How to Handle Complaints with Restaurants

December 15, 2010

Tri-State restaurants landed ninth on our 2010 list of types of businesses that received the most complaints with consumers. Most disputes addressed either billing or customer service issues. We always recommend approaching a business directly before filing a complaint with the BBB. The nature of the relationship between diner and establishment makes this especially important. So we wanted to offer our readers helpful tips, paying particular attention to the “how” and “when” of handling disputes with restaurants.

  1. If you are using a coupon or gift card, present it to your server before you begin ordering. You’ll want to make sure there are no exceptions you are unaware of, that the location you’re visiting honors a particular offer, and that your server knows how to process the coupon/gift card. This will ensure you are able to enjoy your meal knowing you’ll be getting the great deal you expect.
  2. Address the issue immediately, if possible. Try to avoid calling the establishment later or the next day. Shift changes mean a certain staff member involved may not be working, managers may be out, or kitchen issues may be difficult to recall. Bringing an issue to their attention right away gives the restaurant a better opportunity to address it and offer a resolution.
  3. Ask to speak to manager. Unless it is a simple order request, your server may not be equipped (or may not have the time) to address your concerns. Remain calm and explain your issue clearly.
  4. Check your bill for any errors or overcharges. Then confirm the amount you are charged is the same amount on your bill. If you have a billing dispute, handle immediately.
  5. If you are due a refund because of an error by the restaurant, and you paid by credit card, they may have to issue the refund using your credit card. Since this probably won’t happen immediately, ask for the number of days it will take for you to receive the refund in addition to the name and phone number of the person you need to contact if a refund is not received in that time frame.
  6. If you are asking for a resolution from the restaurant, make sure it is appropriate for your issue. Asking for a full refund on your entire dinner if one dish was incorrect might not be the best choice if you want the restaurant to address your complaint.

If you are not able to resolve the matter with the restaurant directly, contact your BBB.

(Please note that your BBB does not address complaints related to food poisoning claims or any possible health code violations. For these types of disputes, contact your local health department.)