As a server, it is important to know how to communicate with different kinds of people. Some customers will be easy. Others will be more challenging. When you come across those challenging customers, it is crucial that you know how to deal with them.
Here are some of the challenging customers that you are likely to come across and tips for dealing with them appropriately.
Challenging Customer #1: The “Nothing Is Right” Customer
This customer may be looking for things to complain about because it makes them feel important. The soup is not hot enough. There’s a spot on this knife. Where is my ranch dressing (usually asked when you have a tray full of other stuff that they have asked for plus meals and your other hand has a pot of coffee in it)?
The most important thing that you need to remember when is that you must keep your cool! Don’t snip at them. Don’t roll your eyes. Remain calm. Losing your cool could result in a negative online review that can’t be erased!
The second thing you can do is apologize (even knowing that their complaint is out of your control) and get them what they want as quickly as you can. Apologies go a long way.
Challenging Customer #2: The “I’m The Most Important Person Here” Customer
In the hospitality industry, some days can get extremely busy and you suddenly find yourself with a full section all at once. Most people are understanding when this happens. But there will almost always be that one customer that thinks they are the only person in the restaurant and expects more than humanly possible from you.
It might be tempting to point out how busy the restaurant is. Instead, put a smile on your face and apologize. Let them know that you will take care of their needs (more coffee, dessert, etc) as soon as possible.
If there is a genuine reason (like being short-staffed) you can tell them. You can make them aware that you have other things that need your attention, too, but do it in a way that doesn’t sound like you are making excuses. Keep it simple. “I just need to get one more food order out and then I will be right back with the coffee pot.” Then make sure that you do come right back!
Finally, thank them for being so understanding, even if they aren’t.
Challenging Customer #3: The “I Need My Food ASAP” Customer
There will always be that one table that is in a rush. There is always a reason why their time is limited.
The best thing you can do is have a shortlist of menu items that can be made and delivered in a short amount of time. Memorize them. Be ready to suggest them to the customer.
First, find out how much time they have and then, check with the kitchen staff. The BOH is going to be really annoyed if you come in with an order that you’ve promised in a short time and they are getting slammed with a 15 top’s orders!
Once you confirm with the kitchen staff that they can make the order within the customer’s time constraints, suggest menu items to the customer. Keep an eye on the clock and make sure that you get them the bill before they have to leave. Be ready to clear the table when they are done eating and pack up food that they have not been able to finish.
Challenging Customer #4: The “Let Me Tell You My Life Story” Customer
As a server, being sociable is part of your job. When there is time, it can be enjoyable to hear people’s stories. Unfortunately, you aren’t paid to socialize and it isn’t often that you have time for it. How do you get out of it without being rude though?
First, smile and nod. Let them know that you enjoy the conversation. As soon as you have an opportunity though, let them know that you have another table waiting for you and that if you have time you will come back so they can finish telling you about their granddaughter’s first steps or the great shopping find that they got earlier in the day.
Above all, be polite, but be assertive. You are in control of the situation.
If you think that you can deal with challenging customers like these and the other types of challenging customers that people in the hospitality industry come across, check out the FOH jobs available now.
Danielle has been working in restaurants for about 15 years. She’s currently a server but has also worked as a cook, hostess, and dishwasher. Her daily motto is “It’s a great day to serve some smiles.” She also spends a great deal of time writing and reading everything she can get her hands on while her 3 cats try to distract her.
Danielle has also worked as a freelance writer for 15 years. She’s written about a wide array of topics and is currently accepting new clients. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss your project!