Turning the Tables: Tips for Dealing with Difficult Customers

Mar 31, 2023
angry customer pointing finger

With the rise of Tiktok and other video social media platforms, many people have all seen footage of customers in restaurants who are very vocal about their dissatisfaction with the service or situation. More often than not, customers who are having a negative experience can be reasoned with to find a resolution or compromise to the situation. But sometimes, there are customers who are extremely difficult and can get verbally or physically abusive. What does an employee or manager do with these types of people?

As a restaurant owner or staff member, it’s important to know how to handle these situations effectively to ensure the safety and comfort of everyone involved. Here are some tips for dealing with extremely difficult or abusive customers in a restaurant:

Stay Calm and Professional
Though easier said than done, it is important to remain calm and professional. Responding in frustration or anger will likely escalate the situation. Instead, take a deep breath, maintain eye contact, and speak in a calm and measured tone. Remember that the customer’s behavior is not a reflection of you or your restaurant.

Acknowledge the Behavior
It’s important to acknowledge the abusive or racist behavior , as this can help to deescalate the situation. Use phrases like, “I’m sorry you feel that way, but that kind of language is not acceptable here,” or “I’m sorry, but we don’t tolerate any form of discrimination in our restaurant.” This sends a clear message that the behavior is not acceptable and can help to set boundaries for future interactions.

Involve the Manager
If the situation escalates or the customer becomes physically aggressive, it’s important to involve the manager or supervisor immediately. They should have the experience and training to handle difficult situations and can provide additional support to the staff and customers. If the situation is severe, don’t hesitate to call the police.

Protect the Safety of Staff and Customers
The safety of staff and customers is paramount in these types of circumstances, one never knows when it can escalate to violence. Ensure that staff members are trained to handle difficult customers and have access to emergency procedures if needed. Consider installing security cameras or hiring security personnel if the situation warrants it. Remember that safety should always come first.

Provide Support to the Staff
Dealing with difficult or abusive customers can be emotionally draining for staff members. It’s important to provide support and resources to help them cope with these situations. This could include debriefing sessions, counselling or training on how to handle difficult situations. A supportive work environment can help staff members feel more empowered and confident in their ability to handle difficult patrons.

Dealing with difficult customers can be a challenging experience, but it’s important to handle these situations with professionalism and empathy. Remember to stay calm, involve the manager and prioritize safety of staff and customers.

HWTC offers training for conflict management and Ontario Workplace Harassment Compliance – contact us to learn more.


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