Anyone who runs a restaurant, a café or a bar deals with people all the time. For most of us, this is one of the greatest advantages of this job: Meeting new people every day, communicating with them and making sure they have a good time.

However, there are exceptions from time to time: Every one of us has experienced annoying guests who are rude, seemingly satisfied with nothing or even insulting. There is no clear answer as to how to deal with them. But let us consider some strategies that might help to deal with these situations.

Prevention and early de-escalation of annoying guests

From time to time, the behaviour of some guests may be directed against you. Sometimes it’s simply due to unfortunate circumstances. Someone in a hurry, who just wanted to get something to eat quickly, will not be happy about waiting.

So, make sure that your guests do not have to wait that long to see a waiter or at least get a menu card to peruse. Of course, there will be times when you are not able to serve them swiftly. But then take the time to explain this to your guests and offer them something for compensation before they start complaining. An explanation and something to nibble goes with low costs but can spare you a lot of trouble.

Apologies and compensation

It doesn’t matter if something went wrong or if a guest is just discourteous. Always be professional and polite. Sometimes, an apology is all it needs. Offering small compensations such as a discount or a complimentary drink is also very helpful.

When it comes to unusually mean or rude guests, step in and handle things on your own instead of leaving this mess up to your employees. Usually, this sort of guest will sooner or later demand to see the manager anyway. Getting attention from someone important can already quiet the mind.

Overall, dealing with threatening, drunk or arrogant people is a downside to our business. Fortunately, they belong to a small minority. And most of them can easily be handled when you have a good strategy.

Wrap-up: Five rules at a glance

These five rules will help to deal with annoying guests:

#1 Don’t take it personally
Whatever the reason for your guest’s behaviour might be, do not take it as a personal affront. Just focus on what to improve and to learn from it rather than blaming yourself or the other person.

#2 Be professional
Even if someone is getting loud or impolite, be professional and rather lower your voice than raise it. There is a good chance that the other person will also calm down.

#3 Listen actively
Do not interrupt complaining guests but let them speak. Ideally, repeat what you have heard and show understanding. You can resolve many conflicts in this way.

#4 Take them seriously
Show your guests that you take their concerns earnestly, for instance by active listening, and present a solution. A complimentary drink or a discount can improve their mood.

#5 Define limits
Sometimes, your customers go too far. You should not tolerate verbal abuses or threats. Instead, make sure that you and your colleagues have a common understanding of these limits and remove such customers from your place.