Q: I own a small restaurant and seem to get mixed reviews from my customers. I want to respond to their suggestions in a positive way but with some people you just can’t please them. Any suggestions?


 A:  It’s a given that for every compliment you will receive a dozen suggestions for improvement. So, take the high road and assume that you have room for improvement. Ask your customers about their experience and what you can do to make the experience better.

Everyone likes to think their opinions are valid and, to the extent you solicit them, makes the customer feel appreciated. You may be surprised that if you take this approach you will receive as many compliments as you do suggestions for improvement.

Your mission is to provide a dining experience that anticipates your customers every need. The goal is to secure a repeat customer and one who will bring their friends. While you need to treat all customers well, not all will have the same issues and concerns.

Be a good listener. It is important that your demeanor indicates that the speaker is being heard. Acknowledge the complaint with an affirmative head nod and thank them for bringing the issue to your attention.

In the restaurant business the customer expects good food, served hot, with excellent service, at fair price. When you hear the same complaint from three or more customers, you have a problem that need to be fixed.

Most problems are caused by staff that have not been properly trained. Wait staff need to be alert to the customers every need. If a water glass is half full, it needs to be replenished. When the appetizer has been consumed, the entrée should follow shortly thereafter.

The food should be presented exactly as requested which requires the waiter communicate special requests to the chef. This is especially important when the customer has allergy issues. The devil is always in the details.

Recognize that you cannot please everyone. When you receive a complaint do not become defensive. Think of it as an opportunity to learn and improve. If the complaint is valid reward the customer with a gift card he or she can use on their next visit.

While these comments refer to a restaurant operation, they are equally applicable to any retail business that desires to build customer loyalty. Remember, a satisfied customer will always be your very best advertisement.

About the Author(s)

Gray Poehler is a volunteer with the Richmond Chapter of SCORE, Counselors to America's Small Business.

Business Counselor