9th June 2023

The Best Ways to Deal with Difficult Customers at Your Pub

When it comes to hospitality, or any job that’s public-facing, you’re going to have to deal with a fair share of difficult customers. Mix that in with the fact that these customers might have had a drink or two, and it makes dealing with them a little bit more complicated and oftentimes, stressful. If you’re new to running a pub or management in general, you might need a little bit of help when it comes to dealing with difficult customers as our first instinct isn’t usually the right reaction. If you’ve got customer interactions down to a T, you might want to save this guide for any new bartenders or servers you take on so they can learn the correct procedures for customer interaction.

While not always a pleasure, mastering this skill can significantly improve your pub’s atmosphere, customer satisfaction, and, by extension, your bottom line. Here are some effective strategies for handling challenging patrons with grace and professionalism.

  1. Listen

The first step to dealing with a difficult customer is to really listen to what they have to say. Don’t interrupt, just let them speak and get it all out of their system. Whilst it might not seem like it, this could help calm the customer down – you’re providing an outlet and a space for them to vent whilst showing them you’re listening to them. Whilst some customers are looking for a resolution, whether that be a refund or a different meal/drink, many customers just simply want to be heard. We all make mistakes, we can’t think of one pub or restaurant that’s perfect in everything they do; whether a chef undercooks a steak, a server forgets to check on a table due to how busy they are, or a bartender makes the wrong drink. We’re all human and we’re going to slip up sometimes. If a customer has had a bad experience, sometimes they just want to tell you about it so you can recognise it and do better next time.

difficult customers in pubs
  1. Don’t argue back

If you do think the customer is wrong when they start speaking, you’ll probably have the urge to argue back. Even if you know that the customer is outright lying, arguing back will just cause a bigger scene and give that customer justification to act even more difficult. Don’t raise your voice, stay calm and try your best to de-escalate the situation.

  1. Apologise & Take Responsibility (If Applicable)

It’s important to note that this step doesn’t apply if you know for certain that the customer is lying or if their complaint doesn’t have any grounds. If there has been a mistake made, such as in the kitchen, behind the bar, or with a server, then you should apologise and take responsibility for the mistake. Whilst it might not be your own mistake, and a mistake made elsewhere, the best thing to do is just to take responsibility for what’s happened and offer up a sincere apology. Don’t place blame elsewhere or try and make up excuses.

  1. Offer a Solution

Now you’ve apologised, it’s time to think of a solution that matches the complaint, if you’re a server, you’re probably going to get your manager for this step. However, if you’re the one in charge of offering up solutions for customers, they’ve got to be fitting. For example, if a customer found their food completely inedible, and you come back offering just 10% off their bill, likely, they won’t be happy with that. Offer to take that meal off their bill and ask them if they want another meal on the house. If they got served the wrong drink, offer to take it away and make it right. If they had a bad experience with a server, offer a free dessert. Whatever you see fit for the situation, make sure there’s a solution in place.

difficult customers
  1. Know When Enough’s Enough

Whilst this is a blog post about handling rude customers with professionalism and trying to find a solution, if a customer takes it too far, then it’s time to put your foot down. Whether they’re being inappropriate to your staff or starting to get physical, you can deal with these customers by kicking them out and banning them from your pub. Your staff aren’t punching bags for customers and whilst it’s expected to be dealing with difficult customers, they shouldn’t have to deal with harassment or verbal abuse.


Dealing with difficult customers is an art that takes practice and patience. Remember that every challenging customer is an opportunity to train your staff and refine your pub’s customer service approach. Here at Trust Inns, we’re a pub company offering the bricks and mortar to our tenants who then become the face of their local pub. From marketing to day-to-day management, we help guide our tenants through every step of running their own pub. If you’re interested, we’ve got a wide range of pubs to let all over the UK.

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