Problem Customers: How To Handle Them So That Your Boss Takes Notice

Problem Customers: How To Handle Them So That Your Boss Takes Notice

Customer service is a huge part of the restaurant business, and front-of-house restaurant employees need to keep their people skills sharp to stay ahead in this business. Particularly, you will want to practice dealing with problematic customers. Your shift manager will appreciate your ability to deal with these folks and diffuse tense situations because they can focus on other things. Here are a few tips for dealing with problem customers.

1. Graceful Conversation Enders

Some customers don’t mean to be in the way, but they are overly friendly. They think the waiter is a captive audience or that ‘waitress’ is another word for ‘date.’ Since you are actually working and can’t spend all day listening, you will have to come up with a polite sentence or two that lets you leave the chatterbox.

Some good ones: “That’s great, I’ll have to tell my co-workers. Excuse me.” And, “You know, that is fascinating, but I had better get you your drinks now.”

What are some of your best conversation enders? Let us know on twitter @gosirvo

2. Resolving Customer Complaints

I should clarify: a customer who brings a problem to your attention isn’t immediately problematic. It’s best to take the attitude that any complaint is genuine and serious. Always respond to a complaint with an apology and an offer of a solution to their complaint.

It’s best to give them the impression that you are taking it seriously. Ideally, you are taking it seriously, even if it seems trivial to you. Practice letting them finish their complaints and paraphrasing what you heard them say before giving your own reply. This ensures that you know the problem they want to fix, and it lets them know that you really understood their position. Sometimes just allowing someone to vent and feel heard can solve whatever their complaint was!

Practice looking attentive and not crossing your arms while you listen. Body language can speak volumes to an annoyed customer.

3. Practice Keeping Calm

Develop a mantra for when you are faced with an angry customer that reminds you that everyone sometimes has a bad day and that the complaint isn’t an attack on you. Practice keeping your voice low and calm while talking people through solutions. Your keeping your cool will keep things from escalating.

Additionally, people who are ornery by nature get off on seeing others flustered. Don’t give them the satisfaction.

4. Have A List Of Potential Solutions Handy

Customers who are having a bad time tend to collect complaints until their minor irritation snowballs into general hatred. To the extent that is possible, have a list of potential solutions to potential complaints in your apron pocket so that you can head off the snowball. Typically a free drink or discount coupon will suffice.

There will be times when you won’t be able to do something to head off a complaint. In those situations, it is helpful to have a script that you memorize to explain the situation. Practice calmly saying something such as, “I’m sorry, but we are out of…” and you will be able to clearly communicate your position. This can sometimes be enough to calm a customer.

5. Follow Up On Complaints

Customers want to be treated as individuals, and they want to feel like you personally care about whether they are having a good time. Take a few moments to check in on the especially grouchy to make sure that the solution you offered worked and that they are now in a happier frame of mind.

6. Know When To Call In The Big Guns

All these steps are ways to avoid having to pull in the manager to deal with a customer, but it is sometimes unavoidable. Your manager would rather step in before things get out of hand.

  • If you spilled something on a customer (we’ve all been there) and have potentially ruined not only their clothing but also their night… it’s best to call in a manager.
  • If a customer is insisting that you break a restaurant policy, get a manager. If he or she decides to bend the rules, you aren’t in trouble.
  • If a customer seems to be threatening or is clearly inebriated, the restaurant would prefer that you call for help in getting him or her out of there before the other customers get annoyed.

Knowing how to handle the particularly difficult FOH situations will help you stand out for your boss and further you in your restaurant career. Follow these tips to really impress with your people skills.


7 of the Craziest Reasons People Have Been 86’d From Restaurants

7 of the Craziest Reasons People Have Been 86’d From Restaurants

If you have worked in the restaurant industry for long, you have likely encountered customers you would like to kick out. While working in a restaurant sometimes requires you to interact with annoying customers, sometimes kicking people out is completely justified. Consider these seven reasons customers have been 86’d from restaurants as shared on a Reddit thread and through a Quora discussion.

1. A customer was stealing tips off tables when the wait staff were not watching. The thief may have continued to get away with this, but he proceeded to brag about his actions while he was at another restaurant. The owner of the original restaurant was dining at the same restaurant where the thief was bragging about his actions. The thief was then no longer allowed to dine at the restaurant where he had been stealing tips.

2. Several customers ordered three pitchers of beer, which they enjoyed over a 3-hour period while playing pool. One of the men puked in a pitcher and then poured it into a nearby plant. The restaurant, known for their live plants, proceeded to have the man leave.

3. The boss’s girlfriend walked into the restaurant to find her boyfriend talking to a waitress. The girlfriend assumes her boyfriend and the waitress are sleeping together. She spray paints the waitress’ vehicle and smashes the windows in the waitress’ car. While the woman was kicked out of the restaurant, interestingly enough, the relationship was not over yet.

4. A woman, who was apparently racist and did not like immigrants got mad when she found the wait staff were immigrants. When she later returned to the restaurant, she was told they would not serve her since they were immigrants and she hated them.

5. Two young men walked into a bar already drunk. They were being loud, and getting up in the faces of some of the other customers. The bar owner gave each guy a glass of water, telling them he would not serve them anymore alcohol and that they needed to leave the other customers alone. Instead of obeying the bar owner’s instructions, the two men started threatening him. They were quickly thrown out. About half an hour later, the two young men threw a rock through the glass on the front door. They ended up spending the night in jail and having to pay for the damage to the window.

6. A man who had been kicked out of a previous restaurant for grabbing a server’s butt came into a restaurant with his wife and kids. Knowing what had happened, he was politely asked to leave. When he got angry, the Sous chef, clearly stated, for his wife and children to hear, what he had done to get kicked out of the previous restaurant, thereby embarrassing the man and ensuring he knew exactly why he was being asked to leave.

7. A man ate a large meal and had been drinking white Russians for two and a half hours. When he was asked about paying for them, he made an excuse about making a phone call, but he instead slipped out. One of the workers thought he recognized the “dine and dasher” from online mugshots. After a ten-minute search, it was discovered that the man was a sex offender and serial “dine and dasher.” He was arrested an hour later, and his picture continues to hang on the wall of the restaurant, warning employees to not serve the man again.

Of course, there are many other reasons that someone might be asked to leave a restaurant. When deciding if you should kick someone out of your restaurant, it is important to consider the safety of your staff as well as other customers. The lack of respect for staff or customers should also be considered.

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5 Ways to Help Your Restaurant Survive The First Five Years

5 Ways to Help Your Restaurant Survive The First Five Years

An Ohio State University study found that 60% of restaurants don’t make it a full year in business, and a whopping 80% fail before they reach their fifth birthday. The odds for new restaurants aren’t great. But, the reward for those who are able to dig their heels in and endure, is great. So, what can be done to give your restaurant the best possible chance at success? Below we outline five priorities to keep in mind as you navigate the first five years of business.

1. Be flexible even if it makes you uncomfortable

Most restaurants don’t happen overnight. Instead, they happen after many months and likely many years of dreaming. Those dreams become plans that are specific and personal. But, reality and planning don’t always mesh, and when they don’t flexibility is key.

For instance, a menu item you’ve always done the same way may need to be revamped when a specialty shop featuring a dozen versions opens up down the block. This can be an issue in any aspect of the business… far beyond the menu.

Whatever it may be, one thing is certain: businesses that fail to adjust also fail to survive.

2. Have patience and faith in your staff

It’s a mistake to believe that every employee you hire will have the same vision and skills that you do. Not only has it been proven that having a flexible boss makes for healthier employees, but it also ensures you don’t miss untapped potential.

See your staff as the individuals they are, each with unique viewpoints and talents.

Don’t make the mistake of overlooking employees with a load of potential simply because they learn differently than you teach. Or communicate differently than you do. See your staff as the individuals they are, each with unique viewpoints and talents. They are more likely working with the best of intentions, and if they’re not, it could be because they aren’t sure they’re in an environment where their well-being is at the forefront.

3. You have to be willing to reflect

It can be so very easy to fall into a rhythm that fails to critically analyze every meal service. Especially when things seem to be going well. But, it is crucial that each and every component is assessed with consistency.

In regards to sub-par preparation and execution, celebrity chef Robert Irvine says, “Day-in and day-out food preparation and presentation becomes routine — sometimes almost a factory-like motion — and can lead to steps being skipped and key ingredients missed over a period of time. It’s like de-evolution. Very slowly your most popular dish can start to veer off its intended flavor profile and your cherished execution can stray from what is best for the end product.”

Always re-evaluate, but do so while shouldering the responsibility that your role requires.

4. You have to really care about the customers

While all of us in the service industry have smiled our way through bad days, if you’re going to make it for the long-haul, customer service has to be genuine. Today’s customer can spot a lack of authenticity from a mile away. The surest way to lock-in customer loyalty is to care about their experience and to prove it to them.

“Customer concerns come in infinite varieties, with infinite moods, paces and nuances. So instead of training to a script, the best thing an organization can do is teach its people to deal with situations, both good and difficult. Give them the tools to recognize behaviors and respond appropriately and effectively,” says expert Micah Solomon.

“The public changes its palate and like them, we always have to keep evolving… evolution, always.”

5. Remember, the only direction to travel is forward

This point is the marriage of all the preceding points. Being able to recognize all of the potential avenues for growth in all the areas of your business is what can make or break a fledgling restaurant.

In the words of Michelin-rated chef David LeFevre, “The public changes its palate and like them, we always have to keep evolving… evolution, always.”

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Training Hacks: Building Your Team

Training Hacks: Building Your Team

Having a solid training program will provide benefits every time your employees work a shift. The best training programs begin by hiring the best employees. This can be the difference between immediate success and possible failure.

Here are the first steps to take to put the right people in the right places.

1. Determining Staffing Needs

Every establishment is different but the theories behind determining staffing levels are similar all around.

Think about the flow of your business and every step a customer will take on their way to an excellent experience, from the moment they walk through the door to the moment they leave. To ensure service, you’ll need employees who’ll engage the customer at each step, and then you’ll need a support staff. The support staff are employees who the customer may not deal with directly, but still affect the final customer experience. Examples of support staff are barbacks, busboys, prep cooks, and housekeepers.

Based on the size of your establishment and the level of service you plan on providing you’ll want to have at least two (if not more) of each position during your peak hours.

Of course, you’ll want to employ more than two people for each position to account for day and night shifts, for days off, for extra coverage when needed, and as backups in case of emergencies.

2. How To Hire

Now that you’ve determined your staffing needs, it’s time to put the word out.

There are many ways to let potential employees know you’re hiring. The best way is to post your open positions to a job site specific to the hospitality industry, preferably one that partners with the big job search engines as well as with local sites and with trade associations. This ensures you’ll connect with the most enthusiastic and professional candidates.

The best way is to post your open positions to a job site specific to the hospitality industry.

Of course, there are always the traditional ways such as word of mouth, employee referrals, and the trusty old “Help Wanted” sign.

It’s a good idea to tell any and all applicants you’re always accepting applications, even when you think you may be fully staffed. By doing so you’ll always have possible employees in the pipeline ready to begin training at a moment’s notice. Don’t wait until an employee resigns or until you involuntarily lose an employee before hiring their replacement. This gives you peace of mind knowing all possibilities are covered.

3. Who To Hire

If you’re always accepting applications and interviewing potential employees, you’ll find the person you spend valuable training dollars on will be of a higher quality.

Unfortunately, it’s common in the industry to hire out of necessity. This can affect customer service and employee morale in the long run. Try to avoid backing yourself into this corner at all costs.

Before you begin interviewing potential employees, take the time to list the personality traits and skills you’d like your perfect employee to have.

Each position requires a certain type of person. Before you begin interviewing potential employees, take the time to list the personality traits and skills you’d like your perfect employee to have.

After you form a profile of your superstar employee(s), you’ll want to tailor your interview questions accordingly. Always remember to ask open-ended questions to keep the candidate talking as much as possible. This allows you to get an idea of how they’ll deal with service as well as how they’ll fit into the team. Of course, you’ll want to include a few skill questions to make sure they can meet your skill level requirements, too.

Here are a few other quick hiring hacks to keep in mind:

  • Don’t be afraid to be creative or out of the box with your questions. You want to force the candidate to think quickly, as they’ll be doing this continuously during shifts.
  • During the interview, don’t just show your amiable side. Remember, it’s their goal to impress you, not the other way around.
  • Also, keep in mind there may be some strict guidelines you’re required to follow when interviewing. Rules and regulations vary from state to state. Click here for more information on the regulations where you’re located.
  • Last, schedule a follow-up interview for a day or two later so you can think about things first. Avoid hiring a candidate “on the spot” if at all possible.

One of the best quotes we’ve heard from a small business owner when asked about their hiring practices was, “Every horse runs a good first lap.”

“Every horse runs a good first lap.”

He meant everyone puts their best foot forward during interviews so take the time to think about how the candidate will fit into the big picture. It’s tough to build a cohesive and successful team when new hires let you down or move on within a few weeks. If you find this happens frequently, you may want to revisit your hiring process.

Finding a good hire is the first step in a successful training program and should not be taken lightly. It’s rare that an employer finds the perfect employee who’s always on time, enthusiastic, and able to handle anything thrown their way…all while providing the best service possible.

Protect your business by establishing and following great hiring practices. That’s the best way to start training off of the right foot.

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So The Holidays Are Over, Now What? Tips to Keep The Money Flowing

So The Holidays Are Over, Now What? Tips to Keep The Money Flowing

The holidays are great for the hospitality and service industry. Sure, you’ll hear the occasional grinch toned story of bad luck or holiday heartache. But for the most part, business will be booming no matter what aspect of the industry you work in. The increased business can be a boon for your income with customers willing to be more relaxed in their spending habits. So how can you prepare yourself for the slow season? Here’s what to do when business dies down.

“When you have money, think of the time when you had none.” – Japanese Proverb

Even though everyone knows they should put money aside for a rainy day, it’s not always done. When business slows down, it’s a good idea to slow down on the spending in your personal life, too. You may be tempted to let loose now that your schedule has relaxed, but resist the urge.

Setting money away is the hardest thing on this list to do so here’s a good rule of thumb: Put your paychecks aside and live off your tips. You’ll want to have three to six months of living expenses saved up for emergencies. The worst thing you can do is to put yourself in the position of living shift to shift.

Use the time to relax and reset

The essence of hospitality is staying one step ahead, anticipating needs, and getting things done as quickly as possible. Many employees find themselves working full time or even overtime during the busy season to ensure such great service.

Even though everyone knows they should put money aside for a rainy day, it’s not always done.

While this may be great for your bank account, it’s hard for your body and mind and this can quickly lead to burnout. Take the time to catch your breath. Also, the downtime after the holidays is ideal for returning to any healthy habits you’ve put aside.

Perfect your craft

Hospitality and service industry employees increasingly have their sights set on becoming authorities (even celebrities) for what they do. If you plan on progressing past casually working weekend shifts, it’s a good idea to use the slower pace to perfect your technique.

Use the tranquility after the holidays to learn about and experiment with new products and innovations. Who knows? You may come up with a new recipe that turns into the next big thing.

…after the holidays is ideal for returning to any healthy habits you’ve put aside.

It’s a good time to bond with co-workers

Chances are the busy season brought a lot of new faces into the building. But with guests coming and going constantly, it’s hard to find a moment to talk about anything besides work.

Now you can take the time to connect (or reconnect) with your coworkers. In turn, this makes your work environment less stressful and fosters organic teamwork. Better teamwork equals better service which equals better tips, reviews, and ultimately increased business.

Pick up shifts at another location

There will be times when one employer can’t offer you enough hours. Luckily, it’s common practice for employees to work part-time at more than one location. And after the holidays or busy season, some staff members are likely to ask for time off. This opens up possibilities around town for you to earn extra income. Check out Sirvo for all the best job opportunities.

Even though it may be a slower time, these opportunities are always available and managers may be looking for reliable help to fill open shifts. This could be your chance to finally get your foot in the door at your dream job. Use these tips to help you weather the post-holiday season. One great thing about the hospitality industry is its seasonality. Take advantage of that benefit.

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