The restaurant industry is a strange and fickle beast. A reputation can take years upon years of hard slog, blood, sweat and possibly tears (literally) to create and only seconds to destroy. Ever heard of the saying “you’re only as good as your last dish”? This is usually followed by “and right now, you’re a c**t”… In order to run a successful restaurant or kitchen to a consistently high standard you need to be like the gestapo; eyes and ears everywhere and know EVERYTHING that goes on with EVERYONE. There’s two things the X-Files and kitchens have in common. They’re both full of strange interesting characters living in the fringes of society and they both have the same tagline: Trust NO-ONE. Or as one of my first chef’s eloquently put: “don’t trust any fu**er”… (chef’s are well known for their colourful language; it’s one of the things that makes us so interesting right?). If for one second you decide to turn your back, think “yeah nothing’s happening now until our late bookings, I can nip out for a cigarette”, that’s when your commis chef will accidentally send out the medium rare chicken and fuck everything up for you. You need to be anal in the extreme. Nothing should go out unless it’s up to your standard. This will not make you friends. But this will give you happy customers. Hopefully. If you are really lucky you will have some allies in the kitchen who will be your eyes and ears. People who “get you”, understand what your standard is and how you work. Know your pet hates. Hang onto these people and look after them because they are more valuable than their weight in gold. They will certainly make your life a hell of a lot easier and hopefully mean you can do less than 70hrs per week.
What does it take to piss off a customer? Sometimes a lot and sometimes nothing. I find it very interesting how people behave in restaurants and bars. I’m sure it would make a very good psychology paper for someone. It seems to me that hospitality is the only industry in which people feel like they can turn into pricks the second they walk through the door. Seemingly normal and respectable people, people with families and jobs; they have the ability to turn into monsters inside the doors where alcohol and food are served. Maybe it’s something to do with wanting to wind down and relax that somehow the rules of the outside world don’t apply. I have narrowed it down to a few cliche customer types that seem to appear no matter where you go:
Sir grab-a-lot – These are the guys that try and slap the waitresses arses and use such stunning lines as “so whats the cream sauce like? How would you like to try my cream sauce sweet heart?”. A restaurant is not a strip bar. And everybody knows that the golden rule in a strip bar is no touching. Unless you are VIP…
Aggressive drunk – “What do you mean you can only serve me a glass of water?! I’ll tell YOU when I’ve had enough!” (falls over taking a bar stool with him). This is where you hope you work in a dodgy enough place so as to have a bouncer.
Chronic complainer – The food’s too hot, the wine’s too cold, I don’t like my table, the people over there are laughing too much, I don’t like anything on the menu, this costs too much etc…I remember once have a dish sent back because it wasn’t hot enough, it was pretty hot so we heated it again, and back it came, so we nuked the shit out of it and it still came back. I’m sorry but on this planet with this atmosphere the hottest I can get a liquid before it turns to steam so unless you are on another planet (which you quite possibly are) then I can’t do much more for you.
Cheater – This is the person who tries tricks like orders a drink from one person, hides the glass and then complains to another person that they never got it. Or order the steak, eat 90% of it and then complain it’s under cooked.
Menu changers – “Can I have the fish but without the spice crust, the sauce from the beef and do you do paella? Can I have some paella with it too? I’m allergic to onion, garlic, salt, chilli and herbs.” I would suggest eating at home…
Vegans (et al) – Now not to say anything against vegans, I actually respect proper vegans or anyone who has decided that something is morally wrong and stick to their guns. I think a hell of a lot of animals are treated badly on their journey ending on our tables, that’s why I try my best to make sure that I know where my ingredients come from, how they’re produced and whether or not they’re sustainable without a negative affect on the environment. However if you are a vegan do not come to a steak house and then complain.
Cheap skates and hagglers – If you buy petrol and then drive off without paying you would expect to get arrested. ‘Doing a runner’ is what other people would call ‘stealing from a restaurant’. And unless you are on Khao San Road in Bangkok or in another acceptable place such as Saigon or Mumbai then don’t haggle. You don’t go to the dentist and haggle and the prices they charge are mental so why haggle over a sandwich?!
Money flashers – “I will have the Wagyu well done and your most expensive MerloTT,make sure it’s well chilled and hurry up about it” = Plonker.
Bill splitters – Is there anything more dreadful to hear to a cashier than “can we split the bill 12 ways?” Paying up should be a quick and painless experience, not a torturous ordeal with detailed investigations and discussions. If you must split the bill evenly and if you are a large group consider cash. Having to individually itemise a large party’s dishes and then have to split the fries or a bottle of wine by 3/7th’s because someone only had “half of one glass” and someone else had “2 and 1/3 glasses” it a total nightmare.
The internet food expert – It is amazing how the anonymity of the internet allows people with no qualifications in restaurant reviewing the opportunity to express their expertise. Yet these same people will not complain in person when given the chance to actually address their issue and maybe enjoy their night. “How is your meal?” “Fine thank you…” and then the next day you read on the internet a post headed: “Disgusting food and rubbish service, never again”. I remember one table of two ordered lamb cutlets so we roast a whole rack and then carved it for both. One of the two said it was perfect and his wife said it was undercooked. Our offer of cooking it some more was declined. The next day I read on the internet how I told them to “just shut up and eat it”… At least it made for a more interesting story than the truth!
Other hospos – Believe it or not we are actually our own worse enemies. People in the restaurant industry work hard and usually “play hard”. The group of people with tattoo’s who are obviously intoxicated, breaking furniture, stealing alcohol and shagging in the toilets? They probably work at the restaurant down the road…
- Best Tables (diningwithfoodies.wordpress.com)