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How to Deal with an Unhappy Customer
By Miriam Silverberg

Sad face Sooner or later a customer is going to complain about your food. How will you react? A few years ago one Saturday evening after a show a friend and I decided to try a bistro that had just opened. At the end of our meal, being the last customers there, the owner joined us. He asked how we liked the food, and we told him that we had some complaints. He told us we were lucky the chef had left or he might kill us.

I asked whom he felt was more important, the customer or the chef. "Why the chef, of course," he replied, "I can always get customers, but a good chef is hard to find." Obviously, customers were also hard to find because he closed shortly after.

Here is a list of do's and don'ts to make sure a customer doesn't turn viral and tell the immediate world how bad your food is.


1. Do not get defensive and say, "everyone else likes it, why don't you?"

2. Do not simply say, "I'm sorry' and walk away.

3. If the customer expresses his dissatisfaction to the wait staff, Do not avoid him.

4. Do not get angry.

5. Do not tell him that the chef knows how to prepare the dish and he, the customer, doesn't really know how it should taste.


1. Do ask what the customer doesn't like about it.

2. As soon as you hear a customer is unhappy, Do go to him immediately.

3. Do offer to make amends. Offer to do the dish over.

4. If you feel you have an honest explanation of what went wrong, Do offer it, but without belaboring the point

5. Do offer something extra as a good will gesture. This could be an after-dinner drink, dessert on the house.

Depending on the complaint, and how good the customer is, you might even consider picking up the check.

Miriam Silverberg is the owner of Miriam Silverberg Associates, a boutique publicity agency in Manhattan specializing in restaurants. She may be reached at

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