Dealing With Difficult Customers


As a bar owner, dealing with difficult customers is a fact of life. It can be an unpleasant experience whether you’re prepared for it, or not. However, with a bit of planning and staff training, you can make the best of a tough situation. Because the last thing you need is an upset patron telling all their friends – in person AND online – not to visit your establishment.

The trickiest situation may be when a customer orders a drink, doesn’t like it and asks for (or demands) a new one without being charged for the first one. If your bartender is quick to decline the free drink, they risk setting off an uncomfortable circumstance with a patron that doesn’t understand why they have to pay for something they don’t like. What to do?


You can be proactive with a clearly posted sign that states you can’t be responsible for someone not liking what they ordered. You can keep it light, not too serious, and inform your customers that if they’re unsure what to order, they should ask for a taste before ordering a pint. Now, if the above problem occurs, you can point to the sign stating your policy. Additionally, train your staff to watch for a customer having trouble deciding what to order. If someone is hemming and hawing, have your server walk them through the options and be crystal clear on why they should order a taster instead of a 16 ounce pour.

Of course, this type of patron is not the norm. But all it takes is one tough cookie to blow up your Google and Yelp reviews. So let’s take a look at another potentially messy situation. It’s Friday night, you’re slammed and the IPA listed at the top of your chalkboard menu has just been kicked. No way is someone pulling out the ladder, rags and chalk to update it during the rush. And chances are, if it was kicked, it’s a popular beer and more people will be eyeing it. So, a customer spending 10 minutes perusing your chalkboard to put together a taster flight has the potential to become that angry customer if you tell them their IPA is all out.

digital drink menu
What can you do? Consider investing in digital drink menus that let you update your menu at the click of a button. Keep a dedicated tablet behind the bar on a busy night, expressly for this purpose. And eliminate another area of your business with the potential to cause problems.