The truth is, customer complaints are inevitable. Even if you’re the best, most decorated restaurant in town, you’ll inevitably come up against disgruntled patrons. What’s more important than getting all good reviews is the way you and your staff handle the bad ones.
As you’ve probably learned, there are productive and constructive ways to spin any kind of feedback. You can view it as an opportunity to learn and improve, or you can simply add it to a growing handbook of useful answers for difficult questions.
Here’s a list of some of the most common complaints restaurant’s hear, along with a few pointers on how to address them in way that will appease rather than annoy.
“We have to wait in line? Are you kidding!?”
As the restaurant manager, you know that table turnover is important, and you’re well aware that your hostess has to play a tricky, real-life version of Tetris every shift to maximise your occupancy. Things can get hectic during peak times, but customer service should never fall by the weyside just because you’re busy. At the end of the day, your restaurant sales depend on keeping your customers happy (even those who don’t have a table yet).
Waiting in line for a table is no-one’s idea of fun. To minimize the frustration this elicits, most restaurants will give diners a menu to peruse whilst they’re waiting. But what if customers could not only decide what they want, but get an ETA on how long they’ll need to wait once they’re seated?
At Ready, we’ve designed our restaurant management software to address the customer experience as soon as their name is on the waiting list. When guests open the Ready App in your restaurant, they can not only review your menu and daily specials, but they can get real-time table availability. When their table is ready, send them SMS alert letting them know it’s time to eat. This way, they can leave to grab a coffee without losing their place in line, and by the time they're seated, they’ll be ready to order straight away.
“What do you mean I can’t have my-complicated-order-that-takes-ten-extra-minutes-to-prep!?”
Personalizing the dining experience for each and every customer is no mean feat, but if you’re in the hospitality industry, you know that this is sometimes a necessary evil in order to please your patrons. They’ve come to you for a unique, enjoyable experience, and you’re always willing to do your best to make them happy.
Unfortunately, you can only schedule a finite number of Front of House staff for any one shift, and their time can stretched very thin during a busy service. Therefore, it can sometimes be difficult to accommodate patrons with extreme meal alteration requests. Fortunately, there are tools that you can use to streamline processes, giving your FOH and BOH more time to take care of your customers—which is what you hired them to do in the first place.
A good POS system can be your best asset. If customers are able to pay when they’re finished without needing a server to bring them their bill or a card machine, then tables become available more quickly. Staff are then able to spend more time serving customers than dealing with procedural admin.
Sometimes, no matter how prepared you are, you will have to offer a refund or comp—perhaps a request wasn’t communicated to the kitchen or a mishap required a meal to be redone. Though this can seem like a defeat, it can actually be an opportunity to impress. With Ready, staff can easily offer a refund, adjust a bill, or give credits for a subsequent visit to compensate inconvenienced diners. The key is to make this transaction as painless as possible for every party involved.
“It’s too noisy / cold / warm / dark in here!”
There are fundamentals should always be up to scratch—hygiene’s a fairly fundamental thing, and where temperature’s concerned you can always make your best judgement based on the seasons.
There are other features of your restaurant that will be subjective. Background music can be irritating to some but soothing to others, and you can’t really dictate other patrons’ (lack of) volume control.
Often though, it’s not so much the actual level of noise, cleanliness, or heat that’s on trial; it’s how staff respond to these types of complaints that can make or break the diner’s experience. As in any service role, politeness and acknowledgement of the customer’s complaint is crucial.
Sometimes though, disgruntled customers will not speak up while they’re actually in your restaurant, but will save their dissatisfaction for the likes of Yelp and TripAdvisor. These negative reviews can have a big impact on a restaurant’s reputation, but with the Ready App’s private guest feedback feature, customers have the ability to provide restaurants with direct feedback on their experience. This feature not only offers an easy way for restaurants to learn more about their service standards and customer satisfaction levels, but it also allows managers the chance to capture and reply to negative reviews before the patron turns their attention to a public forum.
“What the heck’s taking so long? I’m starving!”
Whether they’re waiting for their food or a bill, if customers are in a hurry their patience can run pretty thin. Sometimes it’s because you’re packed to the gills, other times your staff might be struggling to keep up with an abnormally busy rush.
And then there’s the time consuming splitting of the bill two-step. Depending on your POS, this process doesn’t need to be inconvenient for the server, but during busy periods the request can take a little extra time to accommodate—impacting table turnover, and adding to customer frustration.
Restaurant POS payment systems can take ages to ‘connect’. And if you have to do that two, three, or seven times over, well… you get the idea. However, with Ready, customers can sort out ‘who owes what’ before the server even comes to the table.
Ultimately, most customers want you to show some empathy and demonstrate that you feel their server’s pain and can see you’re visibly trying to do something to help them. While technology can help, overall it’s how you and your staff handle complaints that counts the most. Some humility, tact, and an apology can go a long way.