At times we are confronted with guests who over-react to things going wrong.

Ever see a grown man throw a tantrum because we forgot an item in his takeout order? I remember one who threatened a law suit because his reserved table wasn’t ready. We’ve had a guest demand we buy her a new coat (to replace one that she acknowledged was eight years old) after she herself spilled salad oil carrying a doggy-bag!  Etc., etc., etc. There are many stories over the years.

It is easy to write such people off as unreasonable, rude, maybe “head cases”.  Use whatever category is your favorite.  Jerks, tools, (expletives)?

However, to write such people off is a BIG mistake.

What we must understand is that such people do us a great service:  They tell us loudly and clearly what more “reasonable” people don’t tell us at all. They tell us what we need to do to improve! These “jerks” are willing to risk being socially unacceptable, and that can give us crucial insight into our business.

Most people won’t complain because it seems impolite or just awkward. They are shy, or don’t want to seem rude, don’t want to make a scene, don’t want us to think ill of them. “How was your meal tonight?” “Oh, fine.”

The guest who complains may well be someone who over-reacts, is unreasonable, maybe even undesirable, but this fact remains: The complainer represents many other people who were just as unsatisfied but were unwilling, for whatever reason, to say so. It is all too easy to mis-fulfill takeout orders, misjudge the timing of table turns, or put leftovers in wrong containers, and these lapses must be addressed. It’s the “Jerks” who complain loudly enough and clearly enough that we can hear them and do something to improve our systems.

Tomorrow when a guest over-reacts to a mishap, will you realize he is doing us a great service?  Are you listening for the useful part? Ignore the jerkiness of the over-reaction. Be kind.  Be apologetic. Be sincerely appreciative for the feedback. Make the “At Risk Report” and be thankful for that guest’s willingness to take the chance he’d be judged and disliked.