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The customer is NOT always right


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#61 KatieLoeb

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Posted 11 March 2011 - 09:13 PM

Just had a situation where a customer wanted the octopus that came with a red pepper and chorizo saute without pork (it's pre-batched so the pork can't be left out) made without the chorizo and with the piquillo peppers that were listed with another dish. Expected everything in the restaurant to grind to a screeching halt while someone came off the line at 8:30pm on a Saturday to go run down to the walk-in, get the raw piquillo peppers that we have for a different dish, seed and shred them and make her a personal portion of something that simply didn't exist on the menu. To hell with the other 120 customers in the restaurant. Because her wants are just that important. Sorry. That's just WRONG. Her husband was mortified when she insisted on speaking to the manager and tipped the poor server that had to deal with this lunatic very well. And the server earned it. I'm all for being accommodating within reason, but this beyotch was just delusional. And sadly, that's often the case.

"I'd like the Seven Grain bread with no oats, please..."

"I'll have the seasonal field green salad with no Autumn. I'm allergic to Autumn..." :rolleyes:

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#62 Edward J

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Posted 11 March 2011 - 10:50 PM

[Actually in that instance you were plain wrong. Didn't the vest and the 'well-behaved' young animal give you a clue? Seeing eye dogs are far from the only service animals in existence, they were just the first in common use, and disabilities can be far from obvious. If somebody walked in with a guide dog puppy, would you throw them out because they weren't blind? If you see an animal with a service vest on, and the person says it's a service animal, it's a service animal unless proven otherwise. AFAIK it's illegal to demand proof unless the animal creates an actual problem.



Thank you.

I took the precaution of e-mailing my health inspector about this issue. The inspector, with over 18 years on the job in the greater Vancouver area, had never heard of this, and using the information I provided her of the association in question, proceeded to call up and educate herself as well as the entire Health Dept.

Why is it illegal to demand proof? Please answer, in your post you wrote, "If you see an animal with a service vest on, and the person says it's a service animal, it's a service animal until proven otherwise" And here I may remind you that I asked the owner to furnish such documents. Perhaps I should take it at face value when a customer hands me a phoney $20.00 bill and insists it's genuine because they say it is?

You write, "It's illegal to demand proof unless the animal creates an actual problem". And if the animal does? Then what? I assume all damage costs, comping customers out of my own pocket? When the damage is done, it's done.

Why is it legal to fine me, the restaurant owner $120.00 for allowing non-licensed dogs, and the dog owner walks away and laughs? Please answer, and please acknowledge the fine is charged to me, the restaurant owner, not the dog owner.

Who said anything about throwing out the customer? The dog can be leashed outside like many of my other customer's dogs, as I suggested. I even provide water dishes and a supply of plastic bags for this purpose.

Why is it fair to allow dogs in a fine chocolate shop on a rainy day full of people, when every customer does not expect dogs to be in restaurants? Don't figure me the wrong way, I own and bi-daily walk a lab-chow X.

Is every doggie vest a grand proclamation that the said dog is free to enter foodservice establishments just because it's a doggie vest? Perhaps the doggie vests have a license # on them?

Looking forward to your reply

#63 Mjx

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Posted 12 March 2011 - 01:11 AM

The customer has the right to ask for substitutions, the restaurant has the right to decline. life goes on. If you dont like peaches, dont order peche melba.


Excactly.

Add 'And let's all be polite and non-confrontational about this', and that should cover it.

But things seem to have reached a point where both customers and chefs expect the worst from the other side, which makes it hard to come to this subject without feeling a bit hostile/defensive.

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#64 Mano

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Posted 12 March 2011 - 05:21 AM

Chef's/owners of private restaurants are entitled to treat their customers any way they wish within legal parameters and are forced to accept the consequences accordingly. This is true for all service businesses and probably for most manufactured goods.

No data that I'm aware of, but the vast majority try to please their customers.

The small number rude and arrogant outliers who are successful fascinate me (I think that's why this thread has legs) but I wouldn't give them a penny of my money.

Oh, and EdwardJ was correct in how he handled the matter.

Edited by Mano, 12 March 2011 - 05:35 AM.

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#65 LaurieB

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Posted 12 March 2011 - 08:48 PM

I LOVE this and am going to post it (with some minor changes) in my kitchen. Thanks!

#66 ElaineK

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Posted 13 March 2011 - 05:26 PM

Why is it illegal to demand proof?

Because that's what the law says? You're in Vancouver, not the US, though, and Canada is still in the process of codifying treatment of service animals, and it seems to be happening on a Province level. In the US, most service dogs don't have "documents" - they're not required, and those who do have some certification intentionally don't carry them because you're not allowed to require them. See http://www.ada.gov/qasrvc.htm for a good overview. For BC, this seems to be the extent of the law http://www.bclaws.ca...ide/00_96177_01

Why is it fair to allow dogs in a fine chocolate shop on a rainy day full of people, when every customer does not expect dogs to be in restaurants? Don't figure me the wrong way, I own and bi-daily walk a lab-chow X.

Because some customers require service dogs in order to enjoy your fine chocolate shop. It's certainly less fun for them than it is for you. Just like it's less fun to need a cane or a wheelchair, especially in in a small and busy shop on a rainy day.

#67 JeanneCake

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Posted 13 March 2011 - 05:44 PM

I didn't think there was an objection to a service dog; I thought the objection was that clarification was asked for, and not provided until later. It wasn't immediately obvious that it was a service dog.

If it had been a readily identified service dog, I don't think it would have been an issue for the Health Dept and there would have been no chance of a fine being levied. Because that's what the shop owner is trying to avoid: being fined for something he has no control over and if the Health Dept tried to assess a fine, he would have been able to show proof of the service dog's legitimacy.

#68 ElaineK

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Posted 13 March 2011 - 06:28 PM

And it may be that in BC, documentation is required. In the US, the conversation would pretty much have to go "I'm sorry, we don't allow dogs inside." "It's a service animal" "Oh, ok, then!" There's just no identification or certification/documentation process. It does work on the word of the owner and the word of the owner is sufficient to prevent a fine. Even the vests/harnesses are optional.

In the case of a customer who didn't appear to be disabled, and an animal who didn't appear to be trained, I think you can legally ask what service the animal provides, or the general nature of the service, but I'm not particularly clear on those regulations, to be honest.

I think that allowing access for service dogs in training without an individual with a disability present may vary in the US on a state by state basis. I'm surprised that in Canada, where there generally seem to be fewer allowances for service animals that a still-in-training dog has equal access.
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#69 Edward J

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Posted 13 March 2011 - 06:54 PM

Thank you for your reply.

In my last post I asked you to acknowledge that in the event of a non-licensed dog being reported in my, or any other establishment, the restaurant owner gets the fine. I will now ask you again to please acknowledge this.

Is it illegal for a waiter/ess or liquor store clerk to ask you for identification when purchasing alcohol?

No, of course not. If it is determined that such an establishment was serving liquor to minors, hefty fines would ensue--to the owner of the establishment.

Is it illegal for a store clerk or bank clerk to ask you for I.D. when paying with credit cards or depositing /cashing cheques?

No, of course not.

So when I am fully aware of the law, and know that if the Health Dept. determines that I allowed a non-licensed dog into my establishment, I will get a fine. Do I not have the right to protect my business? Why then, does this seem wrong? I am only asking for I.D. or documentation, same as a bar or liquor store.

#70 Holly Moore

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Posted 13 March 2011 - 07:28 PM

In a response to a different thread on dogs in restaurants, I asked a friend fairly high up in the Philadelphia Health Dept. their policy. Dogs are not allowed but they can take no action unless a heath inspector is present and sees the violation. Extremely small odds. Such may be the case elsewhere, too.

Beyond that, as long as the dog was behaving as a service dog, I would avoid challenging a customer who declares a dog is a service dog.
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#71 daves

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Posted 13 March 2011 - 10:34 PM

So when I am fully aware of the law, and know that if the Health Dept. determines that I allowed a non-licensed dog into my establishment, I will get a fine. Do I not have the right to protect my business? Why then, does this seem wrong? I am only asking for I.D. or documentation, same as a bar or liquor store.


Unfortunately, your good intentions are likely not good enough to navigate this mess. I was curious what the WA state guidance was, and I found a couple of interesting tidbits on http://www.hum.wa.go...viceAnimal.html From my read, you're screwed if you do and screwed if you don't. :wacko:

First is this one:

Q. The county health department has told me that only a guide dog has to be admitted. If I follow those rules, am I violating the Law Against Discrimination?
Yes, if you refuse to admit any other type of service animal on the basis of local health department regulations or other state or local laws. There is no evidence that healthy, vaccinated, well-trained service animals are any greater threat to public health and safety than members of the general public. Health Department rules that apply to certain animals in food processing areas will, however, be considered on a case by case basis.


If you listen to the Health Dept, you'll get fined by the Human Rights Commission, and if you listen to the Human Rights Commission, the Health Dept will be coming for you. Somehow the case-by-case basis tells me that they'll let you know you've failed to follow the non-documented rules as you get fined...

But wait, it gets even better:

Q. How can I tell if an animal is really a service animal and not just a pet?
There are no legal requirements for service animals to be specially identified. Some, but not all, service animals, wear special collars and harnesses. Some, but not all, are licensed or “certified” and/or have identification papers. If you are not certain that an animal is a service animal, you may ask the person who has the animal if it is a service animal required because of a disability. A public entity cannot require any proof of a person’s disability, or identification or certification of the service animal’s status.


So the Health Dept will fine you. Your defense could be that the animal was represented to you as a service animal, but there is no way to obtain proof. Ack.

Finally, there is specific guidance in WA state for animals-in-training:

Q. Must I let in a service animal in training, or a person who does not have a disability who says the animals is trained as a service animal?
No. The Washington State Law Against Discrimination does not address service animals that are not trained. While you might choose to allow these animals entry, you do not have legal obligations to do so. Additionally, the State Law Against Discrimination protects the rights of individuals who have disabilities and are assisted by service animals, and does not pertain to non-disabled individuals who have service animals.


So, in your specific case, if this occurred in WA state, my read is that you must have the service animal-in-training removed. You have no safe harbor (such as it is) shielding you from the Health Dept.

I've watched a few local food businesses, including a couple owned by friends, go under due to conflicting rules established by different government agencies. Nobody cared in the least that their rules would put you in jeopardy from another agency.

Edited by daves, 13 March 2011 - 10:39 PM.


#72 Edward J

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Posted 14 March 2011 - 11:36 AM

Thank you for your investigation on this, daves, the Vancouver Health dept. could not offer me this much information at all.

I think it should be make clear that if a merchant or restaurant owner does ask for identification, all they are looking for is that the dog is indeed permitted to be in such businesses. It is of no concern at all whythe customer has such a dog, only that the dog meet such criteria.

#73 AaronM

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Posted 14 March 2011 - 12:44 PM

"We reserve the right to refuse service to any customer, at any time, for any reason."

#74 Zeemanb

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Posted 14 March 2011 - 12:55 PM

At one of our favorite restaurants on Saturday night, I noticed something at the bottom of the menu for the first time...along the lines of "To insure the integrity of each dish, substitutions are not allowed". Short and sweet, the guess work is done for you, he will not budge one millimeter....and the restaurant is consistently booked solid. I keep wanting to see someone like the piquillo pepper lunatic take issue with his policy....epic fail.

#75 Will

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Posted 14 March 2011 - 02:58 PM

From the article: "David Chang, whose small empire of Momofuku restaurants is known for refusing to make substitutions or provide vegetarian options. “Instead of trying to make a menu that’s for everyone, let’s make a menu that works best for what we want to do.” He added, “The customer is not always right.”"

What drives me nuts is that Chang has been quoted recently raving about Shojin Ryori, the traditionally vegetarian Japanese temple food (true, some modern shojin places will use katsuo dashi, and few Japanese Buddhists are vegetarian in modern times, but historically, Shojin Ryori is pure vegetarian temple cuisine).

I hear that vegetables are poised to become the new bacon, so seems funny that after being so anti-vegetarian for so long, he's jumping on the newest bandwagon. That said, I totally defend his right not to offer vegetarian options. As someone who frequently eats vegetarian and vegan meals at high-end restaurants, I'd rather have a place say "we can't accommodate you" than get served a bad meal. But honestly, I think his attitude on vegetarianism specifically (vs. accomodating every single special request, like removing olives or whatever) kind of feeds into that Anthony Bourdain macho "meat meat meat" attitude, and while I agree that a restaurant can't be all things to all people, sometimes, working within limitations can be very rewarding. I would rather support a chef who says "this isn't my thing, but I'm excited to give it a shot". Anyway, hopefully for him, Chang will continue to be lucky enough to turn away vegetarians and still run a successful business.

Edited by Will, 14 March 2011 - 02:59 PM.


#76 Will

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Posted 14 March 2011 - 03:24 PM

As for the vegetarian thing, I'd suggest you stick to cuisines and restaurants that cater to that sort of thing.

Honestly, the caliber of food at most vegetarian only places is not the same as that at the highest end non-vegetarian restaurants. It's no secret that if you want the very best vegetarian food possible, often your best choice is somewhere that is not vegetarian only. But I think it's important to bring it up the right way - call ahead of time, explain the situation, be specific about what you can and cannot eat, and ask if the restaurant can accommodate you or not. Interestingly, sometimes it's the places who agree but think it's a bit of a stretch who come up with the best things. I'm of course grateful to be accommodated in any event, but it's usually very obvious when the chef enjoys (and rises to) the challenge vs. when they're just throwing out something that technically meets the criteria. The very best chefs often can come up with something incredible, even with these sorts of limitations. And yes, occasional mistakes and / or cross-contamination are inevitable when you're eating food prepared in a kitchen that's not exclusively vegetarian, so people for whom absolute purity is important do need to stick to veg*n restaurants.

And, like vegetarians, vegans, pescetarians or not, there are a lot of us, and many / most of us go out to eat with people who are not. While going to a fully vegetarian restaurant often isn't an option, restaurants which don't offer anything may end up losing business to restaurants which are more accommodating.

In case anyone's interesting, here's a side-by-side of a vegan and standard tasting menu at Michael Cimarusti's Providence in Los Angeles. Despite being famous for his work with seafood, I've never been short of amazed at the vegetable dishes he comes up with.
http://www.runawaysq...ble-providence/

Edited by Will, 14 March 2011 - 03:26 PM.


#77 ElaineK

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Posted 15 March 2011 - 09:52 AM

Thank you for your reply.

In my last post I asked you to acknowledge that in the event of a non-licensed dog being reported in my, or any other establishment, the restaurant owner gets the fine. I will now ask you again to please acknowledge this.


Just to clarify, you asked Kajikit to acknowledge that, not me. I don't believe that they've replied to the thread since. However, the fact that you may be assessed a fine doesn't change the tenants of the ADA. I don't claim that's fair, but there are many situations in which the intersects of well-intentioned laws aren't completely fair. In the situations I've been in, the local health department was aware that the business owner's hands were tied and would not assess a fine for a service animal being in a food consumption area. Plant tours and the like that would have a service animal in a food prep area would be a far more difficult situation to navigate.

Is it illegal for a store clerk or bank clerk to ask you for I.D. when paying with credit cards or depositing /cashing cheques?

Illegal? No. It is a violation of their merchant agreement to require ID when paying with a credit card though. Depending on the card, asking for ID can be a violation of the merchant agreement.

So when I am fully aware of the law, and know that if the Health Dept. determines that I allowed a non-licensed dog into my establishment, I will get a fine. Do I not have the right to protect my business? Why then, does this seem wrong? I am only asking for I.D. or documentation, same as a bar or liquor store.


Being fully aware of the law means that you need to be aware that the ADA requires you to allow active service animals (those in the company of "their" individual with a disability) into your shop and that you can't enquire too closely into the nature of their disability or the service the dog performs. To do otherwise opens you up to lawsuits that are likely to cost you more than $120 to resolve. Protecting your business is up to you, and some conversations with the local health department about how they would handle it, or your lawyer/small business association about the best ways you can protect yourself from liability may be in order.

Moreover, there is no official documentation for service animals in the US. Seeing that piece of paper doesn't give you any more than the illusion of protection. You're not going to photocopy it and keep it around in case the health department asks. You're going to look at it and nod your head and serve your customer and promptly forget what was on it.
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#78 Edward J

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Posted 15 March 2011 - 05:56 PM

Ahh...
Interesting depiction of U.S. law, but of course, it's not applicable in Canada.

The whole dogs issue has been on my mind and I only realized how much of an issue it will be when I checked out "urban fare", a high-end supermarket/deli with several branches in Vancouver and more in the lower mainland, this weekend. Upon entering the building, the doors had a several pictograms with red "X"'s through them: NO outside food allowed, no video cameras allowed, and no dogs other than seeing eye dogs allowed. The same "no dogs other than seeing eye dogs allowed" pictogram was on several other food service businesses as well.

So I got to thinking......

Until that fateful day when I first became aware of "service animals", (1) I had no idea they existed. (2) Until I personally contacted VCH (Van. Coastal Health) they had no idea service animals existed. (3)My customers had no idea service animals existed, and clearly two people-elderly Asian women, were uncomforable with dogs in restaurants, as well. (4) Urban Fare and other businesses seem comfortable enough to boldy state that no dogs other than seeing eye dogs are allowed on their doors.

So even though service dogs may be allowed, no one knows about it........

I can forsee a time when service dogs will become popular enough to be seen daily on public transport and taxis, and I forsee that the non-profits/organizations that use these dogs should make the public aware.

A court case is a bit extreme, but attention grabbing. Frankly I think a better idea would be to use "ambassadors", dog trainers and owners, to make the public and businesses aware that these dogs do have the freedom that seeing eye dogs have as well.

In other words, a carrot is better than a stick.....

And now, I must apologize for hi-jacking this thread. Should anyone wish to continue, please feel free to P.M. me

#79 Lupinus

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Posted 30 March 2011 - 01:37 PM

To me it depends on the nature of the request and how hard it is to accommodate or how much it changes the dish/prep.

We love sushi but my wife absolutely hates wasabi, and I'm not a big fan myself (and then only used extremely sparingly). So a simple request of please don't slather green goo all over my fish should be honored, and I see no reason it shouldn't be.

Wanting entirely different elements to a dish or wanting a special order that isn't possible for prep reasons is something else entirely.

Edited by Lupinus, 30 March 2011 - 01:37 PM.


#80 Fat Guy

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Posted 30 March 2011 - 02:50 PM

There's an apropos quote from Charlie Trotter in today's New York Times:

“You know the old adage that the customer’s always right?” he said. “Well, I kind of think that the opposite is true. The customer is rarely right. And that is why you must seize the control of the circumstance and dominate every last detail: to guarantee that they’re going to have a far better time than they ever would have had if they tried to control it themselves.”


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#81 daisy17

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Posted 30 March 2011 - 03:03 PM

There's an apropos quote from Charlie Trotter in today's New York Times:

“You know the old adage that the customer’s always right?” he said. “Well, I kind of think that the opposite is true. The customer is rarely right. And that is why you must seize the control of the circumstance and dominate every last detail: to guarantee that they’re going to have a far better time than they ever would have had if they tried to control it themselves.”


I can't disagree with the premise, but is there a way for him to say it without sounding like a total asshole?

#82 scubadoo97

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Posted 30 March 2011 - 04:23 PM

To me it depends on the nature of the request and how hard it is to accommodate or how much it changes the dish/prep.

We love sushi but my wife absolutely hates wasabi, and I'm not a big fan myself (and then only used extremely sparingly). So a simple request of please don't slather green goo all over my fish should be honored, and I see no reason it shouldn't be.

Wanting entirely different elements to a dish or wanting a special order that isn't possible for prep reasons is something else entirely.


Good example.

A sushi restaurant that it heavy handed on the wasabi is one thing but a meal at Charlie Trotter's is quite another.

#83 gemilwitch

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Posted 30 March 2011 - 11:02 PM

I think we're discussing the difference between "art" vs. "trade", here. I think for true culinary artists, like Blumenthal, or Trotter we are going for the experience, not just the food. When you come back from one of these wonderful places, you talk about it for weeks, months and sometimes even years later, where you very rarely talk about the meal you had at the Outback Steakhouse or Denny's.

Personally, that's how i see this discussion about submission. For a true artist, you are there to experience his vision of food, so you choose the road your interested in traveling down that night, and he or she guides you through it, like a Psychopomp. Where as you go to the mom/pop or chain restaurant to eat, not to experience something. Some of the best meals I've eaten were at the hands of a friend who wanted to make something new and exciting for me, I kow its not quite the same, but I let them lead me through their vision of what the food should be.

#84 xxchef

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Posted 31 March 2011 - 01:44 PM

Well, I'm dealing with this issue right now and could use some guidance.

We host periodic cheese making and goat herd management workshops here at the Ranch and also offer our "Bunkhouse" for small group lodging. We are a very long way from town and further from decent dining so we include meals for our overnight guests.

The meals we provide are good home-cooked meals proudly featuring almost exclusively Ranch-produced foods including our own pork, beef, chicken, duck, veggies from our own gardens or greenhouse, dairy products and cheeses from our on-site goat dairy. The meals are very diverse, well balanced with something for everybody and considered by most the highlight of their stay.

I am in the process of booking a group of four women who will be staying one night. They are nutrition students at a school in Phoenix and as so wanted to get a sample menu of the food I might be serving, which I provided.

That's when it started. The "she can't have that" and "she doesn't like this", and "one is ovo-lacto and one is kind-of vegan, and one can't have lactose" and "we'd rather do it THIS way", etc, etc, etc.

Example: For the lunch I suggested a nice quiche meal: free-range ranch eggs, ranch grown and smoked bacon, vegetables and a blend of house-made goat cheeses (swiss, jack and cheddar) with several types of salad and some fruit. They came back with (and I quote): "How about making the quiche without the eggs or the meat and putting it on grilled bread, like a panini?" <sigh>

We are not talking about a lot of money per person here at all and now she wants to know what brand of coffee we use and she's concerned that our "whey-fed pork" will have too much whey in it for one of the women. HEY LADY!!! The HOG was FED WHEY before we KILLED it for the pork chops! There is NO WHEY in the PORK!

I'm usually pretty accommodating but why on earth do these people even want to come here? I'm considering countering with "Salad buffet for every meal, meats and cheeses on the side, BYOB (ALL beverages). Take it or leave it".

Hoping cooler heads here will steer me in a different direction.

(edited to fix a couple of typos)

Edited by xxchef, 31 March 2011 - 01:49 PM.

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#85 Edward J

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Posted 31 March 2011 - 02:10 PM

"----" will provide 3 (price inclusive) wonderfull home cooked meals showcasing on-site grown produce, dairy and meats. Cooking facilities are available for those who wish to prepare their own meals.....

#86 AaronM

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Posted 31 March 2011 - 02:25 PM

Farm stuff.


Fuck 'em.

#87 robirdstx

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Posted 31 March 2011 - 02:40 PM

"----" will provide 3 (price inclusive) wonderfull home cooked meals showcasing on-site grown produce, dairy and meats. Cooking facilities are available for those who wish to prepare their own meals.....


I agree with this.

#88 IndyRob

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Posted 31 March 2011 - 02:47 PM

I am in the process of booking a group of four women who will be staying one night. They are nutrition students at a school in Phoenix and as so wanted to get a sample menu of the food I might be serving, which I provided.

That's when it started.


Nah, I think it started with "They are nutrition students." Isn't that a curriculum designed to give you the academic credentials to prove that you are always right - no matter which end of the equation you are on?

#89 Zeemanb

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Posted 31 March 2011 - 04:57 PM


Farm stuff.


Fuck 'em.


Exactly.

This scenario has mass-murder/suicide written all over it.

#90 KatieLoeb

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Posted 31 March 2011 - 09:01 PM

Refund whatever small amount is covering their meals and tell them their demands are simply too diverse and too time consuming and you can't possibly accommodate them as well as care for your other guests that are staying in the same time frame. Let them bring their own food or fend for themselves when there's nothing nearby. Not your problem any longer. Simply don't charge them for services not rendered/partaken in. And if they don't pay for it they shouldn't be allowed to have anything but tap water. To rinse their mouths out when they brush their teeth. But nothing more. Let them bring their own bottled water to drink. Done.

That ought to teach those entitled beyotches a lesson they're clearly far overdue for...

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Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol