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Addressing Customer Complaints

Today's post is written by one of our restaurant consultants, Jared Flowers. For further information or more help from our industry professionals, contact us today! 

In the ever-changing world of the hospitality industry, we are often in need of a reminder of what is really important. With rapid competition growth, increased reliance on social media, increased wages (thus fewer people doing the same job) and the demand to stay current and creative, it is imperative that we do not forget about the one thing that keeps us afloat: the guest.

No one likes dealing with difficult guests. But it is a part of the business, and how gracefully and successfully you deal with a tough situation will determine your success. It is imperative to approach each guest complaint without allowing personal agenda or emotion to get in the way.

As such, managers need to make sure not to be tied up in too many “tasks”. Once you have guests in the building, the focus should be on them. Are you touching every table? Are you looking at the food as it comes out of the expo window? Are you asking data driven questions and making eye contact when speaking to guests? Are you checking the restrooms and making sure the music is just right? Are you making sure the air conditioning is set just right? With this system in place and checked every 15-20 minutes, you can eliminate most guest complaints.

However, from time to time you are still going to encounter guests with other concerns. Do not be afraid or back away from these problems. There are many acronyms for how to address a complaint and none of them are wrong. Our restaurant consultants like to use L.A.S.T. It is simple to remember, to post, and to execute.

  1. Listen. Genuinely and compassionately listen to what the issue. Be grateful that the guest is taking the time to share with you. Listen to see if there is a deeper issue than what they are sharing. In many cases a guest will leave and choose to not come back, so a vocal complaint is from a customer that can be saved. 
  2. Ask. Ask the guest questions to determine the root of the problem. If they don’t care for a dish, is it because it is not the right temperature? Is it not properly seasoned? Is it missing items or have items that were not described on the menu? Gain full clarity of the situation at hand.
  3. Solve. Determine what is going to make the guest leave the restaurant satisfied. No guest ever comes into your restaurant to leave hungry. Do not take no for an answer. Normally, guests do not want free food, so simply comping the bill is a cop-out. Solving the problem will win more followers and save you more money in the long run, even if that means packing up a to-go box and hand-delivering it to the guest’s office.
  4. Thank. Thank the guest not only for bringing the issue to your attention but also for choosing your establishment as the place to invest their time and money. 


With calmness and attention, even negative situations can work in your favor. Take time to care for your customers—they are the most important.


Photo by Chris.