Bad Service Can Kill Your Business. Here’s How to Avoid It

Jessica Elliott

Jessica Elliott

Jessica combines 24 years in public-facing roles with the latest research to deliver insights into technology, operations, and marketing. She helps business owners and private practitioners develop successful systems to reach and retain clients while strengthening their internal communications.

Customer service is integral to your restaurant. Unfortunately, achieving a perfect experience every time is challenging. According to NewVoiceMedia, “U.S. companies lose more than $62 billion annually due to poor customer service.”  

You can incorporate customer service training into your operations, but for the best results, you must start with a culture that promotes a cohesive customer experience for your guests regardless of how they access your restaurant. 

Angry client couple complain about bad service to waitress

Start with your restaurant culture.

Shep Hyken, chief amazement officer at Shepard Presentations, says, “I believe that customer service is not a department. On the contrary, it’s the company’s culture.” From the front to your back of the house staff, no one should walk around thinking customer service isn’t their job. Avoid bad service by creating a safe and inclusive restaurant atmosphere in which every staff member wants to help not only their customers but also each other. 

Prepare in-house restaurant staff.

When a guest arrives at your restaurant, they come into contact with various staff members. Customers may ask the busboy for directions to the bathroom or request assistance from the host to change their order. No crew member should say, “That’s not my job,” because quite simply, customer service is everyone’s job. Along with your training program, holding productive staff meetings is also essential. 


The familiar phrase, it starts at the top, rings true in restaurants as well. Management affects the overall mood and helpfulness of your crew. Start by asking your managers to assist with designing, implementing, and adjusting your training program. Clearly define their role in how they handle customers and staff while making sure to give them enough flexibility to make on-the-spot decisions. 

Servers, bartenders, and hosts

Since the restaurant industry is a source of first-time jobs for people, many of whom have spent their life behind a screen, it’s important to offer ongoing training. Along with the basics of customer service, your training should help employees be in tune with their surroundings, which includes restaurant guests. 

  • Provide customer-specific training, from adults consuming alcoholic beverages to guests with families
  • Encourage staff to recall guest names and their favorite drink, as an OpenTable survey finds the majority of respondents consider both essential. 
  • Designate training programs for each position in your restaurant, from servers to hosts

All other support staff

Although your cooks may not have regular contact with customers, that doesn’t mean they’ll never talk to a customer. That’s why it’s critical to build helpfulness into your culture. Encourage your back-of-house team to come to management with concerns and help them understand that a happy customer depends on your cook’s commitment to food quality and presentation. 

Final tips on avoiding bad service.

When developing your customer communications strategy, it’s important to consider the role of various elements:

  • Useful onboarding
  • Ongoing training
  • Social media and customer reviews
  • Scripts and templates for phone and digital conversations
  • Sharing wins and good mentions with staff
  • User-friendly restaurant website 

Guest services cross a variety of platforms and crew members. By teaching awareness from the get-go and making customer service everyone’s job, you can avoid bad service at your restaurant. 

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