No matter how well you serve customers and anticipate problems, some customers complain.

Sometimes, people just have bad days and need some attention. Customers often point out serious problems with food, service, or restaurant policies that restaurateurs need to know.

A customer might not always be right, but they will always be a customer or potential customer if the restaurant staff handles complaints sensibly.

Another area in restaurants that generates problems and liability expenses is when people get injured on the premises. Restaurants need to handle customer complaints, lost items, and injuries. So creating a comprehensive customer service strategy and procedure for handling accidents and emergencies is critical for the sustainability of your business.

Potential Incidents to Handle in a Restaurant

As a restaurateur, you need to know the potential risks so that you can be ready during the incident. You can impress your guests with your quick action during a moment that looks like a crisis. A well-managed incident can be even more memorable than a smooth dinner (however, this is not an invitation to create it).

Restaurants deal with various accidents, altercations, and incidents that include robberies, loud arguments, and physical violence. How restaurants respond to ease tensions and handle accidents is critical for a restaurant’s reputation and financial well-being.

Here are some common incidents you may come across. Also, find our recommendations to deal with them successfully. 


Dealing with Complaints

Dealing with complaints can actually be an opportunity for restaurants. If your guests take time and trouble to complain, it means they want satisfaction, or they wouldn’t bother pointing out problems. There is a good potential for communication.

Most people accept poor service or occasional problems with their food without complaining. However, when they complain, restaurant managers shed light on the weak points that can be improved. In this way, they can address unnoticed problems.

When you manage to turn complaining customers into satisfied customers, they will continue to visit. You will establish good bonds with them. And people talk about perceived shortcomings and how restaurants respond to complaints. So, there is even a word-of-mouth marketing opportunity here.

Key issues to consider while dealing with complaints include:

  • Strategies for dealing with customers and the complaints that they make,
  • Deciding whether to authorize any employee to handle complaints or to require them to forward the complaint to a supervisor,
  • Creating a positive experience for customers who bother pointing out problems,
  • Handling matters sensibly, fairly, and equitably for customers, staff, and restaurant image

Sometimes, complaints can potentially spiral out of control into public relations disasters. Every restaurant owner should be prepared for this and have a procedure for their staff when a customer service complaint can do public harm to the restaurant’s brand.

How to Respond to Customer Complains 

Listen carefully: If people are complaining, they need to be heard first of all to calm down. A useful tip to make them feel heard is not to cut them off. Your face will also show your intention while listening. Practice active listening methods to stay calm in a difficult situation.

Respond kindly: When they finish saying their piece, it's your turn to manage the situation. Make sure you respond kindly and fairly. Remember that people can sometimes complain just because they have a bad day. So, it's important to be fair to your team as well as your guests. 

Deliver a solution: People feel better when they know the next steps clearly. It's just about how the nervous system functions. Let them know that you understand them and explain your solution. "This situation will never repeat" is not a truly trustworthy phrase. Tell them clearly what you'll do about it. Or a free dinner is not a solution in most cases. Before anything else, offer a solution more related to the complaint, and then, you can invite them for a free dinner to create stronger bonds. 

Follow up: They may mention what happened in your restaurant on the internet. Make sure you check various platforms to see if there is a review. If it's positive, you can thank them publicly for their understanding. If not, you may need to be more strategic. 


Lost items

One common problem in restaurants is that customers often leave items at their tables. Having a regular procedure for taking care of the lost items will make your guests feel safe in your place. It's quite a reason to be a returning customer. Also, in this way, your team will know how to act in those moments. Especially, if what's lost is a valuable item, they may feel stressed. As a restaurant manager, you'll need to guide them.

Creating a lost-and-found policy is practical and reasonable, and each employee should know how to determine what might be valuable and where to find lost items when customers call or visit.

Restaurant Accidents

Restaurant kitchens generate many ways for staff to sustain injuries. Although most restaurant kitchen injuries are relatively minor, some can be life-threatening. Customers get injured from hot food, falls, and physical barriers. And both restaurant customers and staff could easily have physical ailments that require immediate medical attention.

Good customer service, thorough accident investigation, and documentation, and responding appropriately help to ensure health, safety, and customer and staff satisfaction. Effective incident management procedures include taking the following steps:

  1. Try to remove an injured party (if a minor injury) to a private area to determine the injuries and whether the victim wants to go to the emergency room.
  2. If the victim is unconscious or clearly debilitated, call 911.
  3. Inspect the area where the injury happened, and take detailed notes, photos, or videos to document conditions.
  4. Never assign or admit liability, but determine the facts and obtain phone numbers and addresses of customers and employees who witnessed the accident.
  5. Have a good first aid kit available to treat minor injuries.
  6. Restaurants that have video surveillance should secure any corroborating video.

Incident reports (containing only facts) should be filled out in preparation for PR fallout and any future legal proceedings. A manager should be fully trained to recognize these kinds of bigger incidents and handle them immediately and proactively (informing the lead manager, being the first step).

Key Takeaways

Accidents, complaints, and altercations occur when dealing with the public, but how restaurants handle these problems can minimize consequences. Restaurant owners can create manuals that address these issues. Make learning the information mandatory, and explain that safety and security require that employees handle these issues in certain ways.

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