Business Insight
Image of staff training

Strategies for dealing with customer complaints

  • Retaining good staff can not only lower your overall running costs but enable you to create and maintain a productive and happy working environment
  • Motivation and incentivization is the key to encouraging staff to perform at their best
  • Empathising with concerns and issues on a day to day basis is essential
  • You can also keep your staff engaged by being supportive of their efforts to learn new skills or hone existing ones

ONE OF THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES in running a successful foodservice business is a high staff turnaround. Not only is hiring and training new staff expensive and time-consuming, it also makes it difficult to ensure the consistency of food preparation, presentation and service that keeps customers coming back.

But if you are able to find good staffers and retain them over longer periods, you’ll not only lower your overall running costs but you’ll be able to create and maintain a productive and happy working environment for all.

Motivation and incentivization is the key to encouraging staff to perform at their best – it can be the difference between someone being prepared to go the extra mile versus someone clocking off the second their shift is up. The first step in this process is to appreciate and acknowledge the skills your staff bring to their jobs, both in front and back of house.

Hiring a well-experienced chef who has worked their way up in the industry can be a big help here, as they typically will have a good understanding of foodservice workplace dynamics. By treating your chef as a trusted business partner, you’ll be in a strong position to benefit from their expertise and knowledge of how to make your business perform at its best.

Empathising with staff concerns and issues on a day to day basis is also essential. If you have a large kitchen staff consisting of multiple cooks, you can keep them engaged and stimulated by giving them free rein to develop specials and new menu items. By making menu creation a team effort, you allow all kitchen staff to feel a sense of ownership and pride in their work.

Team-building in this manner depends on building a sense of camaraderie and ensuring open lines of communication. That means making yourself available to staff and being as upfront as possible in your dealings with them.

This is particularly important when it comes to work rosters – as many of us will have experienced over the past year. Telling a staff member you’ve had to cut back their hours is never easy, but by being upfront about the impact of reduced tourism numbers and other current issues affecting customer patronage, at least your staff will feel informed in advance and cuts won’t seem to be coming ‘out of the blue’.

You can also keep your staff engaged by being supportive of their efforts to learn new skills or hone existing ones. One way to do this is to encourage apprentices to participate in professional development programs such as Proud to Be a Chef or for chefs to engage in cooking competitions where they can pit their skills against their peers.

Participating in these kinds of events can help fire your staff’s creative passion and reaffirm their commitment to the job. And of course, if they become an award-winner, that can be a valuable promotional tool for your business!