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How to Handle a Rude Customer

When you're part of the service industry, it goes without saying that you may encounter a rude guest from time to time. And whether a disgruntled customer is warranted in their unhappiness or not, how you and your employees handle the situation is important. Keep in mind that part of building a restaurant business is creating long-term relationships.

But when there is a disruption, don't forget that your potential for relationship doesn't only exist with the unhappy customer--there is potential with every person in the place. Don't let one upset diner ruin the experience for everyone else.

So how should you deal with a rude customer in a way that can nurture the relationship with both the disgruntled person, as well as with your other guests?

1. Approach the situation tactfully and directly. It's your establishment and you have the right to determine the atmosphere; and there are tactful ways of getting to the point. Don't be afraid to address your concerns head-on, with a calm, diplomatic manner. 

2. If you can solve the problem, solve it. Sometimes a disruptive guest simply wants their way. Ask questions to get to the heart of the matter and do your best to get them what they need. Returning order could be as simple as a comped dish or a free cocktail. Be willing to concede to keep the peace, and address their needs--within reason.

3.Offer concessions to surrounding guests. At a certain point of disruption, it becomes important to consider the other guests above the disgruntled party. If guests are leaving, offer them something to return with--a coupon, a gift card. If they are willing to stay through the situation, find a way to show your appreciation of their patience, like a free dessert or drink.

4. Take the hit and ask the disruptive guest to leave. Though rare, a problem could grow large enough that it needs to be removed. If you need to ask a guest to leave, do so as gracefully as possible. Comp the meal to avoid complication, and firmly ask the guest to leave. If the situation reaches this point, be sure to check on your other guests once the disgruntled diner has exited.

Have you ever had a serious disruption in your restaurant? How did you handle it?

For more tips on managing the difficult parts of the restaurant business, contact our restaurant consultants today.