Some unruly customers have come into our business. Can we refuse them service?

Quite possibly. You’re actually required to refuse service in some circumstances, for example if you have licensed premises and someone is intoxicated or disorderly. If this happens you need to either remove them from the premises or put them in a place of safety until they can leave.

On the other hand, you need to be careful not to discriminate against anyone. The prohibited grounds for discrimination include sex, pregnancy, marital status, religious belief, ethical belief, colour, race, ethnic or national origins, disability, age, political opinion, employment status, family status and sexual orientation.

It’s too late, they’re already in here and they’ve made a complaint about finding nail clippings in their food. How do we handle this?

First of all, start with your Food Control Plan. It sets out what to do if there’s been a complaint about food. The Restaurant Association has a guide about how to deal with this on a practical level, including how to handle customers. Suffice to say, if you have CCTV footage of them putting the nail clippings in their food, this isn’t your responsibility.

A cautionary note

Businesses often err on the side of caution when it comes to customers, for good reason. Customers can wield a fair amount of power through their social media. There might be times the whole country turns against the customers in question, but you might want to consider whether the potential fallout is worth it when you’re deciding how to handle a situation.