Unfortunately, there are many situations at a restaurant where a visitor may expect more than they’re given, and as a host, you’ll need to rise to the occasion and act as the face of the restaurant. Use the following tips to keep your cool and handle angry customers like the pros in the meantime!

Remain calm

The number one thing you can do is take a deep breath and bite back any indignant responses or angry feelings. Remember that you are at work, and the customer’s concerns aren’t personal to you: you’re there to keep as many people happy as possible.

In addition, your anger will likely make the situation worse, by fueling your customer’s negative feelings even further, rather than bringing them down to a manageable level.

Show them you care

Go a step beyond nodding and calmly responding to your customers. Truly reach out to them by finding their real concerns from what they say. When you can respond by letting the angry customer know that you hear and understand exactly what upsets them, they’ll feel much more taken care of, acknowledged, and thus, helped in their situation.

You may not be able to solve every issue, but do answer all complaints by saying, “I understand, Mr. Smith.”

You may not be able to solve every issue, but do answer all complaints by saying, “I understand, Mr. Smith. You had hoped to be seated sooner and want to know what we can do about it. I will speak to a manager/see what I can do/follow up with you in a moment.”

What you do here is twofold: you both make the angry customer feel heard, and you help stem further explanation of the issue from them by making it clear it’s been taken seriously.

Show empathy and apologize if appropriate

The next step is to show that you, as a representative of the restaurant, care for the customer’s concerns. Whether or not you personally feel for that person, you need to be professional in your ability to take care of the situation, and part of that is to show empathy for frustrations.

This can vary depending on the situation. For a customer intent on causing a scene, no matter what the case, you may decide to apologize for the difficulty they’re having and suggest they return when the restaurant is less busy and their needs can be tended to more thoroughly.

For a customer with valid frustrations that you can’t personally fix, apologize for their situation and show your sympathy. Then, move on to the following step.

Resolve the issue, as best as you can

Show that you’re working to fix the problem, and take what steps you can to address any customer issues, within reason. When you’re faced with a conflict that can’t fully be resolved, but requires action, offer what you can: a free meal, a drink, etc.

Be sure to check with management to know ahead of time exactly how you are authorized to assist in these types of situations.

Be sure to check with management to know ahead of time exactly how you are authorized to assist in these types of situations. If you do find yourself in a conflict that you can’t resolve alone, too, do be sure to bring in a manager, server, or some type of assistance–both to show you’re doing what you can to resolve the problem and to have a support system yourself.

From time to time, customers will show their frustration with you, as the face of the restaurant. By remaining calm, empathetic, and reactive, you can keep the situation light and diffuse tension, often ending the issue. Use your support system when you need it, and remember to remain unflustered and authoritative; you’ll control the situation like a professional every time.

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