Bad Restaurant Etiquette? Chill The F*ck Out, Because Servers Are People, Too.

Someone on Quora asked: Have people ever tampered with a meal and then served it to a rude customer? Here are some of the responses.

1. David Williamson

Never have, never would.

About a year ago I was working for a very high end restaurant – Zagat Top 10 in the US – and I needed an extra cook for an event. One of my line cooks had a friend who could help us out, so we brought him in.

As we were working, I heard a small ladle drop to the floor and saw out of the corner of my eye, the temp cook bending down to pick it up. I don’t know why, but I just knew he was going to put it right back in the duck demi glace I had taken three days to make, and I started running towards him. I was about 10 feet away at the time and the whole distance I was yelling, “NO NO NO NO NO!!!!!” but it made no difference. He dropped the ladle into the sauce right as I got within inches of him.

He turned and looked at me realizing how mad I was and what he had done.

I said, “I don’t even need to say it do I?” and he walked out of the kitchen knowing he was not welcome there.

I threw the demi glace away, and alerted the servers to tell our guests we were out of demi. My point being, I would NEVER tamper with a guest’s food, and anyone who does has no business in our business. I don’t care how much the guest is annoying, or rude, or even just plain mean…we don’t disrespect the food or ourselves.

2. Ariel Williams

I was working at Carl’s Jr. as a teenager.

A customer complained at us that he never gets extra pickles when he asks for them. He went on and on about his pickle woes while in front of the menu board in our drive-through. His rant went on for what seemed like forever. This held up other customers and our order taker. He insisted that we put a lot of pickles on his burger. Not extra not double but a lot.

In the kitchen we can hear everything said on the drive-through via our own speaker (this is true in most fast food places). So me and the other cook that night Eric looked at each other and the perfectly made Carl’s Jr. Famous star with mayo, lettuce, tomato, onion, extra pickle pickle, meat, special sauce and mayo. Traditionally and according to the exact rules, a famous star gets two-three pickle slices and extra is five. I like pickles myself and when someone asks for extra I normally put like six+. But this guy was just rude and really abusive. I reached into the pickle container and grabbed a handful of pickles and Eric lifted the meat and bun.

I then promptly added about 3 times more pickles than meat to the customer’s burger. We wrapped it and told Drive-through to bag the order. We said, “One pickle-burger with a side of meat is up”.

That customer never complained again. Nor did he ask for a lot of extra pickles…

He got what he asked for and the customer is always right…

I’ll give you another story from the same restaurant.

We had a guy that refused to accept his order because the drive through girl was black! I am serious. Blew my mind that this could happen in this day and age.

So our shift manager (white) said to the guy politely and smiling through gritted teeth, “okay sir.” He then went back into the kitchen had me and the other cooks step back and watch as he proceeded to make a new burger without saying a word. I watched him, he did nothing to it. It was an absolutely perfect burger in every way. Right out of the book.

He then came back to the window and told the guy. “I am the manager. Here is a new burger I made myself and not a single black hand has touched it per your instructions. Oh and by the way I am gay.” He then gave the man whom had already paid his option of the burger made by a white gay man or the original burger not even made by the black woman but bagged by her.

Instead he drove off. A valuable lesson was learned and taught that day. Our manager taught us it is never okay to tamper with someones food and we always try to give people what they ask for even if it is unreasonable, that is customer service. If there is an error beyond that and we did our best to accommodate the customer wishes then at least we know we did our best and are not at fault.

3. Christopher Saenz

I worked morning shifts in a coffee house as a teenager. Every time we had a serious pain in the ass customer, they received a wonderful cup of decaf. It was my silent revenge.

4. Amanda S. Mills

When I was 18 I worked in a fish market. Sounds crazy, but it was my favorite job because I spent most of my time alone, cleaning fish, preparing fish, taking care of the case, and steaming shrimp and lobsters without too much social interaction.

Customers were generally in a good mood and interaction was in filling an order. There was a guy who showed up every Sunday to order shrimp to go with his football game. We were supposed to spice it with “old bay” (a popular american seafood spice mix), adding more depending on how spicy they wanted it. Every Sunday he showed up complaining, “It isn’t hot enough!” on and on, week after week, so one sunday I took his order (he had gone to do something else), walked across the market to the deli and borrowed Tabasco, red pepper, black pepper, chili powder and caked that shrimp in so much powder you could no longer see the shrimp through it all, packaged it up and gave it to him…

Later, I felt guilty and mentioned it to my manager.

“Oh no! He’s going to be angry, we’ll get in trouble,” he said.

Nope! He loved it :-)

5. Anonymous

I remember working at McDonalds when I was a teen. With the 24 hour drive up window, it was not uncommon to get drunks and teens. One night a group of teens were getting stupid and making a scene. The teen in the passenger seat commented “stop, I don’t want spit in my food”. We knew what he had ordered, and gave them his food right away. The others were told that their food was taking a little extra time to “prepare”. Realistically, It was made and off to the side in the bag for them. But the mind fu** was worth it. Once we gave them the food we told them to enjoy the burgers we made specially for them. We never did spit in their food. But in their minds we did. Lesson learned.

6. Keri Laughter

I worked in food service for more than 10 years before I decided to go back to school and get training in a different career. I have never actually tampered with a customer’s food, but I do have a story about food being tampered with.

A while back I had a couple of roommates. The sister of one of them came to stay with us for a week. She decided to order a pizza from one of the local pizza chains and have it delivered. When she bit into it she found small shards of glass mixed in with the toppings. They were small enough that they didn’t just crunch when she bit into it, they cut her mouth pretty badly. She called the pizza place to complain. They offered to send another pizza, but she expressed concern as to the state the pizza would be in when she received it and was, understandably, upset about her mouth being cut and concerned at what could have happened if she had swallowed the pieces of glass.

It turned out that one of the girls that had been cooking the pizzas that day had found out there was an order placed by a girl that she had some issues with. She had decided to place the glass in the pizza to get back at this girl. Unfortunately it turned out that both pizza orders were exactly the same and so the pizza with the glass had been switched with the other pizza and my roommate’s sister had received the pizza intended for the other girl.

In short the cook was relieved from her job, somebody else made the new pizza and my roommate’s sister received a new pizza as well as a free pizza at a future time.

7. Gregory Lewis

My first job was as a dishwasher for a semi-famous tourist motel-restaurant-gift shop complex in Massachusetts. The husband of one of the daughters of the owner was allowed to manage the restaurant. One plate came back with an untouched ham steak. The manager looked at it, and said, “This…this is still good.” He took it off the plate and put it back in production, for the next person who ordered the ham steak.

8. Anonymous

I worked as a server years ago, and I really loved everyone on staff. My coworker Johnny and I were super close. He was kind of a flamboyant, sassy gay man, and most customers got a kick out of him. One day a couple of redneck guys came in and were sitting in Johnny’s section. I was in the kitchen talking to the cook when Johnny came back fuming. “Those assholes just called me a faggot to my face!” He cried, looking like he was either going to cry or punch something. I couldn’t believe it. Everybody loved Johnny. He handed the cook the table’s order and walked away. I looked at the cook and I asked him to call me when the order was ready. He did, then left the kitchen, saying, “I know nothing!”

I casually took the top bun off the burger, and used it to scrub a little bit of the floor….underneath the oven, where the floor wasn’t cleaned often. I popped the bun back on the burger and told Johnny his order was up.
Only after the customer ate the entire burger did I tell Johnny what I had done. He laughed for such a long time! That was the only time I ever messed with a customer’s food, but I don’t regret it at all.

9. Michael Chan

I’ve seen and committed to purposefully slow or lackadaisical service when dealing with a customer or party that was rude, but I’ve never seen anybody deliberately tamper with someone’s food, ever, and even the meanest, most cantankerous people I have worked with never did such a thing in plain sight of other workers, nor have I ever heard any plausible stories about it from anyone I have worked with directly. In my career I have had the pleasure of working with many hundreds of people in the restaurant business. I have seen customers cursed out and thrown out, and I can’t deny having done those things myself. But I have never seen or been a part of purposefully tampering with any thing any person was to ingest. That’s not ever part of the deal, as shitty as customers treat wait staff, which can be unbelievably, inhumanely shitty. It’s part of the trade: you don’t fuck with people’s food.

The closest that would come to “disrespect” is when people have asked for a well-done piece of meat, which already is a faux pas, and get a genuine well-done piece of meat, and then complain about it not being well-done enough, at which point that piece or the re-fire would get cooked to the realm of being rawhide. Which was usually what the person wanted in the first place.

10. David Urquhart

In 2008, staff at the Coogee Bay Hotel – a beachside pub in Sydney – served gelato with human excrement in it.

The chocolate ice cream was complimentary after the customer(s) made a complaint.

11. David Durham

I can answer this question as someone who’s dealt with customers as a server. I’ve heard of instances where nasty things were done to rude guests but I’ve never seen such a thing, nor done it myself. It’s simply not professional. In dealing with rude customers a professional will just maintain a certain ‘business decorum’ and ride it out. Usually this approach wears down a person’s inclination to be mean. It doesn’t always work, and in cases where it doesn’t I find that by sticking to professional standards you can take pride in maintaining your integrity. And I’ll let you in on a couple of secrets: first, when a guest is consistently rude other customers notice. Abrasive behavior in public is almost always viewed with significant distaste by those around the perpetrator. A person may be oblivious to such distaste, but believe me, very rude people are not enhancing their public persona. They are, in fact, doing considerable harm to their integrity.

Secondly, there is this idea floating around out there that the American public is coarse and difficult. I do not find this to be true. Most customers simply want to have a nice time, unwind and relax. The average guest is not hard to deal with and can be quite patient if problems arise as long as communication is maintained. If you keep them abreast of events they will usually accept delays to a reasonable degree. It’s not knowing what’s going on that leads to anger more than anything else. I think a lot of servers, being human, remember the rude guy and forget all the pleasant folks who were not a problem at all. One has to step back and think about it and not let one bonehead color their feeling about people in general.

12. Joe Geronimo Martinez

I worked at a couple of Motorway services (English equivalent of Roadhouses). They worked on the theory that people were in a hurry, would get food poisoning in another location and accept crap.

If you complained about any of the garbage served, usually the temperature, it was just taken round the back,someone would spit on it, and then it would be sent back, people don’t generally complain twice.

Once we ran out of clean cutlery, my shift manager just wiped the knives and forks with a paper towel and instructed me to put them out. I refused on the grounds it could kill someone. He threatened me with the sack so I did do it, an action I often regret, but I was 19 and not really used to the world.

Classics that you could do, and were encouraged to do was to serve uncooked meat in batter, primarily fish, the batter will be crisp and look presentable, even if the fish was basically raw.

Burgers are fantastic ways of hiding dirt. Split the bun and throw it on the floor. Spit on burger then hide the spit under the gherkin, no one will spot anything on the burger once you have assembled it.

The whole place was a shambles. I would never eat at one. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

featured image – Amazon / Waiting

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