The 4 Best Practices for Handling Guest Complaints at your Restaurant

As a restaurateur, we’re pretty sure you’ve heard it all. Guests complaining about service staff, food too cold, sunlight shining in guest’s eyes, and the inevitable for a busy, high-volume restaurants – long wait times.

Training, experience, and approach are key in handling restaurant complaints … and vital to keeping staff and guest happy.

We went straight to the source, a seasoned restaurant industry insider, for useful advice on best practices and general course of actions for some of the most common restaurant guest complaints and how to tackle them like a pro.

Farmers Restaurant Group Managing Partner Kendra Graves was happy to impart her wisdom and tools she works from, so you can customize for your restaurant or hospitality business.

1) Food & Beverage.

Grievances are an expected part of this business, but you can contain complaints in one full swoop: communicate. Keeping communication flowing between you and your team not only gives you crucial information about food and beverage service, but also allows you the perspective to contain issues. For instance, Kendra recognizes that if her restaurant has a succession of dish complaints, she’ll address it with the chefs. Dealing with such signals head-on is crucial to business. Whether it’s checking the recipe or revising the dish or beverage – do something, immediately.

2) Server.

This falls under the “it’s hard to please everyone” category. But, if you want a thriving enterprise, it’s your business to please. Step one: always listen to guests, be sincere in your apology, thank them for their feedback. Step two: recovery. Devise your recovery service and tailor it to their experience. Step in with the server, making sure every guest at that table leaves feeling appreciated and fulfilled. Step three: make note to further train that server if needed. Hiring personable, passionate, self-starter servers certainly helps prevent issues.

3) Atmosphere.

Essential for a positive dining experience. Kendra and her team focus on their space to keep guests comfortable. Striving to pull down window shades if too sunny, moving guests to a more pleasing table, and such are compulsory, but some measures can be challenging when the restaurant is on a wait. In this case, be honest with guests about the situation, move them to the next available table, and do what you can to make them as comfortable as possible.

4) Long Wait Times.

As any busy restaurateur knows, this probably happens more than you’d like. Training front of house staff to address guests and take initiative quickly is key to keeping them from walking out. Make sure a manager circulates through the front desk frequently, to connect with as many guests as possible as they check in. It is always easier to grovel later if the manager has already made a nice connection. Honesty goes a long way with guests who are waiting. Don’t string them along with new updates, tell them the truth from the start, and keep them apprised. If the wait time is getting long and the tables just aren’t turning, get the sips and tastes flowing to the waiting guests so you avoid creating angry, waiting guests.

Our best advice? Pay attention and communicate. Keep the dining room and kitchen humming, so that tables turn. Put yourself in the guest’s shoes. Take note: are kitchen staff/servers ready for a great, timely service? Does anything in the space stand out? Is your front desk staff trained to keep a waiting party content?

Training. Experience. Approach. All help you set your playbook. And keep happy guests coming back.

Share