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Customer Service and Recovery for RestaurantsWhen you own a restaurant, complaints come with the territory. When a customer complains about a bad meal, poor service or undesirable table, your restaurant needs to have a system in place to appease the customer, to help ensure their return.

Small Success Yield Large Gains

Many industry studies show repeat customers for restaurants account for one-third of revenues even though they make up less than one-third of their business. The data also suggests that if restuatants can increase repeat customer business by 5% they could see revenue increases of as much as 125%. A customer retention solution isn’t only good for restaurant reputation it is vital to their bottom line.

Complaints in the Restaurant

Restaurant owners need to let their wait staff know how to handle customer complaints. They need to know the boundaries, what they can do immediately and what they need manager approval to offer.

Some of these boundaries can include:

  • Offering them a new plate
  • Offering them a free beverage or dessert
  • Offering a discount of up to 5% on their check

When a customer informs the wait staff that they are dissatisfied with their meal, the situation needs to be handled quickly and quietly. Good practices include:

  • Acknowledging that the customer is upset and apologize
  • Asking the customer exactly what it is about the meal that isn’t satisfactory
  • Ask the customer how they want to see the situation handled
  • If the solution isn’t within the waiter’s power to offer, ask the customer to wait for a manager

The wait staff is on the front lines and often has a deeper understanding of the situation and the real motivation behind the complaint. By empowering employees, restaurant owners can create a complaint management methodology that will be effective without disrupting other customers.

Complaints Online

Not all customers will inform a restaurant that they were dissatisfied with their meal while they are at the establishment. Instead, they will go online to sites such as Facebook and Twitter to complain about the service they received at their last visit. This situation is more difficult to handle because it is public, and instead of dealing with the situation immediately, customer service teams are forced into damage control. When this happens, it is important to remain calm, show that you care about the comment, and demonstrate your restaurant strives to provide good service. Your customer service team should respond promptly and explain to the customer that you are sorry they had a bad experience, and invite them to return so that you have a chance to show them the quality of your food and your service. To improve the likelihood of customer recovery, restaurants can create a consistent policy such as offering a discount or free meal to ensure they come back. Then ask these returning customers, to post a second review about their experience.

By sending this invitation online, the customer will be compelled to return and post a second review. The cost of the discount, or one free meal, will be compensated by the positive marketing efforts and reduced risk of losing more customers from the negative review.

Customer complaints are unavoidable for even the best run restaurants. It’s important for restaurant owners to be proactive in order to retain current customers. By training wait staff on effective complaint management and responding effectively to online complaints, owners and managers will be able to increase return visits, improve the customer experience, and ultimately improve the bottom line. Restaurants seeking to improve the customer experience should contact the experts at ServiceCheck.

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