The Restaurant

The Restaurant
Formal Dining

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Dealing with Difficult Customers

I personally believe that the biggest problem we face in the service industry is that our society believes that, "the customer is always right." I say the customer is NOT always right, but that does not mean you should tell the customer that they are wrong. You generally only see a difficult customer when there is a complaint. Yes, there is a whole range of difficulties from bratty children to pompous jerks, but even they are civil. We've all had them. Some people feel like the world is coming to an end because there is ketchup on his burger or because a steak isn't medium well it means she can publicly humiliate you, even if you're just the food runner bringing the food to the table. People will complain about anything and everything. If it is too salty (though it wasn't salted at all), if it's too green, too hot/cold. It is unbelievable.
Customers don't mind paying you in pennies or having massive complicated orders. The customer doesn't care what it costs to change their mind even after a steak has been cooked. Many times as a server you may get stiffed as the cooks put too much dressing on the chopped salad. These are the difficult customers I am talking about. You are sure to get put through the gauntlet of complaints at some point in your career. I try my best to blog about information that isn't always written about, like the importance of good shoes or listening, but there is a lot of good information written on handling difficult people and customers in general. I usually generalize people into one of a couple categories, mainly people who are reasonable and people who are unreasonable. My logic is that the reasonable people will work with you to solve any problems or understand it wasn't your fault necessarily, and are willing to compromise. Unreasonable people don't care, demand perfection, and get angry with every chance they get. There is no pleasing an unreasonable person and believe me you will know the difference and it won't be hard to determine if your guest is cool or not.
Always remain calm.
Don't blame the customer.
Listen to the complaint and then fix it.
Tell a manager if you need to.
Don't put it off, that just makes it worse.
Thank them for allowing you to fix it.
Try to go beyond the expectation to resolve any issues.

Remember that it is only a temporary situation and they will be gone in a little while, hopefully sooner than later. Keep calm and don't let the pressure pull you apart. Learn from your mistakes. Take responsiblility when you make an error. Fix things before they become huge issues that requires management intervention. When you get off work go relax. Blow off some steam doing something. Tell someone about it. Working in a restaurant can be extremely stressful, and if its not one thing its another.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

About the Author

My name is Kyle. I am from Kansas City, Missouri.
I got my first job when I was sixteen years old in the hospitality industry at an amusement park in the city. I worked there for the summer and then didn't work until the next summer where I got my second job at a fast food burger place. I worked there for over a year then changed jobs a couple times dabbling outside of the industry, but I ultimately came right back, specifically to the exact burger restaurant I worked at before. This time I was trained as an over night manager. I quit that job to take on the thrills of serving tables. As a server I was always recognized as a leader and I was responsible for training the new servers and ensuring the other servers were performing their side jobs. That went well for a while, but I was going to a university at the time and needed more stable, regular pay so I got out of the restaurant world, but only temporarily because I was right back in cooking pizzas in no time. Next, I went from pizzas to burgers again. I dealt with some pretty bad bosses and I have more than one story to tell. I decided this was going to be my career and it was my passion and I always came back to hospitality, so I started Food & Beverage classes at a college, and with my new enrollment status I took a much better job as a cook at a hotel. I worked there for a year progressing from station to station learning the ins and outs. I worked in individual outlet restaurants to fine dining, and even large banquets, but realized if I wanted to ever make better money I needed that manager experience. I took an entry level shift manager position at an ice cream shop. I worked there a while and worked simultaneously at another ice cream restaurant for a while, until I took a position at a country club as a manager. Quickly I was promoted to the Front-Of-House manager and I led all of the clubs banquets. I moved across the state and took the only job I could find in the hospitality industry at the time in a small town at a snow cone place, but dropped it soon after to take on the responsibilities of the general manager of a fried chicken restaurant. This is where I am today. It's been a long journey filled with twists and turns, but every new job has meant a learning experience and exciting opportunity. I've met hundreds of people in my line of work. I love working in the restaurant. I do not know where the future will take me but I look forward to the adventure.

Since that time I spent about a week doing what I am going to call consulting for an ice cream shop, closed two of our fried chicken stores and decided before my restaurant closed I needed to find something more stable. I took on a new role that combined my vast experience from pizza to banquets with a third party food service contract company for a university. It's been a wild ride, but I am still passionate about the restaurant. I love solving restaurant problems and I am considering a future in restaurant consulting.

Working in the Restaurant - SHOES!

The single most important part of your uniform is your footware. Safety first! Usually you have to provide your own and it is critical to have restaurant work shoes. Your shoes will protect you from slipping, spills, and standing.
Slipping: The number one cause of injury in any work place, not just restaurants, is slips and falls. The restaurant is one of the most dangerous places to have bad shoes. The floors of a restaurant although may be textured tile, once they are covered in a thin layer of oil they become incredibly slick. Similarly on a wet walk-in cooler or ice on the ground in the freezer, the surface we walk on is very slippery. If you've ever accidentally emptied a fryer onto the floor or tried to fill a fryer without closing the drain valve first you will know how slick the floors can get.
Many restaurants have mats down to prevent fatigue and makes slips much less likely, but even still it is very dangerous to not have slip resistant shoes. In a typical restaurant everything is made from hard solid stainless steel with sharp corners, if you fell from standing height on to the edge of a grill or prep table and hit your face or head it would be excruciating. Slipping is very real and very dangerous. You may think your tennis shoes are slip resistant and you'll be fine or you may want to look cool in your red Converse All Stars, but these are horrible shoes for restaurant work!
Spills: Restaurant work shoes typically need to be closed toe, it would be bad to spill hot soup or a pan of bleach on your foot! Sandals in a restaurant are just a bad idea. There is ice flying around, dishes fall, water gets sloshed, drains get clogged, toilets get clogged, you want your shoes water (and pasta sauce) resistant. You will want to be able to spray your shoes off to get the alfredo off of them too. There is nothing worse than getting to work early for a nine hour shift and dropping a pitcher of sweet tea or the raw chicken juices from a bag on your foot and totally saturating your sock to be nasty sticky, sickly, soggy, gross, horrible all day long without a change of socks.
Standing: You really need a shoe that fits and is comfortable. If your shoes are too tight you'll never make it through your first double. If they are too loose you may end up spilling something when you trip over your own feet! You will be standing for the entire day. Comfortable shoes are a must. Depending on the size and layout of the restaurant you may be climbing stairs, walking a hundred feet across the building to the kitchen or bar, or you may just be working 12 to 15 hour days without a break. Your feet will thank you. So will your ankles. And back. As well as your knees, legs, hips, etc.

There are dozens of shoe manufacturers that make shoes with slip resistant soles, each one varies slightly and some are better than others. They are also made in varying styles and designs at different price points so they are definitely worth every penny you spend to protect yourself. Most restaurants require slip resistant shoes.
Black is also an industry standard, unless you are Mario Batali, then you do whatever you want. You can get shoes anywhere these days really: WalMart, Payless, online, pretty much anywhere that sells shoes.

My choice: I've worn a form of Birkenstock work clog for the last five years. They are a little more expensive, but worth it in the long run. The clogs are one piece design to provide complete protection from anything in the restaurant, but come with a removable insole used for arch support and formed foot bed comfort. They come up about 2" so I can stand in a puddle and not really have to worry at all about getting my socks wet. No laces, no fuss. Oil resistant. Slip resistant. Chemical resistant. Lightweight. Perfect for me.
When I am going on a formal trip with upper management or working in a fine dining establishment I have a pair of slip resistant wingtip dress shoes from the Shoes For Crews brand. They are extremely slip resistant and fit the bill of a more formal look than my clogs, but they don't compare comfort-wise and I have personally seen employees burn through the SFC brand footware in six month under pretty harsh conditions with the degreaser and various chemicals used in floor cleaning.
I've heard good things about SAS Shoes, but they seem a little heavy for me to have to move around quickly in all day, every week for fifty hours or so.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Restaurant Blog Topics

I have been away for a number of years. Life got busy with an engagement, moving, new job in a run down, poorly managed restaurant, then a break up and just dealing with all that. I have been in the restaurant industry this whole time, learning, gaining experiences, growing my career, and hopefully gaining some new insight for anyone reading the blog. I am hoping I will be back to writing more and more articles, and I am interested in knowing what people are looking to know about the restaurant world. Leave me a comment about your interests and I will try to tell you about what I know.