Eating out and feel the need to complain? Ex-restaurateur, Cathy Marston shares her tips on exactly what you should do if you have a legitimate complaint and want to get it resolved.
1. Keep calm
People will take you, and your complaint, more seriously. As soon as you shout at the staff member who is trying to deal with you, their interest in solving your problem diminishes. Fast.
2. Tell someone immediately
There is nothing more frustrating than getting called to a table at the end of a meal after you have received positive feedback throughout the evening. If you leave your complaint until the bill comes, the phrase ‘free-loaders’ will begin to float into view.
3. Explain clearly what you want the restaurant to do
It is difficult for the restaurant to know what to do to fix the situation If you didn’t like your meal, do you want another one or something else? Or is it too late for you to catch up with the rest of the table?
4. Be realistic about your demands
If you have a fly in your glass of wine, an appropriate response is an apology and a fresh glass of wine. It’s not a fresh bottle of wine for the whole table, a free three course dinner, liqueurs and coffee. Everytime you do that, you screw it up for genuine complainants.
5. Go to the top and follow-through if necessary
Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, you cannot sort the problem out on the night. The senior manager/owner isn’t there, the person isn’t empowered to take these decisions – whatever. If it was important enough to you to complain about, the biggest favour you can do that restaurant, is follow it up the next day – yes really. So often the actual boss isn’t aware of what’s going on in his/her restaurant when he’s not there. You really are doing a good thing when you actually persist in your complaint, make sure you find someone who deals with it adequately and fairly (as long as you’ve followed all the above rules of complaining yourself!) and to be honest, most people running restaurants are business people and they really need to know because otherwise, it will cost them money in lost customers and revenue.
Social media should be your absolute last resort when complaining or to share a hateful, disparaging ‘review’ like one recently posted by a local Western Cape blogger, that has galvanized local chefs into taking some serious action.
If you are a responsible, concerned diner – please give your restaurateur every single chance to do the right thing. The vast majority will thank you for it – I promise you.
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