Handling the Top 11 Restaurant Complaints on Social Media: Expert Strategies for Effective Resolution

Handling the Top 11 Restaurant Complaints on Social Media: Expert Strategies for Effective Resolution

a restaurant with a view of the water

One of the unavoidable realities of running a restaurant is dealing with the occasional customer complaint.


Whether it’s leaving a negative Yelp review, making a fuss on social media, or demanding to speak with a manager in person, guests have many options for airing their complaints.


The issue is that some restaurant owners become defensive right away when dealing with common restaurant complaints, especially when they are posted publicly online.


We understand that when guests object to your food or service, especially on a public internet forum, it can feel like a personal affront.


However, you can keep the situation from spiraling out of control by handling restaurant customer complaints with care. In fact, doing so is an essential component of your restaurant’s marketing strategy.


Ideally, you’ll have the opportunity to listen to and correct the situation in person. However, if the customer does not provide you with this opportunity, treat online feedback as you would face-to-face feedback.


Make an attempt to contact the customer directly. When responding to negative comments, the most important thing to remember is to listen (or read) carefully, sympathize with the guest, and offer a solution to make things right.

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Here are 11 common restaurant customer complaints and solutions for dealing with them.

1. Service is slow.

A leisurely, well-paced restaurant dinner can be one of life’s true pleasures.

Delays in greetings, long waits for drink orders, and food that takes forever to arrive, on the other hand, can ruin a dining experience.

Customers who are upset may vent their frustrations on social media.


Suggested Respond: 

Service may be slow on nights when a restaurant is understaffed, whether due to an unexpectedly busy night or a sick employee.


Typically, all you can do is grin and bear it while apologizing to guests for the lengthy delay.


If possible, have a manager personally address the situation at each table and offer a complimentary round of drinks or dessert.


If the complaint is received via social media, respond with something like, “I’m so sorry about the delay tonight.”


We’d appreciate it if you gave us another chance. “Here’s a coupon for two complimentary cocktails on your next visit.”

2. They don’t like the food.

We’ve all had the unfortunate experience of ordering something off the menu that was simply not to our taste. Perhaps the food was cold, the sandwich was soggy, or the dish simply tasted odd. There is, however, a distinction to be made between someone simply disliking their meal and an objective error in preparation.

Suggested Respond: 

You won’t be able to please everyone, but you can try. Determine the source of the complaint; was the food left out for too long before it was served?

On the line, look for bottlenecks. Is the bread on the sandwich soggy? Perhaps you require a different kind of bun.


“Thank you for bringing this to our attention,” . I’m sorry you weren’t pleased with your experience. I’ll talk to the kitchen manager about it to make sure it doesn’t happen again. If you’d like to give us another chance, we’d be delighted to make amends.” You can say this in person or via a social media message.


Offer a complimentary meal or a round of drinks if you can. If a customer complained about a bad experience, they may be willing to share how your restaurant made things right.

a man sheeting dough

3. Order Mistake

Receiving the wrong order, or discovering that something was incorrect or missing from their order, is a common restaurant guest complaint.


Suggested Respond: 

Restaurant kitchens can be busy, miscommunications occur, and order mix-ups occur from time to time. Make a point of determining exactly what went wrong so that you can correct it as soon as possible. If possible, remove the incorrect item and promise to return it as soon as possible with the correct order.


If the customer posts about the problem on social media, contact the guest privately to find out what happened. Then provide some form of compensation.


4. Food arrives cold

When guests order food for delivery, they have specific expectations about how their food will look, smell, and taste when it arrives. The guest is likely to complain if a delivery order arrives cold, wilted, or otherwise unappealing.


Suggested Respond:

Begin by developing a food delivery strategy to ensure the food’s integrity from the time it leaves the premises to the time it arrives on your guests’ tables.


If you do your own delivery, use insulated food delivery bags to keep the food warm during transportation. Cold foods should be packed separately from hot foods. If you work with a third-party delivery service, make sure they follow food safety and temperature protocols.


If a guest complains that their food arrived cold, it’s difficult to resolve without being present. Still, do everything you can to make things right.


Next time, offer a credit for a complimentary appetizer or dessert and double-check your takeout procedures to ensure you’re doing everything possible on your end.

5. Long Delivery Time

Customers who order delivery are most likely hungry. That means every minute counts—and they’re probably counting every minute. Customers may complain on social media about long delivery wait times if they have waited longer than expected.


Suggested Respond:

First, ensure that hosts and kitchen staff are communicating about how long it will take to prepare a food order. Then, before giving the guest an estimate, consider drive times and traffic. Then, make sure you discuss the situation with your delivery service or driver to ensure that no problems arise during the delivery.


Still, things happen, and deliveries can take longer than expected. If you are able to communicate with the customer, offer a genuine apology as well as a credit for a complimentary appetizer or dessert on their next order.


6. Poor Service

Perhaps a server ignored their table for an extended period of time. Perhaps the host was overwhelmed and was abrupt with a customer. Whatever the issue, rude service can be extremely upsetting. Unfortunately, the irritated guest may choose to vent on social media rather than ask to speak with a manager.


Suggested Respond:

While social media venting can be aggravating, try to resolve the situation if possible. Take the conversation offline when dealing with service complaints.


“I’m so sorry; poor service is unforgivable,” you could write. “Would you mind sending an email to [manager@email.com] to let us know what happened?” “Thank you for your feedback,” is another way to put it. “We’ll discuss this with our staff as soon as possible, and we hope you’ll give us another chance soon.”

7. There is a long wait to be seated or served.

No one enjoys waiting for a table, especially when they are hungry. It can be aggravating to have to wait a long time to be seated.


Suggested Respond:

Respond with empathy when customers complain about the long wait on a Saturday night, but encourage them to make a reservation in the future. “I’m sorry for the delay,” you could say. Saturday nights are usually very busy for us! If you’d like to make an online reservation for your next visit, please do so.” After that, include a link to your reservations page.


You’ve probably also heard people point to empty tables and exclaim, “But that one’s open!”

Customers may also file complaints about this online.

“We know how strange it looks when you see open tables and are told there’s a wait,” one response might be. We do our best to seat everyone as soon as possible, and those tables are reserved. If you want to make one, please go to [LINK].”


8. Food Poisoning

Even if it appears unlikely that anyone could become ill at your restaurant, any reports of illness should be taken seriously.


Suggested Respond:

When you read a complaint on social media, the first and most important thing you should do is move the conversation to email.


Show that you are taking the complaint seriously, that you will investigate it, and that you will collaborate with the customer to find a solution. You could put it this way:

“We are deeply saddened to hear this, and this is the first case we’ve heard about.” Could you please email [manager@email.com] with more information about your meal?

“Our chef will also inspect the kitchen to ensure that all ingredients meet our high-quality standards.”


Taking the conversation private could save you public embarrassment from a frustrated, sick, and angry customer.


Even if the complaint is private, maintaining open lines of communication demonstrates that you genuinely care about your customer’s well-being.

plate of fruits

9. Unable to Accommodate Dietary Restrictions

Don’t you cater to gluten allergies? Is this not a vegetarian-friendly establishment? Another common restaurant complaint is a lack of ability to accommodate dietary restrictions.


Suggested Respond:

Even if you are unable to accommodate dietary restrictions, now is the time to be a good neighbor. If you truly cannot work with them, try to come up with another solution.


Other restaurants in the area that are better suited to their needs should be suggested.

Your neighboring restaurant will appreciate it, as will the customer.

“We don’t have vegan options here, but we’re five minutes away from [a neighboring restaurant], that has gluten-free, vegan, and vegetarian options,” for example.


10. Anything Gross

No one wants to see anything gross when dining out in a restaurant, whether it’s a mouse scurrying under a door, a cockroach sighting, or a strand of hair in the food. No restaurant owner wants to see a complaint about something like this on social media.


Suggested Respond:

Respond immediately if you see an online complaint about something heinous happening in your restaurant. If the post is public, leave a comment as soon as possible, requesting that the customer email your manager to describe the incident and where it occurred.


Then, privately respond, informing the customer that this is not normal and that you are taking every precaution to ensure that it does not happen again.


Those precautions may include setting pest traps, hiring an exterminator, or revisiting cleanliness and hygiene training with your staff.

tomyam soup and seafood dishes

11. Food was overpriced or had poor value for money.

Restaurant patrons most likely have an idea of how much restaurant meals cost and how much they are willing to pay. A common restaurant complaint is that the food is overpriced or provides poor value for money. Customers who complain about food being overpriced may be visiting from out of town and aren’t familiar with market prices, or they didn’t enjoy their meal as much as they hoped and felt it “wasn’t worth the price.”


Suggested Respond:

When reading these types of online complaints, try to put yourself in the shoes of the customers. They most likely had an expectation of what they would receive, and their experience was contrary to that.


Do not make excuses, but instead provide useful explanations when necessary.

“The market price for that particular seafood ingredient fluctuates, but we charge what we do because we source the highest quality possible,” you might say. We’d appreciate it if you gave us another chance. “Our happy hour offers great deals on similar appetizer-style dishes!”


Respond to complaints and make things right.

It’s never fun to read negative restaurant customer reviews on social media. However, there are ways to reach out and correct the situation, even if it is not in person.


Remember to approach the complaint patiently, with a listening ear, and with empathy for the customer.


When possible, try to make things right: it’s entirely possible to convert an irate reviewer into a loyal customer.

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