According to David Chang, TV personality and owner of the award-winning Momofuku in New York City: “The livelihood of the restaurant is dependent upon getting the word out.” One of the most important factors to a restaurant’s success is its reputation, and the biggest threats to its reputation are guest issues. The White House Office of Consumer Affairs reported that unsatisfied customers will tell an average of 9-15 people about their negative experience.
In the world of online reviews, a negative impression can be even more far-reaching. Here are a few ways to resolve guest issues with grace.
Believe the Complaint
There’s an old saying that goes, “the customer is always right.” Although it’s an easy one to remember, it’s a difficult one to practice. Many times, a restaurant staff acts like a family, and no one wants to believe that someone in their family truly did something wrong. Other times, everyone wants to point the finger at someone else to alleviate the blame. The first step in resolving guest issues is to act accountable and believe that they happened in the first place. Questioning a claim’s authenticity or pointing the blame in another direction will only further escalate the situation.
Thank the Guest
Thank the guest for pointing out an issue that you would not have known without their help. Mike Lester, president of The Melting Pot, firmly believes a complaint is a “gift.” These “gifts” can act as training points for staff moving forward.
Try to make the experience right, but be careful not to come off as if you are trying to buy their goodwill. Extend your apologies and make a logical offer to the customer. If the complaint is about a specific item, comp the item if you can. If the complaint happens online, send a direct message and offer a discount or free voucher to get them back in the door, and the next time around, be sure to make a better second impression.
Face Your Negative Reviews Head-On
According to Yelp, 97 percent of those reading online reviews take a business’s response into account when trying to decide whether or not to patronize a business. For guest complaints that take place in cyberspace, your reaction will leave a lasting impression, not just for that particular customer but for many other potential guests down the line. Businesses have the option to respond to reviews publicly or via direct message. By responding promptly and publicly, your business can show that it is transparent and willing to accept constructive criticism. Just remember the three points above when doing so.
Consistency is Key
Moving forward, providing a consistent experience can prevent customer issues in the first place. Thomas Keller, the winner of Culinary Institute of America’s Chef of the Year for his Napa Valley restaurant, French Laundry, stresses this point. An experience that makes the customer happy every time can be achieved with a thorough restaurant training program for cooks and waitstaff. Beyond that, the best restaurants never stop training their employees and learning from their mistakes.
Learn from the Best and the Worst
Jill Tyler, owner of Michelin-rated Tail Up Goat in DC, advises: “There are hundreds of restaurants that are successful. There are thousands of restaurants that have failed. Study both and always keep learning.” Devise a restaurant training program that not only focuses on what not to do, but also incorporates advice based on how other restaurants have succeeded. By incorporating negative examples with the positive, well-trained staff will know what to avoid and what to embrace, creating a workplace culture that should minimize guest issues in the future.
Synergy Sync’s online training program allows you to train your staff on important customer service topics. They will be able to know the best practices to implement during common guest service issues. With our remote learning program, your servers and managers are able to learn from anywhere, any time. Please contact us for a free virtual tour of our affordable e-Learning training solution.