Customer Complaints & Active Listening: The L.A.S.T. Method

Customer Complaints & Active Listening: The L.A.S.T. Method

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Dealing with a dissatisfied guest is never fun; they’re there to have a good time, and a complaint means (more often than not) that they haven’t. There are quite a few methods out there that can be useful when dealing with customer complaints, but we here at Cuboh have found that one, in particular, seems to have the most consistent success.

So - what is this mystery method to soothe even the angriest of guests? Let’s take a peek.

What is the L.A.S.T. Method?

Perhaps the most effective and straightforward way to deal with a guest complaint or negative review is the L.A.S.T. method. While we’ll go more in-depth momentarily about what that actually means, the basic concept is active listening. Seriously - that’s it.

For the uninformed, active listening is not just letting someone talk to you; it’s actively engaging with (and processing) what you’re told.

As for the L.A.S.T. method, it’s an acronym that spells out the four steps to help soothe an angry guest and, crucially, solve their problem. And everyone knows that a happy customer makes for a happy restaurant.

So - what are the steps?


  1. Listen

First things first, when a customer comes to a store manager or owner with a complaint, they’re doing so because they’re upset by something that happened in your business. While that doesn’t automatically mean that you or your staff are at fault, it does mean that you need to listen to what they have to say.

Don’t argue, don’t try to pin blame - just listen. You’d be surprised how often the customer will resolve the issue on their own (or just drop it) after getting a moment to talk.

  1. Apologize

Now - we just said that you aren’t necessarily at fault. I have a secret for you, though - you don’t need to be at fault to apologize.

You can apologize out of sympathy (“I’m sorry that happened to you”) or out of respect (“I’m sincerely apologetic that you had to deal with that”) - but you don’t need to be wrong to apologize.

So just do it - acknowledge what the customer said, and apologize. And I don’t mean to say, “I’m sorry you have bad taste and don’t like our food.” Instead, simply restate their complaint and apologize. For example:

The customer, Ms. Too Salty, said that her food was far too heavily salted; in fact, she said that it was otherwise delicious but that it needed roughly 80% less salt. However, you know that that particular dish is low-sodium (it’s a salad). So, should you say A, B, or C?

  1. “You’re wrong. That dish is low-sodium by design, but I am sorry that you didn’t like it.”
  2. “I’m so sorry you didn’t like your food! I’ll talk to the executive chef about potentially altering the recipe.”
  3. “I’m sorry you found that particular dish to be too salty. I’ve found that [insert dishes] are a nice, light bite - may I get one for you on the house?”

You already know the answer(s) - B and C are excellent. Why? Because after listening and apologizing, the manager in this hypothetical situation did step three of L.A.S.T.

  1. Solve

The third step is the one that’s hardest to master - solving the issue. Some people like to offer complimentary food, coupons, or discounts on online orders, while others like to try a more personal touch - I recommend the latter.

Some guests may be happy with a replacement steak or a coupon for free drinks next time around - but the guest above (Ms. Too Salty) had a specific issue. The two answers that we determined were correct took different approaches to the same problem - the first offered to talk to the chef, while the second tried to find another dish that may be a better fit.

Ultimately, they both offered a solution that was more than “that sucks; here’s free stuff.” In return, the customer felt heard. In tandem with the final step, this will make them far likelier to return.

  1. Thank

And finally, we reach step four - thank the customer. A simple “thank you for bringing [insert complaint] to my attention” will often go further than a discount or free drink. It shows the customer that you:

  1. Actually listened to their issue
  2. Feel that it’s worth addressing (and not “silly”)
  3. And that you will actually address it

That’s it! Listen to the guest, apologize for any inconvenience, solve the issue, and thank them for their time. And best of all, you may get a lovely little review on social media out of it!


The L.A.S.T. method is little more than active listening. And while we chefs aren’t particularly known for our people skills, active listening is something that most people have learned by adulthood. It’s straightforward and, when done correctly, has terrific success. Try out the L.A.S.T method the next time you get a customer complaint - you’ll be surprised how well it works.

While we have you here, feel free to peruse our other articles. We have countless handy guides to all your questions: from Los Angeles restaurant industry analyses and features of boss babes running top-tier spots to how-to guides on calculating food cost percentage and more, we’ve covered… pretty much everything.

Perhaps best of all, we can offer you the tools to up your restaurant’s online presence, streamline online and in-house orders, and track key metrics to ensure long-term success.

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