Take a proactive — not reactive — approach to avoid disgruntled customers.

These days, serving customers is hard. Heck, being a server — make that most things involving customers — is challenging of late. Customers, it seems, are more demanding than ever.

Conducted by Untold Insights in September 2021, the Oracle Food and Beverage study supports that fact, noting consumers expect lightning-fast service and personalization, fueled by technology. That’s true whether it’s indoor dining, counter ordering, drive-thru ordering or curbside pick-up. 

Here’s some more food for thought — of those surveyed, 64% didn’t want to wait more than five minutes to order at the counter or drive-thru window and 71% of in-house diners were upset if they had to wait more than 10 minutes. Meanwhile, 55% became frustrated after five minutes of waiting for food in a drive-thru, and 54% were miffed when they had to wait more than 10 minutes for food when dining in a restaurant.

Add in the fact that you may be short-staffed and the results are clear: — you have a disgruntled customer (or two) on your hands at any given time. That’s not great for loyalty. It isn’t a positive for your servers either, especially since they’re the ones fielding complaints and seeing their tips reduced. 

So, how do you turn those frowns upside down — namely in this era? A lot of it starts with cutting complaints off at the pass — rather than apologizing for issues and errors later. 

Enlist a top-tier POS system

First and foremost, start with bringing your technology up to speed. By enlisting the right POS system for your restaurant, you’re better positioned to serve customers quickly and accurately. A robust POS:

  • Speeds and consolidates transactions 
  • Decreases turn time
  • Provides quick, easy ordering, re-ordering and payments
  • Helps the front-of-house assist more customers, easily
  • Manages your floor in real-time
  • Accommodates diners’ varied ordering styles
  • Simplifies and consolidates on-premise and online ordering
  • Delivers a seamless, handheld transaction experience — regardless of origin
  • Enables tailored menu management, including real-time item availability and pricing 
  • Offers integrative reporting and daily sales reports  to inform business decisions
  • Backs up your data on the cloud
  • Comes with robust training and support 

Make sure your menu is up to date

One of the quickest ways to irritate a customer is having an outdated menu. Whether it’s dishes you no longer serve, inaccurate prices or accompaniments that have changed, you’ll get pushback when your menu doesn’t reflect reality. Even worse is if substitutions or amendments occur after customers order online. Odds are you’ll have to either have to remake the dish, which contributes to food waste and cuts into your revenue, or you’ll have to issue a credit or refund when an irate customer calls in.

With real-time menu management tools, you can make all menu updates at once, in one place, and:

  • Generate interest in items with limited availability
  • Automatically remove sold-out menu items 
  • Showcase events and seasonal menus
  • Set the hours dishes are offered
  • Modify and remove menu items in real-time
  • Tag dishes with attributes and warning labels 
  • Instantly update pricing

Giving customers exactly what they expect is foundational to their satisfaction. But you can potentially get a whole lot more bang for your buck in the process. That’s a win-win.

Provide edible tokens of appreciation

Diners like when their experience is personalized. They also love a good, old-fashioned surprise — especially when it’s house-made. Consider providing an edible treat. 

In addition to generating goodwill, it’s an opportunity to tee up — and market — an event, seasonal menu or collaboration that’s on the horizon. 

Alternately, consider serving a one-sip or one-bite seasonal or regional treat. People tend to really perk up with the appearance of an amuse-bouche — it sets the tone for what’s to come. 

Handling customer complaints when they occur

More than ever, people “need” to complain and sometimes they have every right. Cold food, aloof or absent service, and incorrect orders make more than a good case. Other times, it’s as if the customer is taking their bad day out on you. 

The fact is you’re not going to please all of your customers all of the time. And none of the aforementioned preventative measures will guarantee smooth sailing — they just address known pitfalls preemptively.

When customers do complain, whatever the reason, it’s important to remain calm and — as hard as it can be — empathetic. They want to know you’re listening and it’s important to you that they’re happy. 

Try putting yourself in their shoes. How many times have you felt disappointed by an experience? How did you want to be treated when you pointed it out? How, exactly, did you point it out and what was the result.

How things are handled makes all the difference in the world. No, it doesn’t undo the issue; however, it certainly can soften the edges when it’s handled with thoughtfulness, kindness and care.

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