How to Deal with Difficult Customers

Every server encounters difficult customers sooner or later during their service who can be stressful and hard to deal with. A server needs to be very careful when dealing with such individuals because mishandling such an encounter would negatively affect the business’s reputation. 

By knowing the best way to handle a difficult customer, you can ensure that your customers leave the restaurant with full satisfaction. If you are a server and know how to deal best with difficult customers that can be a headache, you are reading the right article. 

How Should a Difficult Customer Be Treated?

Sometimes, the customers can exhibit negative behavior for one reason or another. This negative behavior makes them difficult to deal with, but this does not mean that they should be mistreated.

It should be remembered that the difficult customer is still a customer. Therefore, a good server should treat them properly without being impolite or rude.

Common Types of Difficult Customers at a Restaurant

There are some types of difficult customers that you may encounter during your service at a restaurant. Every server should learn to identify these types. Doing so can help you better deal with them and avoid making mistakes. Given below are some of the most common types of difficult customers and how to deal with them:

1. Customers Who Like to Chat a Lot

Chatty customers are difficult to deal with because they continuously ask questions and tell you stories about their lives. These conversations can be long and take a lot of time. Usually, it is alright if a customer wants to chat a little, but long conversations can waste your precious time on a busy day. An excellent way to deal with this type of customer is to politely indicate that you are having a busy day and cannot engage in long conversations. 

If they still do not get the hint, it is best to take your leave with an excuse without sounding rude.

2. Very Loud Customers

Loud customers are quite problematic since they also disturb other customers around them. To best deal with them, you should move them to another table where they cannot disturb others. If there is no free table, you can also politely ask them to talk less loudly, although this approach has a risk of offending the customer.

3. Critical Customers

Critical customers like to analyze and complain about everything you do to vent out their own frustration. They may complain about minor things like how the spoons are positioned, or the napkins are folded. Of course, this type of customer also helps you improve, but they can still be challenging to deal with.

The best approach to dealing with these customers is staying calm and not taking anything they say personally. Try to be positive and provide solutions to whatever they complain about. 

4. Customers Who Are in a Hurry

Some customers are just in a hurry. They have to get to their meeting in time or are already running late for work. For one reason or another, they want everything to go fast. This type of difficult customer may get annoyed if they think the order is taking too long. This can make them challenging to handle. For such a customer, communication is the key.

Tell them exactly how long it will take for them to be served. Giving an exact time will help the customer calm down. They are in a hurry, so they try to bring their order quickly and remain calm.

Tips for Dealing with Difficult Customers

The tips mentioned below can help you deal with almost any problematic customer. Knowing these tips will allow you to be a better server who can de-escalate unpleasant situations and stay professional. They will also help you provide the customers with a pleasant and satisfying experience at your restaurant.

1. Be Attentive and Listen

Listening is an integral part of being a server. When a difficult customer arrives at your restaurant, you can often figure out the best approach to deal with them by listening to them. Attentively listening will help you identify their problems and take proactive measures. You can then come up with a solution that is best for all the parties involved.

2. Never Get Defensive

It can sometimes get difficult not to get defensive when encountering an unreasonable customer. But as a server, it is best not to do so. No good comes from getting into a heated argument with a customer.

A server should always try to keep their cool and remain calm. This can help them avoid an argument or a confrontation with the customer. 

3. Be Sympathetic and Apologize

Sympathy can get you a long way in dealing with a difficult customer. More often than not, the customer is being difficult because they have had a bad day or from some other problem in their life. So, try to be sympathetic.

If the customer is complaining about something they don’t find to their liking, you should apologize on behalf of the restaurant. Then try to fix whatever they have complained about as long as it is reasonable. 

For instance, if they complain about the food being too cold, simply apologize and send it back to the kitchen to be reheated. This way, the customer will feel satisfied, and you can also avoid any argument or confrontation.

4. Don’t Take What the Customer Says Personally

Usually, the customer is not trying to be difficult intentionally. If they get angry or rude, it is likely directed at the restaurant and not at you. You are just a restaurant representative, so it is best not to take what they say personally for your own mental wellness. 

Stay professional and calm so that you can handle the situation in the best way possible. Taking what the customer says personally will only make you feel stressed. 

5. Always Speak Softly

Showing anger or speaking in a loud voice just because the customer is doing the same is not a good idea. This is especially true if the customer is being difficult to seek attention since it gives them a chance to make a scene. 

Try to keep your emotions in check and speak softly. Talk to them in an even and low voice, even if they are loud. If the situation gets too much to handle, ask your manager to step in.

6. Come Up With Solutions

Try to come up with a solution for whatever problem the difficult customer is presenting you with. If they are complaining about the food, then try to fix that. If they are disturbing others in the restaurant, ask them to move to a different table. 

If something is not to their liking, try to come up with a compromise. You can satisfy even the difficult customers by ensuring that they get good service.

Ensuring the Safety of the Employees

Management should never allow its employees to be abused by the customers. There should be certain limits in place to protect the employees. If the situation escalates, then the manager should step in.

If the customer is being abusive, whether physically or verbally, they should be escorted out of the restaurant. This should be done to ensure that the employees are safe within their workplace. 

What You Can Learn When Dealing with Difficult Customers

You can learn quite a lot when dealing with difficult customers. Demanding customers are often very critical.  They can point out your mistakes as a server, and you can improve yourself by learning from those mistakes.

They enable you to be more creative and help you come up with unique solutions. This way, you can become more decisive and creative. In addition, dealing with difficult customers can also help you be more professional and develop diplomacy skills.


A server’s job is not an easy one. Difficult customers can be found in almost any profession, but in restaurants, it can be a bit more challenging to deal with them.

You can learn to better handle such customers by first learning about their problems and then finding the right solution. Always remember to keep yourself safe, calm, and collected. This way, you can ensure customer satisfaction at your restaurant without being offensive.