Whether they’re crying babies, an arguing couple, or a loud group of drunk college students, unruly customers can be hard to handle. You want all of your patrons to enjoy their meals, and that’s hard to do when they can’t even have a conversation over the sound of disruptive diners. Some restaurants have gone so far as to ban small children! You probably want to avoid such a dramatic policy, as it tends to alienate customers and generate bad press. But how do you handle unruly customers without being unnecessarily rude or causing even more of a scene? Read on for a few tips.
1. Be reasonable
You want people to have a good time at your restaurant, so you shouldn’t demand silence. People who are having fun and laughing will make your restaurant a more enjoyable place to be, so unless they’re truly upsetting the people around them, don’t worry too much about it. The same goes for children. Yes, if children won’t stop screaming and they’re the subject of customer complaints, you need to take care of the situation. But otherwise, just accept that kids are going to be a little noisier and messier than grown-ups.
2. Develop a policy
Take the guesswork out of things and come up with a written policy for dealing with disruptive customers. This way, your staff will know exactly what they should do if there’s a problem. You might even consider posting your policy in the restaurant or on your menus. If customers know that too-loud conversations or crying babies will get them removed or reprimanded, they may be more likely to keep it down.
3. Listen to customers
If you get a complaint, take it seriously. Don’t be annoyed, because a customer that takes the time to complain is doing you a favor! Many unhappy customers don’t bother complaining but never come back. Reassure the customer that you hear them and then do something about the problem. Offer to move the customers to a table further away from the offending party, if possible.
4. Have the manager handle it
So who should be the one to actually speak to the customers—the server or the manager? Although the server is the one who’s developed a relationship with the customers, it’s actually better if the manager handles this potentially uncomfortable situation. After all, the server has to continue serving the table, and you don’t want things to be any more awkward than they have to be. Also, a reprimand may negatively impact the server’s tip.
5. Ask politely
It’s entirely possible that the loud customers truly don’t realize they’re bothering other diners, so be as polite as possible. Ask parents if they’d like some crayons to distract their children, or suggest that they take a crying baby to the bathroom. And remind loud grownups that you want everyone in the restaurant to enjoy their meals, so you’d appreciate it if they could keep things a little more low-key.
6. Stay calm
It’s important to remain as calm as possible, even if the customer is becoming agitated. Parents may resent being told what to do with their children, and drunken customers may be combative. Offer to talk to the customer somewhere away from the dining room if at all possible. And remember, if things get too out of control or if you ever feel that anyone is in danger, you can always call the police. Hopefully things won’t come to that, but you shouldn’t attempt to deal with a potentially dangerous customer on your own.
No one wants to deal with disruptive customers, but they’re a fact of life for every restaurant at some point. By following these tips, you can get unruly customers under control and make sure that everyone has a great time at your restaurant.