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xxchef

The customer is NOT always right

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Really? 'Simple' is asking for no dressing on a salad. I wouldn't expect them, at no extra cost, to prepare a different side dish. Assuming that side isn't served with something else on the menu.


Chris Taylor

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I've never met an animal I didn't enjoy with salt and pepper.

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""David Chang, whose small empire of Momofuku restaurants is known for refusing to make substitutions or provide vegetarian options."

He must not be all that great at preparing vegetable dishes. :biggrin:

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In an issue of the Atlantic City Press this week there was a letter from the chef of an Ocean City NJ restaurant, criticizing restaurant patrons for using alleged allergies to get special treatment. One example was a customer who wanted to substitue something for the broccolli because she was allergic to broccoli and another who wanted to substitute french fries for mashed potatoes because of being allergic to potatoes. The letter ended with an ultimatum to the public to stop using so-called allergies to get special treatment.

Naturally, the chef waited until the tourist season was well over before venting, but from the tone of the letter I got the impression that the chef must have bitten their tongue so often between Memorial Day and Labor Day that it was still sore at the end of September. Ocean City is a dry town, and an initiative to allow byobs was once more defeated recently, so it's not as if restaurant customers can mellow out over a bottle of wine or a couple of beers before ordering their meal.


"A fool", he said, "would have swallowed it". Samuel Johnson

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David Chang has FU market share and can do whatever he wants, which is why you go to his restaurants - to see what he'll do. For most of the rest of us it's probably not the right business model and for diners there are more than enough accomodating restaurants out there that let you backseat drive. I say do your thang David Chang.. looking forward to the Chinatown issue of the journal too.

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It's not just a part of small business, how is it fair that your good customers must cover the cost of the few bad customers?Fortunately these customers are few and far between but why is it not fair that you list your experience as a business owner with individuals? If multiple businesses report the same issues it will become obvious they are takers and legitimate customers will no longer have to cover the losses they create.


Hike Sedona Hiking Preparedness + Energy Supply + Apparel & Gear

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I don't quite follow your post, or the points you make, redfox.

Could you elaborate a bit?

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I'm not going to bother debating vegetarian customers again. They'll come in and ask if there's a way to make a meatless, cruelty-free ossobuco.

The customer is certainly NOT always right. We had a dingbat come in the other day and claim to be allergic to SALT. Slapping the stupidity out of them is not an option, unfortunately.


Who cares how time advances? I am drinking ale today. -- Edgar Allan Poe

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The customer is certainly NOT always right. We had a dingbat come in the other day and claim to be allergic to SALT. Slapping the stupidity out of them is not an option, unfortunately.

Ive had that recently as well. Better yet a woman insisted on a gluten free entree the other day, but wanted to change the rice to pasta.

Wanted to slap a server last week as well when he rang in an order for a split burger with two different temps. (we do an awesome burger for happy hour in the bar)

You don't just go into a restaurant and say, 'feed me', tell the waiter to just bring you what he or she deems best.

I do it all the time and usually have fantastic meals this way!

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We had one come in tonight, claiming to be deathly allergic to onions. Then the moron asked for ketchup to go with his meal. I guess he never read the ingredient list on ketchup. Deathly allergic, my ass.


Who cares how time advances? I am drinking ale today. -- Edgar Allan Poe

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See, now that kind of situation separates the cooks from the waiters. I've got a big stupid mouth and no fear of being stiffed on tips---cooks never get them and owners don't get them either. (It just simply isn't done, doncha' know?) I'd probably say someting like : "I'll give you a free dessert if you can read all of the ingredients on the label". and then run like he** as the waiter comes over to administer damage control........

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We had one come in tonight, claiming to be deathly allergic to onions. Then the moron asked for ketchup to go with his meal. I guess he never read the ingredient list on ketchup. Deathly allergic, my ass.

To be fair - there is such a thing as a deathly allergy to RAW onions - my friend Mary Lee has an anaphalaptic reaction to raw onions (even just the smell of them can make her visibly sick, and I've seen it happen when her burger plate or salad arrived with raw onions even after she asked that none be put on her plate), but she can safely consume (and loves) onions in cooked or processed form. She's not a prima donna about it - just politely asks that no raw onions be served to her, and her friends know that if they want raw onions on their plate, they have to sit a few seats away from her.


"Life is Too Short to Not Play With Your Food" (coined while playing with my food at Lolita).

My blog: Fun Playing With Food

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To be fair - there is such a thing as a deathly allergy to RAW onions - my friend Mary Lee has an anaphalaptic reaction to raw onions (even just the smell of them can make her visibly sick, and I've seen it happen when her burger plate or salad arrived with raw onions even after she asked that none be put on her plate), but she can safely consume (and loves) onions in cooked or processed form. She's not a prima donna about it - just politely asks that no raw onions be served to her, and her friends know that if they want raw onions on their plate, they have to sit a few seats away from her.

Which is why it's best just to honor such requests. It's not difficult to just not serve something they ask not to be served and we don't always know as much as we think we know. Maybe they are just being dramatic to underscore the point that they don't want something. Maybe we think they can't possibly be allergic to this because they eat that. Maybe we're wrong and kill somebody or make them very sick. Not worth the risk as far as I'm concerned. If they say they can't eat something, as far as I'm concerned, they can't eat it... even if I happen to strongly suspect that they simply don't want to eat it. I don't consider eating preferences or food allergies part of customers being right or wrong anyway. Allergies are a medical thing and preferences aren't right or wrong, they're preferences.


It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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I agree that it's not worth the risk. But WTF do you do for the guest who claims to be allergic to salt? Everything has some salt in it. What should we do? Walk across the street to the pharmacy and buy the guest a bottle of distilled water?

I just find it odd that people say things like, "I'm deathly allergic to onions, please pass the ketchup." Or, "I have a horrible gluten allergy. Is the penne fresh?"

And perhaps I'm cynical -- but I have a feeling that the majority of these requests are because the guests think they are special snowflakes and don't trust us to hold the onions just because they don't like onions. Guest doesn't like mushrooms? No problems. It will be a mushroom-free. No need to pull the allergy card.

I'm not dismissive of claims of allergies, far from. My wife can't eat a kiwi fruit -- she'll stop breathing. But in the past six months, the "deathly allergic to" tickets have SKYROCKETED. They're deathly allergic to foie gras, salt, gluten, potatoes, carrots, mushrooms (lots of these), onions (raw, cooked, whatever), meat in all forms, all forms of alcohol, butter, you name it. Yes, I know there are people who are legitimately allergic to all of these things (well, except salt). But for the most part, I think they're whipping out the allergy card because it's easier than saying, "Look, I'm an observant Jew. I don't mix meat and dairy. Hold the maitre'd butter on my steak, please" or "I'm a devout Muslim. No alcohol, please. None at all. Not even if you boil it for an hour."

Either way, they're getting what they want. They don't have to claim medical necessity. And I don't see why they feel they have to -- Perhaps they've been burned one too many times by a short-attention-span cook who didn't hold the mayo?


Edited by ScoopKW (log)

Who cares how time advances? I am drinking ale today. -- Edgar Allan Poe

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Maybe.

I remember one place I worked at, had a regular, some kind of a rep. for a earth moving eqpt., I think. His special request were wierd. On day it would be "No alcohol in any way, shape or form", next time it would be no garlic, but booze was fine. He wasn't being a jerk about it, and tipped well. No one could figure it out. Then one day I asked the waiter if he was dining with Japanese when he requested the no garlic. Yes was the answer. You guessed it, he was wining and dining Muslims with the no booze request. Basically all for show.

People are strange, no doubt about that.

Look, this weekend I'm demo-ing my products at several high end grocery stores. I've got my samples in little cupcake papers. I go for a quick walk to stretch my legs about every hour, while doing so I notice one guy snatching my samples and scarfing them down. Hey, it's fair game, I'm not there, I understand, and I don't have a problem with it. These samples were the 70% dark chocolate..

So now I'm back at my little table, a few minutes later the guy comes back, but, "Do You have any milk chocolate? I really don't like dark"....

Whatever.........

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Hi,

As a non-professional I go to a restaurant to be wowed and appreciate food that I would never normally consider combining together. So with that in mind I would never dream of saying that I want something changed about a dish. However that said I am open minded to food whereas ultimately you are running a business and so keeping the customer happy is core to your business and reputation. On that basis I would always be mindful of what such a hard line could do to my reputation. I always remember watching a Jamie Oliver programme where Bill Clinton and his entourage all came to his fifteen restaurant in London and they all ordered steak and salad as the aitkens diet was all the rage. He ranted on camera about "Why do I f'ing bother with all this" but you know what.... He served them all steak and salad cause he knew his business reputation was on the line. If you are some superstar chef then you can probably get away with it but ultimately if you mis-time this it could impact your business and livelihood.

Just my tuppence worth - 2 cents to the americans :-)

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I think it really depends on the restaurant. If it's a casual diner or similar place, it seems silly to refuse substitutions, requests, etc.

However, at high-end restaurants I can understand chef's frustrations. A lot of high-end cuisine is carefully conceived by the chef as an arguable form of art. People who go to restaurants like these should have this expectation. If you have special dietary preferences, it is your responsibility to do the research.

If I owned my own restaurant and had put so much love and effort into composing a "perfect" dish and someone wanted to sub one of the components for another, it not only breaks the composition - it would likely make the flavor combinations less appealing because they were not designed. It seems likely in this situation that the result would be sub-par and not representative of the quality of the establishment in the first place. This obviously doesn't hold true for every scenario, but I think this should especially for haute restaurants that serve plated dishes.

It's also offensive from a point of view as well. I can see how much effort goes into the creative process in high end kitchens and its disrespectful to all those involved to impose your own demands on them. People have too much of a sense of entitlement these days, some people need to be told no from time to time... even in the service industry.

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I think it really depends on the restaurant. If it's a casual diner or similar place, it seems silly to refuse substitutions, requests, etc.

Why is this so?

Using Scoop KW's example with the ketchup, how would you handle the situation?

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Oh I was gritting my teeth reading this thread remembering all the similar experiences I've had- one more reason to leave the biz...

My observation is those who walk in and order off the menu or make ridiculous demands for substitutions are people who eat out nearly every meal and have an inflated sense of entitlement. These types have little idea what it actually takes to prepare, cook or serve food. I have witnessed this time and time again with friends and family. I've cringed at the behavior of people who think everyone must accede to their demands and make such a fuss it ruins the entire experience for everybody- except the guilty party. This was their ultimate goal in the first place.

It struck me that my own reasons for eating out are to enjoy what the restaurant provides. If I really wanted something different I would cook it myself. Not above ordering my King Pao chicken extra spicy or with extra peanuts but I don't believe this is a major departure.

If a person has dietary restrictions then eating out is probably a bad Idea in the first place. Going to and eating at a restaurant is not a "right" but a privilege worth paying for. The whole point is to eat their food as it is served not altered as one thinks it should be. I for one would relish the chef or owner telling a demandingly difficult customer "to get out" regardless if it was $5 a plate or $500. And I have seen it happen. These types fortunately do not form the basis of an establishments clientel. They rarely tip well and everyone seems to suffer from the exposure to this type of customer. I am not scared of these people and would eagerly tell them I do not want their business and to please not return. It's just a matter of "don't worry about the bill please leave or I will call the police..."

As far as the service dogs go I have experienced this. Seemed to me that it was the trainers who relished the aspect of "the confrontation" and looked forward to aggressively putting the employee/manager/owner in "their place" when questioned about the animal. I also would try to accommodate the truly disabled but not if it would inconvenience other customers in such a way they their experience was compromised. Rare but it does happen. For example: just because someone is in a wheelchair doesn't mean they aren't an asshole and get to treat those around them aggressively or rudely.

If I were to open an establishment it would be named "Submission" with a big sign by the front door: "Welcome! No ordering off the menu and no substitutions- if you don't like our food go somewhere else! We reserve the right to refuse service."

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I think it really depends on the restaurant. If it's a casual diner or similar place, it seems silly to refuse substitutions, requests, etc.

Why is this so?

Using Scoop KW's example with the ketchup, how would you handle the situation?

Well to that end I was more referring to the restaurant's target audience. I suppose I would extend my statement to any restaurant that takes pride in its food and how its composed, regardless of cost or atmosphere. What I was getting at is if someone goes to an IHOP (or similar restaurant that is not so much about the creativity and masterful cooking) and wants to swap their bacon side for a fruit, then I don't see a problem with that.

In the specific example of the onion-laced ketchup, I would say the customer is still out of line. That person has no right to walk into any establishment and demand onion-free ketchup, and they certainly are unreasonable if they find that offensive. Any given restaurant is offering their food as is, and it's the consumer's choice whether or not to go, eat, and pay for the food. If they don't want it, they can go somewhere else. They are not entitled to walk into a restaurant and tell them how to make their food. That privilege is reserved for especially affluent individuals who can afford personal chefs.

It's almost comical some of the fits I've seen people throw when restaurants don't have a vegetarian option, or vegan options, etc. Do these people seriously expect the world to cater to their personal preferences?


Edited by Baselerd (log)
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It's almost comical some of the fits I've seen people throw when restaurants don't have a vegetarian option, or vegan options, etc. Do these people seriously expect the world to cater to their personal preferences?

Yes. And a lot of them are awfully damned sanctimonious about it.

And it's not just the vegans. It's the dingbats who have their incontinent little chihauhua annointed as a "service animal" so they can bring it into places where dogs normally aren't allowed. It's the "I'm deathly allergic to shellfish and most kinds of seafood" guy who goes to a sushi bar. It's the superiorly annoying group that comes to the restaurant and spends the entire meal yakking on their cell phone about their latest rectal exam so that all the rest of the guests can enjoy it, too.

There are a lot of spoiled pampered princesses out there. And there seem to be more of them every year.

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Who cares how time advances? I am drinking ale today. -- Edgar Allan Poe

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In the specific example of the onion-laced ketchup, I would say the customer is still out of line. That person has no right to walk into any establishment and demand onion-free ketchup, and they certainly are unreasonable if they find that offensive. Any given restaurant is offering their food as is, and it's the consumer's choice whether or not to go, eat, and pay for the food. If they don't want it, they can go somewhere else. They are not entitled to walk into a restaurant and tell them how to make their food. That privilege is reserved for especially affluent individuals who can afford personal chefs.

Of course the customer is out of line. Thing is, both the waiter/owner and the customer know that this is an unreasonable request, yet it is requested.

It's kind of like your Boss hauling you into his office and telling you that every August he takes a trek to Mt. Everest and does the climb. He reads your face and if he gets the slightest whiff of confrontation, will remind you that your bi-yearly employee review report is due and he will be doing it shortly.

So, here we have "Catch 23": If you respect the customer, you will challenge his request, after all there is a very slim chance that he is indeed allergic and you might save the situation. If you don't respect the customer you will get him his (deleted) ketchup and hope he chokes on it.

But with regards to IHOP and "white tablecloth" restaurants, I beg to differ. Yes we can swap bacon for fruit salad, and if there is a price difference we can adjust it. Yes we can sub the starch and vegetable garnish for the lamb with the one from the salmon, it is do-able and it shouldn't be a challenge for the kitchen.

Demand that IHOP have ethically harvested and sustainable coffee? Fruit juices that don't come from concentrate? Do we have this right?

Demand the high class restaurant have all of it's base sauces prepared without onions? Or tomatoes? Have a minimum of 6 vegetarian entrees and 3 vegan entrees? Do we have this right?

See after 48-ish odd years on this planet I have made one very broad observation about my fellow humans:

Whatever is free, undervalued, or available in bountiful quantities is to be treated with contempt and scorn.

Think about it, this includes restaurants, but it also includes fresh air, clean water, public libraries, and good manners.

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Whatever is free, undervalued, or available in bountiful quantities is to be treated with contempt and scorn.

Think about it, this includes restaurants, but it also includes fresh air, clean water, public libraries, and good manners.

BRAVO!!!

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Either way, they're getting what they want. They don't have to claim medical necessity. And I don't see why they feel they have to -- Perhaps they've been burned one too many times by a short-attention-span cook who didn't hold the mayo?

Oddly, I have medical necessity, but often cast it as a preference. I'm gluten intolerant, which seems to be better understood as allergic to gluten, even though it's auto-immune instead of an immune reaction. Then I have a whole host of things that I shouldn't eat because it upsets a different digestive disorder. They're all dose-dependent, and none of them are cross-contact concerns, so it's much less confusing for everyone if I say I'm gluten intolerant for medical reasons, and let the rest be interpreted as preference. I'd much rather not eat mashed potatoes that were on my plate than end up with YetAnotherCT because someone thought I was following a fad by asking for a gluten free meal.

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That's fine. You shouldn't have to eat anything that would make you sick, or even uncomfortable. But the point I've been trying to make is that there are scads of people out there who are claiming allergy to onions when they aren't actually allergic, they just don't like onions. And there are so many of them ordering meals lately, with (perceived) false claims of medical necessity that it does no favors to the people who really cannot eat certain foods.

I view these sorts of people the same way I view the people who insist on being pushed around airports in wheelchairs just so they can get through the lines quicker. It's the elevated sense of entitlement that drives me loopers. Once they're through the line, wow, it's a miracle! They can sprint through the airport gate like OJ Simpson.


Who cares how time advances? I am drinking ale today. -- Edgar Allan Poe

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A few months ago, we were invited to a dinner party at a restaurant. Most of the 10 attendees are vegetarians, a vegetarian selected the restaurant. When it came time to order every single person, except my husband and myself, requested something off menu. It was so bad, the waitress had to get the chef to come out and verify what could and could not be done.

<snip>

If a vegetarian picked the restaurant, couldn't they find one with enough choices for vegetarians? Sounds like they made a bad choice!


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