How to Reconcile a Bad Guest Experience

Jun 14 2017

Guest Satisfaction Restaurant Management Manage Your Business Customer Loyalty Customer Reviews

No matter the service, whether it be for your car, beauty routines, repairs, or dining out, there is always the potential for poor service experiences. Everyone loathes bad service. It not only ruins your experience, but often imbeds a negative impression of the business in your mind.

Unfortunately, the restaurant industry often takes the most public heat for bad guest experiences. This has a lot to do with word of mouth, as well as apps such as Yelp, and social media shares. Restaurants rely on their guest experiences to keep their doors open, but let’s face it, it’s near impossible to please everyone. The occasional poor guest experience is inevitable. On the bright side, if you can learn to reconcile these poor experiences right when they are voiced, your chances of retaining your guests’ loyalty will greatly increase.


Here are a few tips to help you with the process.


Always listen to your guest, and truly take their concerns and comments to mind. Don’t interrupt them. If you are busy, grab another manager or senior server to watch the floor and kitchen for you while you take the time to meet the guest. Let them feel as though they can say what they really feel. This will help them to feel comfortable, and to trust you.


It’s hard to emphasize at times, especially when the guest is being impolite, unreasonable, or if you just disagree with them. Nevertheless, breathe, and try to put yourself in their shoes for the moment. Think, “if this were me, how would I be feeling?” Reinforce that you understand and hear them. Make simple gestures such as nodding your head in agreement and kneeling at the table to talk closer with the guests can help lighten the experience.

Ask Questions

If you ask questions in your communication with the disgruntled guest, you will show them that you are interested in what they have to say. Ask them how you can help them make their experience better. Ask them details of their experience to get the full picture of the situation. When you are finished talking to the guest, make sure to get the second side of the story. Talk to the server, cook, and bartender. Everyone should take responsibility for their part in a poor guest experience.


Once you have gotten the full story, to assist in reconciling the experience, compensate the guest. As nice as it would be, a simple apology is not usually enough. More times than not, a guest knows exactly how they would like to be compensated when they have had a bad experience, and will voice that to you. If they do not, offer to buy their meal, drink, or, depending on the severity of the situation, the entire check. For more service related incidents, you can offer “courtesy gift cards”. Courtesy cards not only help reconcile the poor experience, they also assist in getting that guest to return.

Follow Up

Lastly, once the situation on hand is reconciled, it is important to follow up with that guest. You can do this while they are still dining, while they are leaving the restaurant, or even a day or two later via phone or e-mail. You can relate your apologies once again, and assure them the experience will not recur. And always invite them back. This will make your guests feel valued and connected to you and the restaurant. The follow is usually your best secret weapon in reconciling poor guest experiences.

Amanda Wilkening

Amanda Wilkening

Amanda has over 10 years of restaurant experience ranging from Hosting, Serving, FOH Training to bookkeeping. In 2015, Amanda joined the client services department at Ctuit where she trained new clients on RADAR and assisted restaurant management and executives in their day to day reporting and operational endeavors. More recently, Amanda joined the Ctuit marketing team where she is happily applying her marketing degree and knowledge from Sonoma State University.