There’s no doubt about it, every now and then restaurateurs come across awkward customers. The best way you can deal with them is to be extremely polite and helpful because you don’t want to risk ruining your hard-earned reputation.
However, some customers are simply impossible to please even if you bend over backwards to try and accommodate all their requests. What you have to remember is if you do your best, you can’t possibly do more so there should be nothing they can do to further aggravate a situation. You don’t want to create too much fuss around a difficult customer because it could have repercussions.

Always have a complaints policy in place and make sure all your staff know what it is, this will avoid friction between your staff and reduce the blood pressure of your restaurant guests! If a waiter or waitress is having difficulty dealing with a customer then they should immediately escalate problems to your manager or yourself if you are available and your managers should be completely adept at dealing with frustrated customers.

Review Websites

Restaurants today are very much at the mercy of review websites. As reviewing is instant, it’s best to try and reduce the customer’s grievances as quickly as possible because they could take to online websites to show their disapproval, this can be quite damaging to a restaurant especially nowadays because everyone considers themselves a restaurant critic! There are so many different restaurant review websites, from hopping onto Google and leaving a Google review to Open Table, Trip Advisor, Square Meal and countless others.

There’s literally no escape and even the number one Michelin starred restaurant has negative reviews so remember this. You are not alone, there will always be difficult customers but how you treat them will make the difference between your success and failure. If you know a review has been left unfairly try and take it with a pinch of salt, write a detailed response of your side of the story but never be accusatory, be conciliatory and invite the customer back for a meal on the house – this shows you are willing to make amends (whatever the situation) and will be acknowledged by others who read reviews. Don’t feel disheartened either remember your positive reviews and take comfort in your returning customers.

Social Media

Similar to restaurant review websites, social media is instant, for example Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter. Firstly make sure someone on your team takes responsibility for social media so anything untoward can be spotted and dealt with. As with responding to restaurant reviews, always be fair, concise and non-accusatory and detail what gesture you made/will make to the customer to appease them. Always invite the customer back to sample a meal as a courtesy and on the house if you have to – this shows others reading social media that you are proud of your restaurant and willing to go the extra mile.


The most important thing to do is listen to your customer’s frustration without interruption. Take it all on board before responding and take the necessary steps to check the story with staff so you know what the situation is from all angles. The saying “the customer is always right” does have plenty of truth because arguing with a customer and getting heated won’t do your restaurant any favours. It’s best to try and appease rather than aggravate a situation because customers who get heated are more than likely going to verbally repeat the experience they had to other people, or take to social media or do both!

When you have listened to their complaint, respond to each point calmly and fairly and then give them your suggestions to try and solve the problem. It might be that they are complaining about slow service so explain why (if there has been a mishap in the kitchen, a particularly busy night, staff absence) and offer a drink on the house or discount the bill. You should then make sure they take priority in getting their food served quickly.

Take Action

Furthermore, if you take steps to appease your disgruntled customer with follow-up you will make it very hard for them to remain upset because you are showing them that you genuinely care. So, if you know you’ve had a complaint or if you’ve personally dealt with the complaint, wait a couple of days and contact the customer to find out if what action you took was suitable. Take on-board their feedback too, you will more than likely find that once the situation has calmed down, the customer will be much easier to talk to. Doing this also shows that you want to fix problems and will give them confidence in your restaurant and they will be less likely to damage your reputation.

Disruptive Behaviour

Of course there may be times when you have disruptive customers who are intent on causing as much negativity as possible and want everyone to know about it. They might be raising complaints which are simply not there, in which case you should try and remove them from your restaurant as soon as possible. Do this very politely perhaps by suggesting that as they are not enjoying their experience, you wouldn’t dream of charging them but perhaps they would like to leave and return on another night instead (then it is up to you whether you want them back). Asking them to pay and leave will just fuel an already bad situation. It’s better to let them go without paying than risk the reputation of your establishment.



Any complaints no matter size should be fed back to your team. When you have staff meetings complaints should always be on the list and thoroughly discussed with information given as to how they were resolved. This will prevent them happening again and shows your staff how to deal effectively with a complaint.


Most importantly, always take a deep breath and remain cool, calm and collected. There’s nothing worse than the rest of your restaurant witnessing a full-blown shouting match especially when the other customers are trying to enjoy a relaxing, pleasant night out! An angry customer will be angling for an argument, don’t rise to it! You and your staff should always be upbeat and turn any minor mishaps into positives where they can.

To make sure you have everything you need in your restaurant so it runs smoothly, visit the Alliance website for all your catering equipment, large and small.