Seven things restaurant customers never want to hear

By Diane Chiasson

Your customers are the ones who are paying your bills, your salary and keeping your business alive. Without customers, your restaurant operation would not exist. So your number one priority as a restaurant owner or operator is to keep your customers happy.

While the term, “the customer is always right” may not necessarily be true much of the time, you still need to treat your customers as if they are always right. Each and every single customer complaint should be treated seriously, and your customer should never be made to feel cheated or deceived, or made to feel they have been wronged. The way you communicate with your customers is critical to the success of your business.

Diane Chiasson, FCSI, President of Chiasson Consultants Inc., a restaurant and foodservice consultancy firm in Toronto offers the following suggestions to help appease dissatisfied customers instead of angering them even more:

1. Don’t tell them they are wrong

First and foremost, never tell customers that they are wrong. Instead, quickly offer a solution that will make it right. Regardless of who is in the wrong in the first place, the main priority is to fix the problem and make your customer satisfied again.

2. Don’t tell them that you can’t

Every request can be satisfied in one way or another. Or at least some kind of compromise can be made. Never tell a customer that you cannot accommodate a request. Instead, say that you will try your best to make it happen.

3. Don’t tell them it’s your policy

No words make a customer’s blood boil more than “It’s our policy.” This indicates your restaurant operation is inflexible and bureaucratic, and that you are unwilling to meet the needs of your customer.

4. Don’t tell them it’s not your job

Each and every member of your staff should be able to handle a customer’s request in a polite and efficient manner. Even if it really isn’t your job, tell the customer that you will immediately find them someone who can help them right away.

5. Don’t ask them what the problem is again

Once your customer has explained to you the problem, act on it immediately. Never walk away and then return to ask what the problem is again. If you are sending over another staff member, make sure you have explained the problem in detail beforehand so that person does not have to ask what the problem is again. Your staff member should already have a solution to the problem when approaching the customer.

6. Don’t tell them you don’t know

You and your staff should be able to answer any questions a customer might have about your food, menu, beverages and anything else about your operation. If you really don’t know the answer to the question, try saying, “That’s a great question. Let me check for you.” This allows you the time to find the right answer and compliment your customer at the same time for asking a great question.

7. Don’t tell them your problems

When your customers walk through your door, they are there to enjoy themselves. The last thing they want to hear is someone else whining about their problems. Rather, be optimistic, happy and welcoming to create an inviting atmosphere, and remember that you are there to listen to your customers’ problems and help solve them.

About the author:

Diane Chiasson, FSCI, president of Chiasson Consultants Inc., is recognized as the world’s best restaurant, foodservice, merchandising, hospitality and retail consultant based in Toronto. She has been helping restaurant, foodservice, hospitality and retail operators increase sales for over 30 years.Her company provides innovative and revenue-increasing consulting services including restaurant and retail merchandising, interior design, marketing, brand identity, menu design and training. 

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