Preventing and Solving Conflict at Your Restaurant

a photo of Bianca Esmond

Bianca Esmond

5 min read

Apr 21, 2021

Preventing and Solving Conflict at Your Restaurant

The restaurant industry revolves around people. When you own or manage your own restaurant, it’s your responsibility to make sure your patrons are happy and taken care of. But, it’s also important to make sure you know how to prevent and solve conflicts as they arise.

Conflicts within restaurants aren’t something that gets frequently talked about. But, they do happen. Handling team conflicts involves mediating the problems between staff members to ensure that everyone gets along as much as possible.

You can reduce the risk of conflicts forming by creating a positive and encouraging work environment. But, you’re not always going to be able to control what your employees think or how they act. So, what can you do when conflicts arise, and how can you nip problems in the bud before they really find their footing?

Dealing with Discrimination

A 2019 survey by Glassdoor found that 3 in 5 employees in the U.S. have either seen or experienced discrimination in the workplace. Discrimination is often fueled by:

Sexual orientation

One of the best actions you can take to make sure discrimination doesn’t become a problem in your restaurant is to educate your staff. Teach them the signs of ageism, racism and sexism, and encourage them to speak out if they witness or experience it.

Unfortunately, not everyone will come forward. People get nervous about “telling” on fellow employees. Or, they don’t want to make waves within the restaurant. So, they keep to themselves until the problem becomes nearly unbearable.

Because of issues like that, it’s a good idea to create a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to discrimination, and especially harassment. Having a policy in place will let your employees know from the moment they’re hired that your establishment is no place for that kind of behavior. Your employees should all feel safe when they come to work, and no one deserves to feel like they don’t belong, simply because of who they are.

Managing Microaggressions

Microaggressions can be a big problem in any workplace. Unfortunately, they can also be harder to stop because some people don’t even realize what they are. Simply put, microaggressions are subtle behaviors that can be offensive, hurtful, or disrespectful, especially to a marginalized group.

Microaggressions can be behavioral through your actions, environmental through a lack of representation, or verbal when someone says something disrespectful about a person or group.

As a manager or owner, it’s crucial to recognize microaggressions in the workplace. Some of the easiest examples to spot include:

Microassaults – Indirect bullying or put-downs, slurs about race, gender or age
Microinsults – When a target is considered an “exception” to the stereotyped demographic they’re a part of
Microinvalidations – A dismissal of an employee’s negative experiences

Many times, employees will try to handle microaggressions on their own by confronting the person using them. But, if things get out of hand, be open to an employee coming to you for help. Having an “open door” policy for employees will establish an encouraging, more positive environment for everyone.

In some cases, you might be able to talk with the aggressor about changing their behaviors. Open communication should always be your first step so you can get to the root of the issue. However, if they aren’t willing or don’t show any signs of changing, you can support other staff members by letting them go.

Calming Down Customers

You can do everything in your power to create a positive and peaceful environment in your restaurant. But, sometimes employees aren’t the ones causing conflict. Despite your best efforts, customers won’t always be happy.

On occasion, you might even have to deal with an irate customer. That can seriously shake up your front-of-house operations and cause a scene throughout your whole restaurant. Thankfully, there are things you can do to handle an angry customer and deescalate the situation, including:

Listening to their complaint
Stopping yourself from getting defensive
Using their name when speaking
Showing genuine empathy
Offering a solution

Your goal should be to calm the patron down as quickly as possible so other people in the restaurant can continue to enjoy their experience. Many times, irate customers just want someone to listen. So, if you can do that and offer them something in return, you should be able to diffuse most situations quickly.

No one likes to think about the potential conflicts that could occur inside a restaurant. But, with so many people in one space working together, it’s bound to happen from time to time. Take pride in the responsibility to keep those conflicts at a minimum, and find resolutions when they do come up. Doing so will help you to establish a safer and more positive atmosphere for your staff and customers.

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