5 ways to complain in a restaurant

The loudmouth, the bully, the cheapskate and more. Are you one of these? If so, here are 5 ways to complain and get noticed.

by: Cathy Marston
restaurant complaint

Anyone who works in hospitality knows that people complain. Sometimes they are absolutely right to do so because mistakes happen, no-one is perfect and when oopsies occur, most people in hospitality bend over backwards to put things right.

But I have to be honest – when I was running my restaurant, some people were sooo obnoxious and so unpleasant, it was occasionally an absolute pleasure if things went wrong.

Now that I no longer run a restaurant, I freely confess that I possibly didn’t try as hard as I could to fix problems if the complainers were totally horrible.

So here are 5 customer types who would always get short shrift for any complaints – I would love to know if any other restaurateurs out there have any other suggestions as well!

1. Loudmouth arsehole
Look, I’m sorry if something has gone wrong on your table, but shouting and swearing at me isn’t going to put things right.

All that you are doing is disturbing neighbouring tables and ruining their night as well as your own, and if you’re too busy shouting at me, I can’t get a word in edgeways to apologise and work out a solution.
Tell me calmly and politely what’s gone wrong, tell me once and then SHUT UP so I can fix it. The more you shout, the less I feel inclined to help you.

2. Cheapskate freeloader
It’s all about appropriate recompense. Finding a lipstick mark on your glass of wine is a situation which should be fixed with an apology and a full, fresh glass of wine.
It does NOT justify demanding a free bottle of French Champagne. You think I’m kidding? You have no idea...

3. Bullying blackmailer
I think this might be my least favourite type of complainer. In my experience, people who are offensive and rude to waiters are generally nasty little people of no moral character whatsoever.
And being unpleasant to my staff before threatening me with ‘exposure’ on social media or the papers or a review site is just one more form of bullying blackmail.
My mother told me always to stand up to bullies, so in this scenario, it would be only a pleasure to do a Ramsay and invite the bullies to remove themselves from my establishment with immediate effect.

4. Last minute whinger
This is the most depressing kind of complainer – the one who keeps quiet at the time and then let’s rip to all and sundry at a later date.

I understand that sometimes you don’t like to complain in full view of everyone, especially if you are hosting guests, but it’s quite easy to buttonhole a manager on the way to the loo and tell him your problems.
Or just man up, state your case reasonably and politely and give the restaurant the chance to sort it out then and there. I can’t think of a single restaurateur who wouldn’t prefer this last scenario.

5. Mr ‘Do you know who I am?’
Actually, I quite enjoy this complainer.
It only happened to me twice that a customer told me they were great friends with the owner so I’d better do what he demanded or my job would be kaput. Sadly for them, I WAS the owner and it was lots of fun to be able to inform them of that.

How to complain so that a restaurant owner/manager DOES take notice of you? Here are my 5 steps:

1. Keep calm

2. Tell someone immediately.

3. Explain clearly what you want the restaurant to do to fix the situation.

4. Be realistic about your demands.

5. Go to the top and follow-through if necessary.

Cathy Marston is wine editor of food24, you can catch her on Twitter @cathymarston.

Read more on: cathy marston  |  restaurants


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