1. Overview
2. Culture
3. Operations
4. Service
5. Menu
6. Selling
7. Satisfaction
8. Problems
9. Closing
10. Rewards
11. Understanding
12. Conclusion

8. Problems

Conflict Resolution

“Conflict” is a word that causes many of us a certain degree of discomfort, anger, frustration, sadness and pain.

Simply defined, conflict is a state of opposition. It’s easy to understand that no two people are going to agree on everything. Where there is disagreement, there exists the possibility of conflict.

Let’s be clear about one thing: Conflict is a part of life. Conflict doesn’t have to be loud and boisterous and frequently, conflict can create a positive environment for understanding and personal growth.

In the workplace, most conflict takes place between co-workers. Workers rarely reach a state of conflict with their customers. Most employees understand the rules of that dynamic and are trained to deal with problems before they become real conflict.

On the other hand, less time is spent training for and dealing with disagreements between team members. If unresolved, these may escalate into avoidance, inability to work together, verbal assaults and resentment. In the worst cases, this conflict may also lead to hostility and eventual separation from the organization. Thus, it is critical that conflict between co-workers be resolved as quickly and completely as possible.

Why does conflict happen? Conflict arises from a multitude of sources that reflect our differences: personality, values, ideologies, religion, culture, race, and behavior. It also arises from simple misunderstandings. In today’s world, where interactions take many forms, from the anonymity of blogging to a heightened importance of having one’s personal voice heard through an ever-increasing clamor. Our society has dramatically increased the number of human interactions where one’s opinions can be heard.

New teams, for example, may find themselves in conflict as discussions lead them into uncharted waters. One person may have worked alongside another for years, yet never “knew” them until they began unearthing deeply held beliefs. Reaching consensus when such differences are present is frequently difficult and conflict is almost certain.

Resolving conflict isn’t always quick…or easy…or comfortable. Sometimes it may require the involvement and assistance of a third-party, a supervisor for instance. If you find yourself entering into conflict with a co-worker, here are a few steps to take to turn conflict into a positive and enriching experience.

1. Remove yourself from the emotional state. Almost all conflict happens when the two parties to the conflict leave the intellectual state of reason and become emotionally involved. Recognize the need to be rational and help the other party reach that state, too.

2. Remember that proving yourself to be “right” is less important than seeking to understand the “truth” of someone else’s perception. This is critical. We are conditioned by society to “win” but the critical component of conflict resolution is to “understand”.

3. Get current; stay respectful. This means communicating everything that has led to your participation in the conflict…in a respectful manner. Conflict resolution provides the ideal forum to escape the emotional prisons that often keep us locked in the past.

4. Seek to reach a general understanding of the resolution. Let go of any desires for what you know will not work and focus on what will.

5. Agree to your new partnership. Create a means that maximizes the potential for everyone to obtain their desired results.

You’ll know you have successfully resolved conflict when you have a clarity of mind and feel a sense of empowerment by the process.

First Person: "How To Fix The Problem"

Like anything else, the more experience you have with solving problems, the easier it is for you to handle the situation, to think on your feet, to make the right decisions and to resolve the situation.

Here are some thoughts and ideas from associates past and present:

Just Fix It
While not common, problems will occur in the restaurant environment. It's important, says Jeff Mueller of the Plaza Grill, not to overreact when something goes wrong at your table. PLAY VIDEO

Check with the Boss
Mistakes aren't many when Dan Ahrenica is serving at Pujols 5 Grill, but, when they happen, his rule of thumb, if the problem isn't small, is to let his shift manager know the situation. PLAY VIDEO

Be Aware
In his years as a server, Eric Glinkler, now a floor manager at Plaza Grill, learned that problems are sometimes out of a person's control. He knows the importance of awareness. PLAY VIDEO

Don't Sweat the Small Stuff
Vicki McCoy of the Plaza Grill has more than 15 years of experience as a restaurant server. Her advice on how to handle issues at the table is simple: Don't make them bigger than they need to be. PLAY VIDEO

When to Involve the Manager
You're making a routine check of your table only to discover that a problem has arisen. What's the next step? Maura Blankenship of Pujols 5 Grill simply asks the customer. PLAY VIDEO

Make Them Happy
When problems occur at the table, it's good to apply the Golden Rule. Derek West, a Hanon server for several years, believes it's important to treat other people like you would want to be treated. PLAY VIDEOL

Having a Bad Day
Problems aren't always about what happens at the table on your shift. Sometimes, problems are what happens to you away from the restaurant. Judy Jackman offers good advice. PLAY VIDEO


  In handling customer complains, what NOT to do is as important as what you choose to do to resolve an issue.

NEVER take it personally—A customer’s complaint is almost always with the restaurant, an inanimate entity and not with you personally, so be sure and not to take things personally,

NEVER fail to offer an apology—Regardless of whether you think the customer’s complaint is justified or true, when you realize there is a problem, be sure to immediately offer a sincere apology to diffuse any tension that may exist in the moment.

NEVER argue with the customer—While the old adage that the “customer is always right” may not be entirely true, handle customer complaints as if they ARE always right. Problems are very much a product of perspective and it is important that you seek to understand and validate the customer’s perspective whenever there is an issue to resolve.

NEVER raise your voice—If you’re not arguing with the customer, chances are you won’t feel a need to raise your voice. While you may not want to deal with a customer complaint with a smile on your face (thus running the risk of seeming flippant), nodding your head in affirmation of what the customer is saying gives the impression that you are on the customer’s side.

NEVER compromise your values—Remember, when a complaint or problem arises, you are seeking to find a fair and equitable solution, not only from the customer’s perspective, but also from the restaurant’s as well. NEVER lie or promise something you can’t deliver. If you don’t know the answer to a question, admit to that but promise the customer you’ll find an answer as quickly as possible.

NEVER loose your cool—Body language and facial expressions are critical when dealing with an unhappy customer. Make sure you’re communicating positive and encouraging messages both verbally and non-verbally. You may SAY the right things, but a shoulder shrug or roll of the eye can doom all of your other efforts to resolve the situation.

NEVER forget your sense of humor—Finally, above all things, remember, we’re all human and most problems are a result of an innocent misunderstanding or failure to communicate. Try to see every problem as an opportunity for you to provide exceptional service and help make someone else’s day a little—or a lot—brighter.


Hanon Management
Bevo Mill
Pujols 5 Grill
The Plaza Grill
Crowne Plaza
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