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Turn Bad Restaurant Service to Your Business Advantage

How To Handle Bad Restaurant Service During a Business Meeting


Many business professionals hold meetings during lunch or dinner with clients, investors, or other business professionals. What if your meeting is being hindered by bad restaurant service? Should you complain? The answer is yes, always, but with diplomacy.


Instead of viewing bad service at a restaurant as a problem, seize it as an opportunity to impress your business associate with your ability to remain calm, take charge, and handle a situation with finesse. Do not let bad service reflect poorly on you by ignoring the problem or being rude in return.

How To Complain About Bad Restaurant Service

Do not let bad service go unnoticed. If the waiter brings the wrong drinks or food, or is not giving you the attention you need, flag them down and speak up. Be polite, direct, and business-like. Apologize to your associate for bad service but take responsibility to see that better service is delivered for the rest of the meal.

The following eight tips will help you complain effectively and with diplomacy in front of a business associate:

  1. Address the Problem Promptly: As soon as you notice a problem, flag your waiter down by putting up your hand (some people raise a finger to show they desire attention). Never shout, but it is acceptable to say “miss,” or “waiter, “ etc. in a normal tone of voice to get their attention if nearby.


  2. Do Not Leave Your Associate Alone at the Table: If you cannot get your waiter’s attention after a reasonable amount of time, flag another waiter to find yours for you – do not get up and go track one down and leave your associate alone at the table.


  3. Behave Like a Professional: Remember the goal is to resolve problems – not create new ones. Focus your conversation with restaurant staff on the business of unacceptable service and do not personally attack or criticize the staff or the restaurant.


  4. Be Polite: Never cuss, shout, yell, or insult restaurant staff. Abusive behavior or creating a scene will reflect poorly on you and embarrass your business associate.


  5. Do Not Make Threats: Never make threats to sue, boycott, or otherwise take action to hurt the business (or their staff). If, in the very rare instance there is an actionable, simply get the information you might need later (i.e., names of persons involved).


  6. Be Clear and Specific: Be as specific as possible about the problem and ask for a specific solution. For example, if the wrong drinks were brought to the table, tell your waiter which drinks should have been brought. If the meal is cold or overcooked reiterate how it should be cooked and send it back or ask for another item.


  7. Do Not Ask for a Free Meal or Discount: While you can ask for freebies when you are dining alone with family and friends, in a business situation do not insist on discounts. If one is offered to you, accept it graciously. However, if you did not receive an item you ordered, you may ask to have it removed from your bill.


  8. Show Your Appreciation: If the problem is resolved to your satisfaction, thank the wait staff or manager. Be sure to leave a tip that reflects the resolution of the problem, not the problem itself. Never leave no tip at all; it is better to leave a 10% tip for an unresolved problem than to completely “stiff” wait staff.



Remember to treat problems in a restaurant as an extension of your business meeting. Handling bad service the wrong way could put off your business associate. Use the opportunity to show that you can handle situations and people and get the results you want with diplomacy and tact.

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