How To Deal With Pushy Customers
There’s no law that says you have to serve pushy customers. In fact, in most states there’s a law that says you can serve whoever the heck you want to. If you’ve chosen to kick out the obnoxious, angry, presumptuous, loud guests who are rude to your staff and annoy other customers, this isn’t the blog for you.
Unfortunately, pushy customers are as much a part of this business as food, ovens, brick and mortar. You can tell pushy customers to go elsewhere. However, they can tell their pushy friends to go elsewhere too, leaving you with friendlier customers but more empty seats.
Approaching pushy customers in your restaurant armed with only a smile can be like bringing a water pistol behind enemy lines. It can be an ambush if you’re not ready. Having a few tips on how to deal with pushy customers can get you out of a no-win situation almost, sort of, basically unscathed.
They Just Want to be Heard
This is almost always the case. Maybe they had a bad day, or someone urinated in their Fruit Loops. Maybe they’re pushy by nature and no one else they know is willing to listen. Resigning yourself to five minutes of listening while they puke out their problems usually takes all the wind out of their sails.
Remember that the ultimate reward for listening to demanding guests is that you get to walk away after a few minutes like it never happened, while they have to wake up tomorrow morning with the same list of problems.
Nod and Apologize
I’m not going to say it should ever be second nature to nod and apologize. But your goal is to convey empathy and put out the fire. The best way to do this is to nod and apologize, followed by more nodding and more apologies.
A few things work in your favor when you listen and empathize.
You’re the authority figure: People are more reasonable and logical when they deal with someone they sense is an authority. An angry tone can be subdued when someone sees the person in charge.
Guest/spouse says to knock it off: If you’re the second person to deal with the pushy customer, they’ve often been told by a companion at the table to relax and cool it.
Source of anger fades: Your smiling face in front of a pushy customer makes it just about the two of you. Agree with the customer and change the subject as soon as possible to something you agree on.
Get Out in Front of it
If there is a genuine mistake or error that has angered the pushy guest, the only strategy is to get out in front of the problem. The sooner you take responsibility and work to make it right, the easier it will be to subdue the guest and get them out of your building.
Getting out in front of problems is a basic rule of the restaurant business. There are bound to be problems and pushy guests are one of them. Many managers leave pushy guests to be handled by staff or hope the problem will dissipate on its own. In fact, failing to put out fires when they start is what leads to bigger problems down the line.
Where to Draw the Line
So, when is a pushy guest too pushy? That’s for each manager or operator to decide on his or her own. Everyone has a line at which point a guest has gone to far, and most of us in this business have seen it crossed. It’s a sad fact of this business that people will get out of line in your building.
My line is the point at which guests are pushy or rude toward employees. Guests who cross the line with staff members usually deal with me for the remainder of their time in my restaurant. Most employees don’t get paid enough to deal with customers who are rude or demeaning. If you do pay your staff enough to tolerate that, I encourage you to let them deal with it on their own.
However, my employees are working hard just like I am. Too bad pushy customers fail to grasp that point.