Espresso Blog

How to Talk to Customers at Your Coffeehouse or Restaurant

You’ve got a great location, tasty food and drinks, and you've assembled a talented staff to welcome your customers. But have you talked to your team about how to talk to customers? It can seem obvious or demeaning to "teach them manners," but even well-meaning baristas, bartenders and servers can be perceived as impatient, impetuous or indifferent if they don't choose the right words with customers.

The following list of What Not to Say ... and What to Say Instead should be required reading for any employee—especially those who deal with customers. Some of the what-not-to-say phrases will seem obvious, yet it’s uncanny how often they can be overheard if you keep your ears open. Some of the more surprising word choices are enough to stop you in your tracks and think, “Did they really just say that?”

What Not to Say … and What to Say Instead:

“I Don't Know” vs. “That's a good question. Let me find out for you.”

“Hold on” vs. “Are you able to hold for a moment?” or “I’ll be right with you.”

“I'm busy right now” vs. “I’ll be right with you.”

“I'm new here” vs. “Please bear with me and I'll get you the help you need.”

“Calm Down” vs. “I apologize." or "We'll get you what you need."

“We're Closed” vs. “We close at __ o'clock and reopen at _ o'clock. Is there something I can quickly help you with?”

“Will that be all?” vs. “Let me show you…” or “Have you tried __?”

“It's over there” vs. “Follow me, I'll show you where it is.”

“I can't do that” vs. “I think the best solution is …”

“That's not my job” vs. “Let’s find the right person to help you.”

“We're out of that item” vs. “I’m sorry, we just ran out of that menu item, but we have some great alternatives.”

“That’s against our policy” vs. “Typically our policy is __ but I want to make this right for you. This is what I can do…”

“You're wrong” vs. “I think there’s been a misunderstanding.”

“All sales are final” vs. “Let us know if you aren't satisfied and we'll make it right.”

The right choice of words can make a big difference in tense situations and even everyday interactions. They can earn loyalty and trust rather than leaving a bad taste in a customer's mouth.

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