Customer complaints can sometimes be an unavoidable part of running a small business, but they can often be especially common in the dining industry. Almost everyone who walks into your restaurant thinks that they are a qualified food critic, and thus, diners have opinions about the job you’re doing – good or bad. Knowing how to deal with a difficult guest can turn their bad experience into a great experience.
The pandemic has altered the dining landscape. More than 10% of restaurants in the US have closed forever due to COVID restrictions. Most of the remaining restaurants have been forced to redesign their operations and make difficult compromises, cutting staff and modifying menu options. It may be challenging to meet customer expectations while doing more work with less staff and earning less revenue due to continued socially-distanced seating arrangements and constant sanitizing.
Still, it’s possible to resolve customer conflicts as they arise using the strategies outlined below. But first, it helps to understand why some customers get upset. Check-out this Infographic by Clover for a simplified version of this article.
Why do some Customers Behave Badly?
Conflicts can crop up for any number of reasons, but most issues you’re likely to face stem from one of the following broad categories:
Frustration over personal circumstances – such as trouble at home or pandemic fatigue
Anger over policies – such as mask mandates, limited seating capacity, or dress codes
Poor quality service – such as mixed-up orders or long wait times
Not being heard – such as when a waiter dismisses a complaint
Although the underlying reasons might vary, the basic steps for dealing with a difficult guest are the same.
1. Listen to the Diner’s Complaint
The first step in dealing with a difficult guest is to calmly listen to everything the customer has to say. Doing so is crucial for understanding why he or she is upset – and for determining how best to resolve the issue. You’d be surprised how often letting someone vent helps to resolve problems on their own. Make attentive listening the number one priority for every member on the team. Listening is the foundation of conflict resolution.
2. Restate the Issue Clearly
The next step involves demonstrating your understanding of the situation by repeating the issue to the customer in your words. This lets the customer know you’re paying attention and that his or her voice matters. Clearly restating the problem also helps build empathy and rapport.
3. Resolve the Issue Quickly
Despite thin margins, restaurants may have some leeway when it comes to using perks to deal with a difficult guest and diffuse tense situations. Whenever possible, offer some type of compensation to satisfy angry customers – whether it’s complimentary drinks, dessert on the house, or 10% off the bill. However, sometimes these types of offers aren’t always deserved. There might be a policy in place that can’t be changed to suit a customer’s demands. For example, mask mandates were a common sticking point that many restaurants had to deal with, often for legal or regulatory reasons beyond their direct control.
In these situations, it’s best to explain why the policy exists and that your hands are tied. If it’s possible to offer perks to defuse the situation, do so. Sometimes, even this doesn’t work. You’ll have to move on to the next conflict resolution step.
4. Rely on your Managers
“I’d like to speak to your manager please,” are words no employee wants to hear. You should view this as an opportunity, since supervisors:
Have more training and experience in conflict resolution
Have more flexibility to offer freebies
Just as important, managers also have the authority to ask customers to leave if and when necessary. Sometimes, this is the only way to deal with a difficult guest. Asking a disruptive customer to leave might not be a good experience for that person, but it creates a better atmosphere for everyone else. Moreover, removing unreasonable diners allows your waitstaff to focus on the needs of those who add value to your business.
While it’s not possible to make everyone happy, you can help reduce unnecessary conflict in your restaurant by implementing the strategies above. For even more conflict resolution tips for your growing business, be sure to see the accompanying resource above.
Author bio: Mihir Korke is Head of Acquisition at Clover Network, a leader in small business credit card processing and POS systems. Clover specializes in restaurant, retail, and personal and professional service payment solutions. With desktop and mobile POS systems, contactless payments, solutions for curbside pickup and online ordering, loyalty and rewards, Clover has multiple solutions to meet your business’s needs.
The COVID-19 Trojan Horse – Coronavirus Impact on Restaurants
As the coronavirus spreads and I watch our collective reaction to it, I’ve got to wonder if our reaction is doing more harm than the virus itself. People are stock piling goods, toilet paper is almost a black market item, guns & ammunition have taken a surge in sales, and the stock market is a wild ride. The irresponsible media, in their blood-lust for ratings and hype, have been pushing fear and worse case scenarios without providing us with some of the most important information on stemming the tide, controlling fear, and avoiding crisis. What is the coronavirus impact on restaurants & the economy? How do we balance public safety and economic safety?
Until March 16th all we heard from the media on a daily basis was, “numbers of people infected” “number of people who died” “number of countries infected” “world wide pandemic” and worst of all “not enough test kits” “everyone who feels ill should get tested”.
Cities across the country have closed restaurants, bars, entertainment facilities, sporting events, and have limited community gatherings to as few as 50 people.
Now restaurant & hospitality workers, along with people from many other industries hit hard by these business closures, are going to have difficulty paying their bills because they have no income. Out of fear of catching COVID-19 (important note to remember: for most people it is similar to getting the flu, except that it is more contagious) people are now out of work and faced with financial hardship, unable to pay their mortgage or feed their families. Is economic hardship the Trojan Horse of the coronavirus? Is a financial/economic crisis the real terror of COVID-19?
Flatten the Curve
This week (March 16th) the media is finally telling us something responsible… “flatten the curve”. But they are still foolishly talking about test kits and the need for testing. The phrase to “flatten the curve” has two possible meanings: 1) reduce the number of people who catch COVID-19. 2) reduce the number of people who need access to healthcare providers for critical care. It essentially means doing what it takes to keep our healthcare system from getting overwhelmed.
If we want to “flatten the curve” then stop overwhelming our healthcare system. According to the excellent infographic below, 80% of people who get coronavirus experience only mild symptoms similar to the regular flu. This suggests to me that getting tested just to be tested is part of the problem which overwhelms the healthcare system. If you have mild flu-like symptoms then call your doctor (don’t automatically go to the doctor or hospital with mild symptoms), heed their advice, stay home, self-quarantine for 14 days, and get well. Don’t push for getting tested! Getting tested will change nothing, you will still be sick, they can’t give you a pill to cure it. Only get tested if your doctor advises it.
Getting tested simply to know if you have coronavirus puts an undo burden on healthcare workers for no good reason. Save testing for the smaller percentage of people who are experiencing severe symptoms. These are the people who are probably already health compromised. These are the people who are most at risk, who need access to healthcare. The rest of us should just call our doctor and stay home until our fever has broke and we are healthy for 2 weeks.
It is very true that COVID-19 is extremely contagious. That is clearly the biggest concern and steps need to be taken to control its spread. But putting a “Closed” sign on the world while we hide in our homes with no income and live on canned goods & ramen isn’t a great solution. And it isn’t sustainable…no money leads to much more drastic problems than a fever. The coronavirus impact on restaurants and the economy is of equal importance as the virus itself. The average American lives check to check. Missing 2 weeks of income will be extremely painful. Missing a month will be devastating.
Temporary shutdown of a city (or the country) only makes sense if the goal is to keep our healthcare facilities from being overwhelmed with an onslaught of patients beyond healthcare provider’s ability to effectively handle (which is one of the key concerns pointed out in the infographic below…hence, flatten the curve). But such a shutdown needs to work hand in hand with getting people back to work or getting them financial relief until they can return to work. The coronavirus impact on restaurants and the economy should not become worse than the virus itself. Let’s not go from thinking “everything is going to be fine” to thinking “everyone is going to die.”
COVID-19 is NOT the Black Plague!
So, let’s take a moment, take a deep breath, and really ask ourselves the most important question: is COVID-19 in the same terrifying category as the Black Plague? No, it’s not because about 96% of people who get coronavirus recover from it. The real danger is in overwhelming healthcare system (which will result in unnecessary deaths) and in economic distress.
Key takeaways from this purely data-based information:
96.3% of people recover!
80.9% only experience mild flu-like symptoms
Those most at risk of dying are 60+ years old
Those most at risk of dying are 60+ and have other health conditions, especially respiratory or compromised immune conditions. (note: these people are unfortunately most at risk regardless of the virus concern)
Only 0.9% of healthy people w/ no existing conditions have died
The greatest health risk to everyone as a whole appears to be when the existing healthcare systems are overwhelmed and critically ill patients therefore cannot receive effective treatment
The majority of people who die from it are already at risk regardless of whether they have COVID-19, the regular flu, pneumonia, or any of the other common illnesses which cause the death of immune compromised people. This is not a disease which kills thousands or millions of normally healthy people. But it does definitely kill at risk people.
HOW COVID-19 KILLS
Here is a fantastic video explaining how COVID-19 attacks the lungs and is therefore a very serious concern for the elderly (who commonly die from pneumonia) and/or at risk people.
Common Sense – Protect Yourself, those Around You, and the Economy
Speaking for myself, I would much rather experience symptoms similar to the flu, be sick for a few days, self-quarantine as recommended, and then be able to go back to work. I don’t want to be out of work for weeks on end. That financial hardship would be worse than a fever and some body aches.
Please listen carefully to what I am trying to communicate… I am not saying that the coronavirus is no big deal and that it’s not something to be concerned about. We need to take recommended precautions, practice hand washing and social distancing along with the other recommended precautions. But we don’t need to kill the economy! The coronavirus is not the black plague. Yes, it is more contagious than the regular flu. Yes if you are health-compromised, or have regular contact with someone who is health-compromised, it is especially a concern for you and you would be wise to take every precaution necessary to avoid getting COVID-19.
But look at the stats… 96% of the people who get the virus get better! 96%! This is not something to be terrified of. It is just something to be cautious about. Should we decimate our economy just so we don’t get a fever? Right now it appears to me that the havoc the coronavirus is having on the economy could be far worse than the coronavirus itself.
Let’s not destroy the entire economy out of fear of something that won’t hurt 96% of us for more than a short time. Be safe, be prudent, protect those around you, look to a brighter future, and eat at restaurants after this cloud passes! Life goes on!
The “Burn Everything” Approach is Foolish!
Closing every restaurant and social contact business in an entire state is a knee jerk reaction which causes more harm than good. Just because Seattle has a lot of illnesses and should be shut down doesn’t mean that the same response applies to Smalltown USA! There are tons of small towns which have no COVID-19 cases and yet the State is mandating that they close shot, stop business, loose money, and perhaps loose their small business when no one in their area even has the virus.
A more prudent solution would be to contain cities which have the virus, restrict travel to/from other cities/towns, and let businesses continue to run if no one in their area has the virus. As of March 23rd only 1.2% of US cases have resulted in death…1.2%! Lets not destroy our economy and drive ourselves into the Great Depression to prevent 1% of the population from dying! FEAR of COVID-19 has become the real Bogeyman .
Businesses need to stay open unless there is a local virus threat. Don’t cause/force small-town American businesses to die because of a virus in big-town America.
Coronavirus Impact on Restaurants Additional Resources:
Whether you wish to be a Professional Chef in South Africa or in some other part of the globe, there are a few essential attributes that are required for an aspiring chef to possess. Possessing world class Chef Training classes go hand in hand with the qualities that a Professional Chef is looked upon to own. Thus, to make our opinion more clear, mentioned below are 10 useful tips and advices that will pave a successful path to become an unbeaten chef.
Passion is among the top most important quality that one needs to possess if he/she desires to be a Professional Chef. Just taking chef classes will not better one’s position if he/she lacks the obsession for food preparation. Starting from internationally renowned recipes to locally known dishes there are a lot of techniques that one needs to pay attention to while expertly preparing meals, selecting food and creating menus. Thus, lacking interest and fervour for it will turn everything boring and dull.
Creativity is an attribute that will not only enhance food preparation but is also needed to experiment with various cooking techniques and ingredients. It is only due to creativity that many renowned chefs have come up with a number of delectable dishes. To offer a never before dining experience one should always be ready to try something outside the box.
3. Business Sense
No matter from where one has undergone his/her Chef Training, to climb the ladder of success he/she should be gifted with business sense. It will be this factor that will help expand the zone and establish you as a well known chef. One should know how to run a cost effective restaurant along with offering mouth watering dishes.
A good chef is one who can swiftly arrange his/her cooking items and blend them accordingly. While preparing dishes for restaurants and hotels, a number of tasks need to be carried along at the same time. Thus multitasking is an essential talent to posses.
5. Team Player
An efficient and cooperative chef will always understand that he is part of a larger food preparation team which needs to work harmoniously so that everything gets prepared at the right time. Lacking such a spirit can cause moral & production problems and you may never be in a position to win others and attain success.
6. Attention for Details
Cooking is just like science. To prepare the finest dish, each ingredient and amount has a role to play in enhancing its taste. So, one needs an eye for each detail. Moreover, while experimenting, he/she should know which ingredient can create magic and result in a new taste.
It requires a lot of practice to present the best dish. One has to practice so much so that he/she gets used to the techniques so that they remain in finger tips while taking any order.
8. Quick Decision
To be a professional chef one should as well possess the ability for quick thinking. This becomes especially handy when any sort of crisis or problem arises. Moreover, to maintain customer satisfaction, timely decisions play an imperative role in this industry.
9. Commitment to Quality
To seek out the finest ingredients and to make use of the best techniques to cook the best dish possible, commitment for quality is a must and where there is quality, success will surely follow.
10. Handle Criticism
There is no field in which one does not have to face criticism and this is true in the culinary industry as well. It is not possible that every customer will love what you prepare, but being able to accept that with a positive attitude will push you towards success.
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and the City Council is pushing a plan to change the King County minimum wage from Washington’s minimum wage of $9.32 to $15.00! Washington already has the highest minimum wage of any state in the country, but they want a 61% increase, and they want it now!
From what I can see, Ed Murray has zero business experience and is utterly unqualified to make business decisions for Seattle’s businesses. He clearly has no concept of the impact that a 61% increase in the cost of labor will have upon all the businesses in Seattle. Is the Seattle city council really so “business illiterate” that they don’t understand what a 61% cost increase means? Apparently they have no clue.
And one of the staunchest supporters of $15Now is…wait for it…an socialist activist! City councilwoman Kshama Sawant is an immigrant from India who actively supports the socialist agenda, is involved in this process to raise wages to $15, and calls small businesses liars when they say this change will hurt them.
I heard the Tom & Curley radio show today and John Curley said that of all the city council members who are involved in this decision-making process for King County, only one of them has experience in the private sector. All the rest have spent their careers in the public service sector, being paid by us the taxpayers. They are good at taking other people’s money and redistributing it as they see fit. They have no idea how to run a business, and are utterly unqualified for deciding what is best for the businesses of Seattle.
John Curley used a vivid example (7:26 into the segment) to describe the type of participation which local government officials have offered to Seattle businesses as they work through this process:
“To me it’s like the private sector (businesses) are brought to the table and the city council is basically saying, “OK, which finger do you want to have cut off? Do you want us to cut your thumb off, pinky off, middle finger, index finger…’cause we’re going to cut one of them off, we just need to know which one you’d be ok with losing. Because it’s coming, but at least we’re letting you sit at the table.”
Remember also that part of Ed Murray’s platform when running for Seattle Mayor was the $15 minimum wage concept. Again, this is a man who has no business background! He is blind to the ramifications, unable to see past his hand redistributing cash.
To be fair, a 60% increase in labor cost is not the same as an overall 60% increase in total operating expenses. But it is akin to a 60% increase in your mortgage payment. Or alternately, would you have a problem with Ed Murray declaring that he was raising your property taxes by 60%? That’s what he is doing to businesses.
Here are my predictions of what will happen if the minimum-wage goes to $15 an hour in Seattle:
Approximately 102,000 people who currently earn less than $15/hr in King County will temporarily experience some relief to their cost of living in Seattle…the remaining 1,942,000 people will experience a tightening of the belt as everything begins to cost more.
Low-wage jobs will be greatly reduced as small businesses try to eliminate low-wage workers
Entry level jobs for teens and unskilled workers will evaporate
Job descriptions will change so that more experienced workers will take on the duties of previously lower paid positions
busboys will be eliminated and servers will pick up that task
prep cooks will be eliminated and cooks will take up that task
grocery baggers will be eliminated
The cost of almost everything in Seattle will increase by 10% to 20%
Employers will cut healthcare coverage, vacation time, and other employee benefits to cover this new cost
Many small businesses will go out of business because they cannot afford the change
Economic growth in Seattle will decrease as new businesses avoid Seattle and choose outlying areas because of the high cost of labor in Seattle. Walmart has already declared they would do this in SeaTac.
Businesses will lose volume and sales revenue as customers go outside Seattle, or choose not to even come into Seattle, in order to save money. Likewise, tourists will spend less or choose outlying areas to go because their dollar will go 10% to 20% further outside Seattle.
After tips, servers at good restaurants will earn somewhere between $35-$50 an hour! This will cause more competition among servers, but will also cause more cooks to leave the kitchen for the better cash of the FOH, resulting in more difficulty hiring qualified cooks.
Restaurants will be very hard hit by this change as their profit margins are typically only somewhere between 3% to 8%, which allows very little room for additional expenses…certainly no room for a 61% increase in labor costs! Restaurants will close, prices will escalate.
Low-wage and unskilled workers will be very happy…experienced workers will not. The guy who was making $15 an hour had a six dollar difference between him and the inexperienced worker… now suddenly they’re both making the same wage even though the more experienced worker has the harder job which requires more skill, more responsibility, more stress, and so on.
Businesses in the border counties at the edge of King County will see an increase of business as people travel “across the border” for cheaper restaurants, coffee, groceries, almost everything.
5 years after everyone is forced to pay the higher wage and prices for services & goods have adjusted, the cost of living (as a percentage of wages) in Seattle will be equal or higher to what it is today. This is the definition of a failed idea.
For me personally, I’ll have a very hard time adding a 15-20% tip to a restaurant meal. The whole premise of tipping is that its a way to off-set the (supposed) lower wage of servers. But if they are suddenly getting paid the same as the previously higher-paid cooks then why should we tip them for doing their job? Servers work hard…but they do not deserve to earn significantly more than the cooks who prepare the food.
The ‘$15 Now’ measure promotes a sense of underachievement and lack of ambition. The purpose of “starting positions” is to provide work for both unskilled workers and “new to the work-force” workers, who will eventually learn new skills, become more valuable employees, and move up the chain. Giving them a $5.68 instantaneous raise “cheats” the people who have worked to earn a higher wage. Minimum wage assumes that people will take the initiative to make themselves more valuable through education (at work or via formal schooling) and personal ambition.
For instance, a busboy’s incentive to earn more money is to learn new skills and move up in the business. But if a busboy is suddenly earning the same amount as a line cook why would he want to change? Busing requires a small amount of physical ability, has very low stress, and requires minimal skill and training compared to other positions in the restaurant. “$15 Now” promotes a mentality of low-wage unskilled workers in Seattle (however, those jobs will disappear).
I could see the implementation of a two wage system, where there are “Starting Wage Positions” and “Minimum Wage” positions. The Minimum Wage positions would earn $15/hour and would be defined perhaps as “a position which the average person enters into and continues in for 5 or more years” (not necessarily in the same work-place, but in the same job description). Cooks would certainly fit into this category, but bussers, baristas, grocery baggers, and dishwashers would not as those tend to be more transitory positions which people more on from.
“Starting Wage Positions” could perhaps be defined as “a typically entry level position which the average person transitions out of within 2-3 years as they pursue a career”. In my opinion, these might include fast food workers, baristas, dishwashers, bussers, grocery baggers, prep cooks, movie theater workers, Walmart greeters (seriously, even though this company makes money doesn’t mean that the position of saying, “Hello, welcome to Walmart” is worth $15).
Final comment: “$15 Now” needs to take a trip to Planned Parenthood in order to save the families, and businesses, of Seattle.
With the American food-serving industry facing a variety of challenges, restaurant management schools are addressing the issue in a proactive manner. More and more diners are demanding healthy meals and becoming aware of the role that diet plays in overall health and wellness. While many people have a penchant for foods that are filled with sugar and fat, others may have a hard time finding an establishment that caters to their dietary restrictions, and this is especially true for anyone who has allergies. Restaurant managers are responsible for the overall success of a particular facility, and it’s important that they completely understand the issue of food allergies and diners who are interested in finding healthy meals that are prepared according to their dietary goals.
The Challenges in a Career as a Restaurant Manager
One of the chief challenges in the restaurant industry is the fact that more diners are beginning to understand how processed foods can lead to a host of health problems. The human body has been slow to adapt to processed food, and this leaves many dining establishments in a precarious position. In order to keep sales high, restaurants need to cater to clients who are demanding fresh food that is prepared with local ingredients. Today, diners have more choices than ever, from bakeries that produce fresh breads without gluten to cafes that rely on freshly harvested produce to make their dishes.
One of the biggest challenges that a person who is interested in a career as a restaurant manager faces has to do with the issue of food allergies. Proper training and education are an essential aspect of making sure that people with allergies have their meals prepared in a proper manner. Knowledge helps to reduce mistakes and ensures that misinformation is addressed at a fundamental level. Restaurant management schools can help address the problem because they provide the training that is essential for staff members while ensuring that management is fully aware of how allergies can be dealt with in a restaurant that provides meals to a variety of different patrons.
While enrolled in one of the accredited restaurant management schools, students can gain more information about the features of today’s diet-specific restaurants. Because more consumers are becoming aware of the difficulty that is involved with preparing foods that are gluten or peanut free, it is essential for managers to cater to these patrons, and many bakeries have made the move to eliminate gluten from all of their products. The biggest challenge has to do with creating tasty entrees that are prepared in a manner that respects dietary restrictions.
Increasing Consumer Confidence
If you’re considering a career as a restaurant manager, it is imperative to understand what customers are searching for when they are looking to dine out. While most restaurants can accommodate clients with special requests, there is a growing trend in the industry for facilities that cater to people who demand certain diets. The reason behind this has to do with the consumer confidence of customers. As more information becomes available to consumers, many people are searching for establishments that provide outstanding fare that is prepared in a safe, sanitary and healthy manner.
The major role and responsibility of a restaurant manager is to manage the restaurant. He/she needs to ensure efficient and effective operations of the restaurant while taking care of its ethos and reputation. Further, he/she need to maintain the high standards of food, safety, health and service. A restaurant manager needs to work as an intermediate between the diners and the chefs.
If you are already a restaurant manager in a renowned restaurant and want to establish your name to get success and fame, then you need to focus on two important aspects required in restaurant management industry i.e. work experience and practical experience. Both of them are valuable and play a vital role in boosting your professional career growth. It helps in developing subject specific and transferable skills. Further, you can participate in various contests to prove your capabilities and set an example for future employees. In case you have any specialist in mind, then be close to him and find out how he handles all his management tasks efficiently and hold expertise in his respective domain. This way, you can achieve specialization in your work and grow at a faster rate. By practicing harder with willingness to learn something new every day, you can perform your job well and gain huge appreciation.
So it will be not wrong to say or predict that in the coming years, the restaurant management career outlook will focus more on experienced professionals and bring lots of other amazing career opportunities for them.
Zac Parker is a very creative writer and an active contributor who focuses on culinary oriented writings and brings great cooking related information to his readers. He loves cooking, eating, and writing about foods as his field of expertise.