How to Respond to Restaurant Complaint Letters

by Herman Cruz; Updated September 26, 2017

Responding to customer complaint letters appropriately is crucial if you want to earn an excellent customer service reputation. By failing to handle a complaint letter with professionalism, sympathy and a customer-focused mindset, you may ultimately lose business. However, if the complaint is dealt with efficiently, you may gain a loyal patron that could potentially bring more business to your restaurant and spread positive reviews about your business with family, friends and co-workers. Although every business is likely to make mistakes, it’s the way a business handles the mistakes that will determine its success.

Handling Routine Complaints

Step 1

Contact the customer and express that you wish to learn more about the issue. If the letter doesn’t provide a telephone number or email address, send a letter to the customer with your contact information so he can reach you directly.

Step 2

Keep in mind that the customer is always right. Sympathize and look at the problem from the customer's perspective.

Step 3

Don't take the issue as a personal attack. Taking a neutral stance will help you respond in a courteous and unemotional way.

Step 4

Pay attention to the customer’s complaint in order to fully understand the situation.

Step 5

Give a sincere response with an apologetic tone. Express to the customer that you appreciate their business and their feedback. Let the customer know that this information will help you improve the restaurant's service, food or whatever the problem may be.

Step 6

Offer a discount, refund the price of the meal or provide a gift card. This is a great way to build loyalty. A gift card may work best because it will encourage the customer to return to the restaurant.

Step 7

Ask the customer if the way you handled the situation was satisfying. If the customer is still upset, keep a friendly tone and ask what approach would make him happy. Ultimately, the goal is to take advantage of the issue to gain a loyal customer.

Complaints With Potential Legal Liabilities

Step 1

Approach a complaint letter that has the potential to evolve into a lawsuit cautiously. If the customer got food poisoning or found foreign objects in the food, you must address this by trying to placate the customer as well as investigating the facts.

Step 2

In an apologetic tone, tell the customer that you will refund the cost of the meal and offer a gift card with a balance to cover the previous amount the customer spent.

Step 3

Ask the customer what was eaten, if the complaint has to do with food poisoning. Explain that this is so you can look into the ingredients that were used for that meal and so you can make sure that this doesn't happen again.

Step 4

Offer to cover medical expenses, if the customer had to get medical treatment.


  • Watch your body language if you meet with an angry customer. You may not be saying anything negative with your mouth, but your body might be doing all the negative talking for you.

About the Author

Based in Orange County, Calif., Herman Cruz has been writing since 2007. His articles have been published in various content platforms and he also has written for Internet entrepreneurs who need assistance with writing sales letters and articles for their businesses. Cruz is pursuing his Bachelor of Arts in integrated composition, improvisation and technology at the University of California in Irvine.

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