Tensions sometimes rise as St. Louis restaurants and customers adjust to a new normal
Recently, recalls Tara Gallina, co-owner of Winslow’s Table, a customer asked her if she would like to serve lunch on a disposable plate. The boss scolded: “Oh, you are so COVID.” Gallina replied that the restaurant is currently unable to offer more. “What I should have said was, ‘We don’t have the resources or the staff to create the volume that we now make with plates, silver and glassware that we have to clear, disinfect and polish for you,” he says Gallina After dinner, the customer complained that she had to throw away her own rubbish (a step that also reduced the risk), mocked one employee for wearing gloves to take out a rubbish bag, and left the rubbish on top of it anyway Lying on the table.
“I don’t say more to abusive customers,” says Gallina. “No more.”
It wasn’t just that one customer’s behavior – the number of rude, aggressive customers has increased over the past year, as some St. Louis restaurateurs have observed, and it has taken its toll.
As Food & Wine noted in a recent article, some in the industry are now rethinking the “the customer is always right” axiom popularized by department store magnates more than a century ago and adopted by the service sector over time.
For customers looking forward to an evening out, in some cases after waiting more than a year this will likely be different than before. There may be aspects that customers do not expect, such as: For example, waiting longer than expected for food and service, using disposable items, or wearing masks to comply with safety protocols (in some cases precautions required by the government). While most customers are grateful and patient as the restaurants continue to adapt, some customers have been belligerent or hostile to security protocols.
“I grew up in the service industry and learned to treat customers like they were the person you care most about in your family,” said Harrison Massie, Beverage Director at Small Change. “But there are people who come in and embarrass people in their own party with their rude behavior … At this point, after trying to be overly accommodating for so long, I’m just going to tell you go if you are rude to me. “
At the same time, social media and crowd-sourced review platforms have given angry customers a voice who want to complain or retaliate about restaurants. The anonymity of the internet can be encouraging to someone who is already angry, and reviews and comments can be exceptionally bubbly, although sometimes they only tell half the story. Yet even fear of online retaliation will not affect some business owners when faced with aggressive guests.
“Internet retaliation is always a concern,” says Craig Rivard, who owns Little Fox with his wife Mowgli. “That being said, it won’t stop us from protecting our employees.”
Belief in the restaurant’s regular patronage community also gives confidence to the Rivards. “While it’s worrying, you have an opportunity to respond to complaints from people on sites like Yelp,” says Mowgli. “And when you read reviews for a restaurant and someone is very negative, other diners will often gather to offer their support.” “”