Whether you’re a service industry veteran or simply a restaurant goer and frequent patron, we’ve all fallen victim to, or witnessed, the asinine behavior of some folks whilst dining out. When we encounter patronizing ignorance or downright harassment, we industry professional have to decide: “How shall I respond to this?” I believe there’s a varying spectrum that correlates behavior to reaction. I’ve laid out a few examples, in case any of you industry brethren find yourselves in a compromising customer service position. And, because the responses in this column require far more words than simply: “Don’t be an asshole.”
First on the spectrum of rude behavior is simply blatant ignorance, which is forgivable. For example, a group is sitting at the bar for a time and has racked up a steady and substantial tab, and then they decide they would rather sit at a table so they are facing each other. They’ll probably feel inclined to get up, move to a table, and ask for their tab to be transferred. “Would you like to pay your tab?” says the barkeep, “Ohhhh, can you just transfer it over here?” asks Cindy, with the Kate Gosselin haircut. Now, chances are, Cindy is not a terrible person. She doesn’t mean to be rude. She simply would like to make things as easy as possible. Does she realize that the bartender, who has been slaving away for an hour over Cosmopolitans for Humana’s entire Human Resources Department will now make zero dollars if the group chooses to transfer its tab? Does she understand that the sales from all their libations will now be taken over by a server, whose table they are now inhabiting, so they’ll essentially be tipping 20 percent (hopefully) of the bill to a worker who hasn’t actually done the work? Probably not. Cindy doesn’t understand the way of the industry world, clearly. She doesn’t know the difference between Sarah behind the bar and Megan working the floor, and server sections, and bar seating and tipping out on sales. My advice? Politely tell Cindy that, actually, you’d rather they went ahead and settled up with the bar, since Megan will gladly be taking over their service from here on out at the table. If Cindy doesn’t mind, of course, because Cindy wants what Cindy gets. Ignorance busted, a calm polite reaction, and money in the right hands.
The next breed of rude that runs rampant most commonly amongst fine dining establishments, but occasionally has been known to penetrate brewpubs and even casual dining, is the called fuckface. The kind that will respond to your, “Hi, folks, how are you doing this evening?” with the words, “pinot grigio.” The kind who cannot be pleased, who complains about the most minute details and who asks for a manager despite your eager efforts to provide stellar service. While I occasionally have been known to respond to pinot-grigio fuckface with, “OK, pinot grigio it is. Now, I asked how you’re doing, ma’am. Sock it to me!” Because my sarcasm often gets the best of me, but my advice is to kill ’em with kindness. Apply that golden rule to said pompous guest and make certain the service is something they simply won’t be able to fault. Try to make connections and create conversations. Look at this individual as a personal customer service challenge and, chances are, you’ll hit that victory lap when they do eventually crack a smile.
Rudeness and alcohol consumption often go hand in hand, alas: the drunk moron. Drunk moron behavior can span the spectrum, from doofy entertainment value for you and your bar guests, to a dangerous situation riddled with anger and harassment — and things can turn sour quickly, mind you. On the positive, encountering an over-served patron can be tolerated sometimes, because, while alcohol is no excuse for asinine behavior, some things can simply be boiled down to: “He’s drunk.” Drunken out-of-towner has asked to pay his tab three times, after he’s paid? It’s fine. He’s wasted. Get him a to-go water, and ask if he minds if you call him an Uber. Inebriated frat boy can barely hold his head up? It’s cool — his friends are getting him out momentarily. I take joy in using the drunk moron as an opportunity to say something I probably couldn’t get away with in a sober situation, because this guest won’t remember it anyway. “Oh, honey, no, I won’t go out with you. You remind me of the male version of Crazy Eyes from “Orange is The New Black,” and you probably live in your mom’s basement. Buh bye, now.” You can handle happy drunk moron with ease by having water and the number for a taxi on hand at any moment. It’s when drunk moron turns aggressive, harassing or combative, that it’s time to bring in the manager. Walk away. Grab a supervisor. Ain’t nobody got time for that.