How to Handle Guest Complaints in Your Restaurant


Every restaurant receives guest complaints at one time or another, but it’s how your establishment handles the grievances that counts.

Look on Complaints in a Positive Light

Look on guest complaints as a positive experience because it means that the customer cares enough to give your establishment feedback. It’s better that they’ve expressed their frustration than walk out with complaints unsaid to badmouth your restaurant to their friends and on social media. Use the opportunity when a customer complains to redeem the situation to make sure the encounter ends amicably.

Grasp the STARS Mantra

When dealing with complaints, use the STARS mantra: Sorry, Thanks, Act, Recover and Share.

Sorry. Immediately apologize to the customer. No finger pointing, arguing or pushing blame onto another staff member.

Thanks. Express gratitude to the guest for bringing the issue to the attention of your restaurant. Remember that a complaint is a fantastic opportunity to do some great public relations work.

Act. Rectify the situation at once. If the food was not to the customer’s liking offer to recook the dish or replace it with something else that the person would prefer.

Recover. Offer the guest a small freebie, such as a dessert. This ensures that your customer feels that the mistake was not only rectified but that an effort is made to compensate for it. However, use your discretion with this because you don’t want to positively reinforce complaint behaviour or make it seem as if you’re bribing your guest.

Share. Use the complaint as a learning opportunity for your staff. Make sure they’re all, from kitchen staff to waitrons, fully aware of how to deal with complaints. Ensure that the manager is brought into the STARS process at some point so that customers believe they are being properly looked after.

Related: 7 Tips for Handling Customer Complaints in Your Restaurant


When customers complain, make sure you listen intently so that you understand what the grievance is, especially if it’s complicated. Even if there’s nothing you can do about the situation, such as the customer having to wait for a table, give them the opportunity to vent. If necessary take notes and repeat back to the customer what you understand the complaint to be.

Body Language Do’s and Don’ts

Body language is important when you’re handling complaints.


• Smile or look serious when appropriate.
• Nod and respond verbally.
• Maintain eye contact.
• Keep calm.


• Cross your arms against your body.
• Roll your eyes in exasperation.
• Mutter excuses.
• Take complaints personally.

Related: Motivating Staff in the Restaurant Industry

Monitor Your Online Presence

If your restaurant has a website, Facebook page, Twitter account or any social media presence, be sure to check it regularly for complaints and respond immediately to them.

You could also pop onto some of the many South African restaurant review sites to see how your restaurant is faring.

Keep Your Customers Loyal

Successfully and diplomatically resolving complaints helps to ensure your customers enthusiastically return to your restaurant. Use complaints as an exercise in positivity and to build relationships between staff and guests.

Now it’s your turn. How do you handle guest complaints in your restaurant? Share with us below.

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