As I have mentioned before I work in a theme restaurant where I both waitress and run food. On the weekends and on holidays I run food.
On Mother’s Day I was running food. In the 45 seconds I was present at a table I managed to send a crazy woman over the edge. She reacted so insanely to the fact that the server had ordered the wrong side dishes to her food that she threatened to “kick my ass”. Seriously. That’s what she said. True story. Her lunacy resulted in my manager having to spend fifteen minutes at her table listening to her version of events (most of which were absolute fiction). The table was refusing to accept the food. She kept telling me that the food was not theirs. This struck me as odd, as the server who was waiting on them is not the obvious suspect to have ordered the wrong food or put down the wrong table number. That is when we ascertained that some of the side dishes were incorrect. So, I did say something like, “your side dishes are the least of my concerns at the moment. Let’s just get you all served and then we can deal with getting the proper side dishes”. Luckily there was another server helping me deliver the food to the table, as there were five of them and I could not carry all of the plates myself. Thankfully I had a witness.
Of course, she would not give me the information regarding how to fix her problems. So, I got the server and asked her to deal with it. At some point I overheard the customer saying something like, “I wanted to kick her ass”. Seconds later the server came flying into the kitchen accusing me of doing all sorts of things to her table. The server who had helped me run the food out to the table jumped into the conversation and, essentially, told the other server that the customer was crazy and that none of what she was saying had happened.
The next thing I knew the manager was at the table listening to this woman’s nonsense for about fifteen minutes. Spending fifteen minutes at a table listening to a customer rant about one of your employees is far too long; it lends credence to what the customer is saying. Further, he ended up buying them dessert (also an indication that he agrees with the customer’s assessment of the situation). Following his table visit the manager proceeded to “instruct” me on what to do if a situation like this should ever arise again. To which I replied, “What situation would that be? A situation where a customer is behaving insanely? Because here is how I handled the insane behavior today: I delivered the food to the best of my ability, which was no easy feat considering they were refusing to take it at the outset, I attempted to “fix” the side dish issue, I got the server when I was unsuccessful. So, please tell me exactly how that should have gone differently.” Crickets.
I was really very unhappy with the way the situation played out. Mainly I was unhappy that the server, with whom I have a good relationship, decided that I had done something egregious to her table. I pointed out that I had not taken the order, so if the sides were wrong then who was to blame? I also reminded her that when I run food and encounter a problem with a missing/incorrect side order I always pretend that it was my fault. I tell the customer that I probably read the ticket wrong and that I will replace the side dish right away. And I do. Nine times out of ten an incorrect side dish is a result of server error, but I would rather let the customer think that I did something wrong than let them know their server made a mistake. Also, a side dish error takes seconds to rectify. Are my coworkers grateful for this? Nope.
Fast forward six weeks or so to last night. I bring a soup out to a table. About eight minutes later the entrees for that table come up. I bring them out. As I go to put the food down on the table one of the two women at the table bangs her hand on the table and says, “This is ridiculous”. So, I thought she meant that the food had come too soon upon the heels of the soup. I told her that if her dining partner needed some more time to finish her soup I would happily return the food to the kitchen and keep it warm until they were ready to eat it. Well, as it turned out she had ordered a salad (servers deliver their own salads, and usually their own soups — when I deliver a soup to a table it is usually at the server’s request — generally if there is a salad with the soup the server let’s me know. In this case neither the server nor the customer let me know they were missing a salad when I brought the soup). So, I told her that I would be happy to bring her salad and that we would remake the food if need be to accommodate the time it would take her to eat her salad. To which she replied, “You can shove the salad up your ass.” (apparently she likes to trot out this variation on her “kick your ass” theme from time to time… variety being the spice of life and all). So, I said, “Well, I am not going to do that, however I can still do what I offered to do a few seconds ago, which is to get you the salad you ordered and remake your food to give you time to enjoy your salad”. After much eye rolling and sighing she agreed to my plan.
When I delivered the salad it hit me that this was the woman from Mother’s Day. I think that she clearly knew who I was before I put together who she was. So, I immediately alerted the general manager to the situation. I went back into the kitchen and arranged for the food to be remade. I also told the server that there was a problem at the table.
There were two managers on last night. One was the general manager, a woman who was not working the Mother’s Day shift. The other, a man who was working the Mother’s Day shift and was, in fact, the same manager who had “handled” her previous complaints. It is important to mention here that on Mother’s Day she was insisting that I be fired. Seriously, who do customers think they are?
My favorite reaction by a manager/owner to this type of customer request happened many years ago when I was working for a privately owned local steakhouse/pub. I had waited on a table one Saturday night and had a problem with a customer that involved a ribeye. At the end of the day, the chef (who, incidentally, was the owner’s son), told this woman that he would not make her a THIRD replacement steak; that she needed to order something else or leave. So, she left in a huff. Whatever. The next morning the phone rings and the owner answers it behind the bar, which was basically in the middle of the dining room, and I hear him say, “Yes, this is so-and-so and I own this place. What can I do for you?” Then there is a few moments of silence, but I can see him getting more and more pissed off. Finally, I hear him say, “So, let me get this straight. You came in here last night and caused a commotion and now you want me to fire two of my best employees, one of whom happens to be my son. I don’t know who the *#%! you think you are, but you have a helluva nerve calling me and telling me how to run MY restaurant. Do me a favor, crawl back under whatever rock you crawled out from on your way in here last night and go *#%! yourself. And don’t you ever come in here again and don’t you ever tell me how to run MY place. The last time I checked I was in charge of this joint. I sign the paychecks. I decide to who to fire and when to fire them. Not you. Goodbye. ” So, he hangs up the phone and looks at me ( I was standing there mouth agape trying to decide whether or not to actually applaud) and says, “So, what the *#% happened here last night? Jesus Christ, can’t I take off one Saturday night without all hell breaking loose?” At that point I just literally burst out laughing and so did he. Now, he and I could be like oil and water now and again, but at that moment he was my hero. That moment ranks right up there with the top ten moments of my life. Swear to God!
Unfortunately corporate restaurant managers don’t really have the authority to behave like a pub owner. Alas, they must kiss ass. But I contend that there is a way to deal with a problem customer and a way not to. So, now the time comes to deliver the remade food to the crazy lady. Our policy is that remade food is always to be run out by a manger; it hardly ever actually happens, but that is our policy. When the food was ready to “sell” I told the general manager, the manager, and the server. No one took out the food, which was at the point of overcooking and getting cold, so I, once again, alerted the three of them that the food was ready to be delivered. At this point the general manager told me to take out the food. So I did. I delivered the food and walked away. Seconds later the server walked into the kitchen and told me that I should not have delivered the food, as my mere presence had sent the guest, once again, over the edge.
So, now the manager who had previously dealt with her on Mother’s Day goes over to her table. Again he spends what I consider an inordinate amount of time there, but, again, “whatever”. But here is the kicker: he has the nerve to tell me that I should not have delivered the food. “Really”, I said, “ya think?”. I remind him that he was asked twice to take out the damn food, as were both the server and the general manager; in the end I just tried to make the best of a bad situation. He continued to counsel me as to how to deal with an unhappy guest. I literally had to ask him to stop talking. I told him that if he continued to speak to me I was going to have some very choice words for him and his job performance. Did he stop talking? No. So, I had to tell him in no uncertain terms what I thought of the way he had done his job, which was not a stellar review. Then, he decided that instead of us having a conversation in the middle of the kitchen (where he chose to have the conversation to begin with) we should adjourn to the office. To which I replied, “Hell. No. You started it here. This is where we finish it.” I actually have to give him a little bit of credit because he finally closed his mouth and walked away. Really, I ask you, what is wrong with people?
At the end of the day I got some half-hearted apology from him (which I half-heartedly accepted… so, there!). But the real villain in this story is the psycho bitch who should, in future, stay the hell home! I would also like to know what kind of person actually goes out to dinner with this crazy woman? I have decided that her companion must be her mother because this is a person only a mother could love.