How to Retain Unhappy Restaurant Customers

by Joseph Otto

How you handle unhappy customers in your restaurant will determine whether they leave satisfied or angry enough to tell all their friends and family. Use these tips to turn dissatisfied customers into happy ones.

bad restaurant food
Image source: BigStockPhoto.com

Dealing with unhappy customers is a very important skill to have. Being able to handle this type of situation requires patience, the ability to admit a mistake was made and the presence of mind to offer ways to make up for it. This is particularly important in the restaurant business because word of mouth is very important for bringing in new customers, and unhappy customers tend to be the customers that speak up the most. Here are a couple of tips on how to handle an unhappy customer, and how to improve your chances of them coming back.

Find Out What The Problem Is

The first step to dealing with an unhappy patron is to simply speak with them about why they are upset or weren’t happy with their experience. It is amazing at how much can be resolved by simply talking about the situation, admitting a mistake was made and offering some incentives that will hopefully keep them coming back to your restaurant.

It’s important to make sure that the customer always feels that they are right, even though in some situations that’s not the case. The ability of an employee to shoulder the blame even though it may not be their fault is important because you don’t want to lose the customer who is upset. 



What Incentives Can You Offer?

A great incentive that restaurants can offer when they are dealing with an unhappy customer is a gift certificate for a free meal for their next visit. This will more than likely result in the customer returning to your restaurant, and it gives you the opportunity to show them that you truly care about their business. Depending on the severity of the problem, the free meal should be used in the direst of situations. With less serious problems, offering a discount on their meal, free appetizers or dessert or complementary drinks can help satisfy the unhappy customer. Regardless of what incentive you offer, make sure you offer a sincere apology and ensure them that it won’t happen again.

Bad Reviews & How To Handle Them

There are some situations where a customer may post a bad review about your restaurant online or in a publication. These are never a good thing, but instead of letting it sit there for people to see, take action! Seek out the writer of the review, and find out why they were unhappy with their visit, and offer incentives to try to get them to give your place another visit. Chances are that the person will be happy that you took the time to connect with them to resolve an issue that they had with your business.

How To Ensure This Is A Minimal Occurrence

While you never know when a customer is going to be displeased with their visit to your restaurant, there are ways to be proactive to ensure that the occurrence of these situations stays to a minimum. By training your staff on the best practices in customer service from the moment they are hired, you shouldn’t have to worry about unhappy customers very often. Your staff interacts with the customer most, so make sure that they understand that they represent you and the restaurant.

Having an unhappy customer is never a fun situation to incur, but the best way to deal with it is by doing everything in your power to make sure they leave happy. Sometimes this just might not be the case, but if you adhere to the above tips, your chances of appeasing unhappy customers is much greater.

Joseph is the Outreach Manager of Willie’s Fieldhouse, a restaurant and bar located in Columbia, MO.

 
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