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How to deal with difficult customers?

As a restaurant owner, one of your biggest challenges will be satisfying difficult customers. It does not matter what type of restaurant you are, you could be a fast food chain or a gourmet restaurant and you will still have difficult customers. Difficult customers can have a big impact on your restaurant as they will criticise all of the aspects of your restaurant even if they are at a high standard. The key thing to remember is that the customer is always right. This means that you should treat them with the same respect and care you treat every customer with.

How to deal with difficult customers?

How to spot a difficult customer

Before you deal with a difficult customer, you will have to be able to identify them. Here are a few characteristics to look for in a difficult customer:


  • Will criticise all aspects of your restaurant including your food, service and appearance of your staff and restaurant.
  • Will require a substantial amount of attention.
  • Will constantly complain about your prices.
  • Will claim that your restaurant is below standard and will compare you to other restaurants.
  • Will ask for a change in their product that they have asked for before and will comment about previous mistakes you may have made.

Be Sympathetic

When the customer begins to criticise your restaurant, you should apologise for the inconveniences and listen to their opinion even if you do not agree with it. This will allow the customer to know that you care about their problem and will lead to them believing that you will work hard to fix it. This will lead to the customer calming down and giving you less of a problem as they know that it will be fixed. When the customer complains, you should listen to them as it will allow them to get their anger out which will lead to them being calm when you explain the cause of the issue. This will lead to them listening to which will give you time to sort the issue out.  Being sympathetic will let the customer believe that they are right and will prevent them from arguing which will allow your other customers to continue to eat in peace. The last thing you want is a customer causing a scene as this will give your restaurant a bad name and will disturb the customers.

Prioritise the issue

When the customer complains, you should ensure that the problem is solved as quickly as possible. For example, if a customer complains about their meal being cold, you should bring them a new one out straight away. This will satisfy the customer and will prevent them from getting angry as they know that you are doing all that you can to solve the issue. This will calm the customer down and will give them the sense of control that they seek for. As the restaurant manager, you should ensure that if a customer has a complaint that cannot be solved quickly, you are there to defuse the situation and to ensure that the customer does not cause a scene. This is because as the manager, you will have the power to offer a complimentary item or discount. This will show the customer that you are apologetic for the issue and will lead to them leaving the restaurant happy. If you give the customer a discount, it is a good way to encourage repeat purchasing as they will want to use the discount on their next visit to the restaurant.

Follow the complaint up

Once the difficult customer’s complaint has been resolved, you should go up to their table regularly during the remainder of their visit to make sure that they are satisfied. This will show the customer that you care about them and that you want them to enjoy their visit. This will allow the customer to forgive your restaurant for the previous problems that had occurred and will lead to their needs and wants being satisfied. This will lead to the customer leaving the restaurant happy. One key thing to remember is that the customers who complain are the ones who are most likely to talk about their experience at your restaurant with family and friends. This means that if the customer is satisfied, it will lead to them saying good things about your restaurant to their family and friends. This will have a positive impact on the sales of your restaurant as it will lead to the difficult customer’s friends and family wanting to eat at your restaurant. This shows that it is not always bad news when a difficult customer turns up at your restaurant as it could benefit your restaurant.

Benefits of dealing with difficult customers

  • Difficult customers are usually regular customers leading to them repeat purchasing and becoming loyal.
  • Will introduce friends and family to your restaurant leading to increased sales.
  • Their criticisms will help you improve your restaurant and will allow the quality of your customer service to increase.
  • Increased word of mouth advertising as they will discuss your restaurant when they are at another restaurant.


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