The simple phrase Excuse me are you the manager? can trigger the fight or flight instinct in any young manager. I have seen restaurant managers hide, cry, sweat, act like a heavy weight getting ready for a fight. These are reactions from years of verbal and physical intimidation at the hands of restaurant guests. I was lucky, I was raised in a military household and spent six years in the military myself, I also had worked with some pretty explosive chefs so by the time I started working in the front of the house I had a pretty hard outer shell. But most restaurant managers for the most part, don’t have the years of experience I had. With this in mind I look at confrontation with customers a little different than most and carry a sense of humor that borders on the slightly warped,( Thank You! Monty Python and Dr Demento )
So with that in mind I’m going to share some of the funnier confrontations I have had with customers. Id like to start with a little story I like to call The Mercedes. The story starts when a woman walked into the restaurant to pick up her take out order. She claimed that she had been waiting outside for over an hour, even though we had only had the order for 20 minutes, The order was ready for her but she felt she shouldn’t have to pay. I was working expo about 10 feet from the exchange between her and the manager on duty and even though it wasn’t my fight I saw the young manager starting to cave so I stepped in. I walked up to the woman and offered my assistance. She made her claim again at which point I pulled up her order on the computer and explained to her that from our records we had only had the order for twenty minutes and that it had been ready for the last five. She then proclaimed that she was not some low life and that she drove a Mercedes. I smiled and told her congratulations and that she still would not be comping her food at this time being that we were well within acceptable service time. (My face totally dead pan). At this time she pushed the issue insisting it had been well over an hour that she had been outside waiting. I then asked if she had called upon arrival like we had asked her to, so that we would know and be able to bring her food out. She said “No” she had not and that we should have been able to find her because she drove a MERCEDES. I than asked if she had pulled out front of the restaurant like she had been instructed so that the valet would let us know she had arrived. Again the answer was “No” she informed me she was parked out in the mall parking lot but she told them on the phone that she drove a MERCEDES, so she would be easy to spot. Again I congratulated her on her choice of vehicles, and informed her that because she failed to follow any of the instructions given to her at the time she placed her order and the fact that we were well within the time we quoted her over the phone that there was nothing I was willing to do for her at that time. I thanked for her business and even offered to carry the order out to her Mercedes. She declined my kind offer.
This next tale of customer relations I like to call Reverse Psychology, One sunny Southern California afternoon I was working the front of the restaurant, my General Manager Roy was working Expo and it was a nice busy lunch everything was going well and I was making my rounds of the tables when I was stopped by a table I had already been to by a woman asking me “Excuse me, are you the Manager”. I smiled and reintroduced myself and asked how I could be of assistance? The woman informed me that their food was cold and wanted to know what I was going to do about it? I asked her if she would rather have me heat her food for her or remake the dish which would take a little longer. She looked me right in the eye and said” The food was brought to us cold and that I should be buying them lunch and offering them something else. I smiled and informed her that their food was delivered hot twenty minutes ago because I had delivered it myself, seeing that their waiter was taking an order at another table. Roy , my General Manager, was only about fifteen feet away and watching the whole exchange with interest. She then suggested that her food had sat on the counter of expo getting cold because the waiter was busy. I than informed her that the gentleman standing behind the counter at expo was the general manager and that he had asked me to run the food as soon as it came up. She then called me a liar and informed me that she new the food was cold when I brought it over. I asked her at that point if she was suggesting that the General Manager would allow someones food to sit in the window until it became cold and pointed at Roy. At this point Roy, unable to hold back, informed her from across the counter that the food came out of the oven and was brought straight to her table. I then suggested that the food was brought over hot, but in their enjoying their conversation and wine that they had allowed the food to become cold, and reiterated my earlier offer to re-heat or re-make the food. She looked me right in the eye and said “OH NO! Your using reverse psychology on me”. I stood up from my kneeling position next to her table and said I would be happy to re-heat the dishes, no longer offering to remake them, or box up her food for her so she could take it home and reheat it herself. Realizing she had offended every person that would be handling her food she asked for the boxes, boxed it herself paid her bill and left. Moral: Sometimes reverse psychology works!
There are so many stories I have yet to tell but it will have to wait for next week.