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Restaurant 101: How to Deal With Demanding Customers

Imaginary Wobbly Girl. In Prada.

Imagine you are the owner of a restaurant. Feel the hot sweats? Yeah, it’s a scary business. There are many pleasures such as pleasing customers with great food and service. But there are many potholes. Some of which you don’t see coming until you hit them head on. Utensils get swiped, servers get stiffed, and people complain. But lately I’ve heard a couple stories from restaurateurs that have actually stunned me. Some people have a lot of nerve. Here is one scenario.

A large table of office mates celebrating their annual holiday feast. Lots of food and drink flowing. Gal gets up to use the restroom. Wobbles on high heels towards the door. An employee happens to be in said restroom when Wobbly Gal slips. Said employee catches Wobbly Gal in mid fall. In the process, Wobbly Gal’s hand gets scratched. Wobbly Gal goes back to table. All is well.

Forty eight hours later, the Not-So-Wobbly Gal returns to the restaurant. She asks for the manager and demands $350 to pay for the jeans that were ruined when Wobbly Gal tried to get the blood out by using bleach. Oh, and she wants money for her shirt too. She has no receipts for anything. She looks like she could “throw a wobbly” at any moment.

You may think this answer is easy. Just say no. But restaurateurs are people pleasers and they don’t want to do anything to hurt the oh-so-important “word of mouth” publicity their business depends on. Many restaurants fork over the dough.

So how would you solve this problem?

13 comments on “Restaurant 101: How to Deal With Demanding Customers

  1. Tell her $350 is way too much to pay for jeans, she got ripped off and she should learn to never ever pay retail.

  2. You’re burying the lead…They make jeans that cost $350? I must be shopping in the wrong section at Target and Kohls.

  3. Inform her that she’ll have to file a claim through your establishment’s insurance policy. Then, the ins. co can be the mean ones as they thoroughly vet her story with that of the employee at assisted her and determine fault and if any payment is warranted.

  4. One more note – if the Wobby-Gal’s name is Jennifer and she has balls larger than pomegranites, Nancy has my permission to give you my email address. We need to talk.

  5. Depends on whether you wish to continue to go down the slippery slope of allowing yourself to be taken hostage. It can become an expensive hobby. So, a lawyer. Consult one on this problem BEFORE it occurs. Get your legal “rights” bearings. Educate your staff about the fine line between good client service and allowing a customer to con you or attempt to take you hostage. Finally, consult a forensic accountant or get Nate Silver drunk and find out what the likely cost to your business various resolutions to such situations might incur. Finally, ascertain whether the client has been drinking, and, if possible, estimate how impaired their judgment may be. Now, you have a plan. You can cave, you can replace the damaged item and let the person know that their business is no longer welcome, or your can politely, but firmly refuse, citing the likely more damaging and costly injuries the client could have sustained had your employee not played white knight. One evening, back in the day, at dinner at La Caravelle in NYC, a couple seated near us on a banquette, caused quite a scene. The man, eager to brandish his apparently purchased-whole savor-faire (the equivalent then of today’s fooderati “authorities”), demanded steak-frites (so last decade at that time), to which the Maitre d’ responded “La Caravelle does not serve steak and French Fries, that is why La Caravelle IS La Caravelle. The man then loudly announced he was ordering a bottle of Chateau Petrus ’53 and that it was the priciest Bordeaux on the wine list, and Oh!, BTW, he wanted a cigar, pre-Castro Havana. The cigar girl arrived, mahogany humidor on a strap around her neck, lid opened, fat stogies on display. He reached for one, took the proffered cigar circumcizer, and managed to destroy said smoke. He reached for another, as did his girlfriend, upsetting the filled balloon glasses and bottle of Petrus, which spread across the snowy linen like the blood of a holy sacrifice. The Maitre d’ – French, tall, thin, very intimidating in the best of times, and the Devil in ‘roid rage at the worst, materialized at the table, relieved the man of his cigar, told him where to take their clothing for dry-cleaning which “will be on La Caravelle,” and added in Absolute Zero tones that he was “so sorry that La Caravelle would not be able to receive them again.” And THAT, is the spirit of how these incidents really should be handled. Either send them to Taco Bell, or you have reduced your etablissment TO Taco Bell.

  6. Depends on whether you wish to continue to go down the slippery slope of allowing yourself to be taken hostage. It can become an expensive hobby. So, a lawyer. Consult one on this problem BEFORE it occurs. Get your legal “rights” bearings. Educate your staff about the fine line between good client service and allowing a customer to con you or attempt to take you hostage. Finally, consult a forensic accountant or get Nate Silver drunk and find out what the likely cost to your business various resolutions to such situations might incur. Finally, ascertain whether the client has been drinking, and, if possible, estimate how impaired their judgment may be. Now, you have a plan. You can cave, you can replace the damaged item and let the person know that their business is no longer welcome, or your can politely, but firmly refuse, citing the likely more damaging and costly injuries the client could have sustained had your employee not played white knight. One evening, back in the day, at dinner at La Caravelle in NYC, a couple seated near us on a banquette, caused quite a scene. The man, eager to brandish his apparently purchased-whole savor-faire (the equivalent then of today’s fooderati “authorities”), demanded steak-frites (so last decade at that time), to which the Maitre d’ responded “La Caravelle does not serve steak and French Fries, that is why La Caravelle IS La Caravelle. The man then loudly announced he was ordering a bottle of Chateau Petrus ’53 and that it was the priciest Bordeaux on the wine list, and Oh!, BTW, he wanted a cigar, pre-Castro Havana. The cigar girl arrived, mahogany humidor on a strap around her neck, lid opened, fat stogies on display. He reached for one, took the proffered cigar circumcizer, and managed to destroy said smoke. He reached for another, as did his girlfriend, upsetting the filled balloon glasses and bottle of Petrus, which spread across the snowy linen like the blood of a holy sacrifice. The Maitre d’ – French, tall, thin, very intimidating in the best of times, and the Devil in ‘roid rage at the worst, materialized at the table, relieved the man of his cigar, told him where to take their clothing for dry-cleaning which “will be on La Caravelle,” and added in Absolute Zero tones that he was “so sorry that La Caravelle would not be able to receive them again.” And THAT, is the spirit of how these incidents really should be handled. Either send them to Taco Bell, or you have reduced your etablissment TO Taco Bell.

  7. Reminder her the Observer is looking for a candidate for Drunk of the Week and you have pictures of the incident.