Restaurant Marketing Tips – A shard of glass

I was just recently asked by a journalist to recount a disastrous occurrence in my restaurant and how I dealt with it. Well for any restaurant owner, that question will bring up a ton of painful/humorous/cringe-worthy memories, as it did for me. My cliche memory of a shard of glass in the soup is crystal clear (no pun intended). One particularly busy service the chef dropped a glass,” she says. He and a waitress were looking for the glass and thought they’d found it all, but when a customer found a shard in their soup, the waitress reacted by saying, ‘Oh yes, we were looking for that,’ and walked away. Needless to say, the customer was not happy.

I followed up with apologies and a free meal, but the real learning was that we hadn’t trained our staff to deal with these crisis moments. And that changed that very day. We immediately put into place a crisis management document that all staff was given and briefed on when they started. Some of the strategies included were to acknowledge the customer’s feelings and admit the mistake, no excuses. Most customers know that you are human and if you deal with the problem well, they will accept it and forgive you. We also give our staff an amount of money that they can use to appease customers. For example, they are allowed 50 dollars, without sign off from us, in free meals, free drinks, whatever they feel is needed in the situation. This encourages autonomous on the spot decisions which are often what is needed with an unhappy customer.

So along with your own, memories I challenge you to examine the outcome of these events. Did you resolve them well? Did you turn the customer around, making that complaint a gift? Are their learning to be had? So I ask you, do you have a plan for what do you do in a crisis situation?