly in food and beverage service,
you can pass on this knowledge to your team so your customers walk out happy.
Explore ingredients at the Unilever Food Solutions shop to help make your food business and kitchen workflows more efficient, and check out our operational tips to help you navigate the food and beverage business scene better.