There’s a fly in my soup, and I hate your face

Odds are that any new business, especially a restaurant, is bound to have its share of trial and errors as it gets off the ground. This could potentially be a real sweet spot for tweaking the foundation of your business. The bad news is that this grace period is microscopic and you have to be quick to mold a crushing critique into gold.

The customer is your ultimate key to longevity. High praise is always welcome but criticism keeps you on your toes and keeps the business progressive. Here are some simple ways to turn your disgruntled guest into your number one business consultant:

  • Show interest in your customer’s experience. Especially the complaints, you’ve opened your own restaurant so too much positive feedback would only reinforce the fact that you’ve earned your own restaurant (that’s wonderful and you’re fabulous, but that common knowledge doesn’t lead to growth) negative complaints are the key to you KEEPING your restaurant.

Hopping from table to table asking them how they’re doing is great exposure but isn’t terribly efficient since, well you own a restaurant, you’ve got a million things running through your head it’s unrealistic that you will retain every single experience. Also, people are intimidated by restaurant owners (thanks Gordon Ramsay) so while they may chew your wait staff out willy-nilly they may be more cordial when you approach.  Giving the customer the option to write down their complaints is a great way to lay them all out and strategize on complaint patterns; also since comment cards are anonymous you’re more likely to get the most genuine feedback from a written submission.

  • Swiftness and communication is key. Studies show that approximately 90% of guests that have a negative experience will continue to give the restaurant their business if it appears that their complaints are a priority. Therefore, recover and recover quickly. But don’t forget to communicate.  You may know their food will be out in 10 minutes but they don’t and therefore those 10 minutes may feel like 45 minutes.
  • Trust your staff! Again, you’re incredibly busy and you can’t be everywhere at once. If your staff has to wait for your permission to resolve an issue with a free drink or dessert then you are losing time. It will save you a headache, give the staff a sense of ownership, and show the guest that their experience is a priority.
  • Have a game-plane. You’re a leader which means people look to you for solutions. It’s not enough to apologize and there are no room for complaints or finger pointing. “You’re having a busy evening? Isn’t that the point of having a hit restaurant? Now were’s my pasta!” . Letting your guest know how you will resolve them will make them trust you and make you look like a hero.

So remember to breathe; a guest complaint is simply another opportunity to engage with the community as a restaurateur and a way garner free strategy tips…I mean aside from the awesome tips you get from me!