How to deal with complaints

Food and beverage industry.

First of all do not take it personally. People that are complaining in this industry, our guests, are usually not working in this environment and they do not understand that a waiter is not making the food that they just order.

I had a lot of people being dickheads with me or raising their voice because their food took 15 minutes instead of appearing instantly on their table after they finally decided what they wanted. My favorite line was” Honey, why are you still here, aren’t you going to make my food” and my professional answer was always” Madam (for some reason they were always “madams”), I am your waiter, the chef is taking care of your food right now” and they were looking at me like I killed a newborn baby right on their table. 

Also, for owners, managers, or “know-it alls” that are reading this, yes of course you have to be friendly and polite and you have to answer a stupid question like that with respect and just a FIY we all know this, but to keep our mental health “healthy” we do have a paralel conversation in our heads. So let us be. 

Before we get to the managing part, we can also talk about avoiding having any complaints. This is easier than dealing with abject humans. If you know that the kitchen in your location is slow, let people that want to eat know that they will have to wait, if the cocktails that people are ordering are complex let them know it takes longer than usual. There are a lot of “ifs”. The most important part here is communication. 

So how do we handle complaints?

With diplomacy. 

Usually a complaint occurs when there is a misunderstanding or different expectation were set in the mind of our costumers.

Steps of dealing with complaints: 

1. Ask the right question

If they complain about the food, don’t ask how their drink was. Make sure you stay on point and find out as much imformati you can about what created the dissatisfaction.

2. What type of customers are you dealing with

Some of our guests are easy to deal with, some are harder and others we should not even bother with. Even with the ones from the last category we still have to behave nicely. In the end this will only help us. If you ask the right question and you take all the actions in changing the situation that made the complaint happen, this will only benefit you. In most cases the attitude of the guest is getting better, but sometimes people are doing this just because they think it is funny. Some let the frustration accumulated from an unhappy life explode on someone else just because they can’t seem to be happy in their own life. 

Do not let this affect you! Treat all your guests equally and if problems arise make sure you deal with them in a polite friendly way. 

3. Say “Thank you”

I know it might sound strange, but starting the conversation with” Thank you for bringing this to my attention” will get you extra points. 

4. A quick change

Take action when it happens. Change their drink, offer some complimentary snack/drink as a way of saying sorry. 

In my opinion people that are not saying anything about their experience when something bothers them and they tell you at the end of their stay when you can’t do anything should not be taken into consideration. BUT, we can’t do this, it might hurt our business, so we again need to take action. Here you can offer a discount for their meal, even if it is a small one, guests will feel better. 

5. Reevaluate the situation

After the action was taken to rectify the complaint, make sure your customers are happy. Make sure that the right action was taken. 

In all of this it will be hard not to feel tired and down at the end of the day, it is hard to work in this kind of environment especially because all your frustration will build up. Since you can not take them out on customers here are some tips to manage your feelings.

1. Do not take it personally

This is the most important, and a mistake that most of us are making. The guest does not have a problem with you personally, but since you are the face that they are seeing you are their point of contact. 

2. Stay calm and listen 

If you become cranky, their attitude will nor get better. Stay calm, listen to their problem and show them that you will do everything in your power to make it work.

3. Do not take them home

Any problems that you have at work, leave them there. Home is a free zone from work problems. 

4. Have something to look forward to

This will keep you motivated. I always use my free time to do something, and yes , chilling on the couch is something for me! Whenever i feel overwhelmed and i had a hard day I am thinking about my free time that will come or my next vacation.

5. Talk

Do not be afraid to say something. If you have a lot of complaints that day about the waiting time or the fact that the tables are too close to each other, speak up. Pass the complaints to someone that is in power to take action, and from that point this is not your problem anymore. 

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