Is the customer ALWAYS right?

The       The EOL Marketplace Chefs Food Fight: Is the customer ALWAYS right?
By Chefrev (Chefrev) on Saturday, August 31, 2002 - 09:44 pm: Edit

Okay, understanding that the customer/guest/client IS our business( and without whom we are just people in silly white coats and bad pants), is there EVER a point where we can say, "Sorry, I cannot/will not do this thing you're asking of me because it's A)unreasonable B)not how I do things or C)I just don't like the way you're treating me and my staff...oh, yes and because you're a jerk"?

Do we risk losing not only the jerk's business but that of everyone they go b*tch to from then on? OR do we put up and shut up? Please lemme know cuz I have a story that's behind this question that'll knock you off your chair it's so outrageous. More later.


By Peachcreek (Peachcreek) on Sunday, September 01, 2002 - 02:37 am: Edit

No. The customer IS NOT always right. But it is learning how to deal with the PEOPLE that will make or break you. Knowing how to respond appropriately to the @ss#ole without having to lose a customer or humiliate yourself is the mark of an experienced person. And YES there are a million jerks out there some of whom I have had the bad fortune to meet. Like the lady who expected the catering staff to clean her bathroom and vacuum the house because we were there set up 45 minutes before the guests were to arrive. Or people who make special requests, which you do and then they get MAD at you!
I'd love to hear another story.

By Chefmanny (Chefmanny) on Sunday, September 01, 2002 - 01:09 pm: Edit

When you (or me) make the decision that this person is an @ss#ole, I just tell them, you know what, "I don't need customers like you, just go ahead and take your business somewhere else. Let me tell you a story that just happened this Saturday on a boat I have been catering for over 2 years now, a couple owns it, the boat is a tub, they have 2 tubs, they think both their boats are the QE II. I got there one hour early because his wife failed to notify me the time had changed on the charter. She admitted this to him when I checked my paperwork.
Her husband tells her, with this face of disgust; this is disgusting!!! His wife started crying and was visibly upset. I try to pretend I don't see what is going on and start unloading the food, the husband tells me, I told you you were early, take the food back and come back in an hour, I ignore him and keep unloading. I had already played the scene of what is about to happen in my head!!! When I unload the last of the food he looks at me and says, you can't come aboard with those combat boots, you need to get boat shoes! These are the same shoes I always wear, mind you. Again, he says, I told you we were not ready for you, at this point I interject and say...I unloaded all the food, I don't have boat shoes here, I do at home but I will not go get them; furhtermore I will not be back period you MF'in, SOB. To which he just stood there with his mouth open wide, I said to his wife, Sherry, send me a check for the food and leave the equipment on the dock when you are done!!!! His wife is a lovely person, same hometown as me when we were growing up in FL. but, her husband is an @ss#hole, she knows it, I knew it and, he had abused other Chefs who worked for me before but, since it had not happened to me I just blew it off, until this Saturday!!!!!!
Anyway, the moral of the story is life is too short and this business is stressful enough to be dealing with @ss#oles!!!!
In the end they may up costing YOU $$$$ instead of you making $$$!!!!
"The customer may never be right you just have to pretend they are"

By Chefrev (Chefrev) on Sunday, September 01, 2002 - 05:06 pm: Edit

Here's my story:

Several years ago I worked at a well-established restaurant in the central PA. Boss had been there for twenty-five years, it was his way or the highway. His standing unwritten policy was to serve whatever, WHATEVER the customer asked for. That meant, for example, if some one came in and wanted a menu item from five years ago, you made it, even tho you might not have worked there five years ago.

The precendent set, many regulars took full advantage of the policy. Case in point: Regular wlaks in one night with a paper bag in one hand. Gives it to the waitress and says, give it to the cooks. I'm on broil and the waitress hands me the bag. Inside get this...instant garlic mashed potatoes and a can of Green Giant niblets corn! He wants me to cook these as sides for his entree. Now every night we ran a new starch and veggie side, but he wanted this stuff. It should be noted he had NO dietary requirements whatsoever, so it wasn't a health issue that he have these items.

I say no way in h*ll am I making this sh*t. The waitress goes to the owner who comes back, and yells at me to make the customer what he wants. He's a regular and brings a lot of business to the retsaurant, yadda yadda yadda. Unstated is the threat of my losing my job if I don't comply. I make the instant potatoes and corn.

If I had my own place, this guy would be SOL. I have other stories, but I want to hear yours. Go nuts!

By Chefrev (Chefrev) on Sunday, September 01, 2002 - 05:13 pm: Edit


Thanks for your story. YIKES!

I agree with the idea of not putting up with @ss#holes out of a fear that they could ruin your business. If they do it once and get away with it, it's just worse the next time. I guess I kind of knew the answer to my question before I asked it. Just wanted to hear how somebody else has dealt with the problem.

By Catergreat (Catergreat) on Monday, September 02, 2002 - 10:21 am: Edit

In the catering business, we have learned that there are times when you should walk away from the event.

1. When you lose control over a client or event.
2. When the client is making demands you know will not work.
3. When doing the event will damage your reputation.
4. When the event appears to be a loser of money.

It is absolutely amazing to see the look on the face of a person who has been beating you up and being a real ass when you look them in the eye and say.... "Ms. Brown, you've got a lovely daughter, but I don't believe this is going to work out, so we are going to pass on the job"

The usual response is "YOU CAN'T DO THAT!!!"
my response: "No m'am, I CAN'T!!! I can't work with you any longer... Best of luck to you, here is your deposit back..."

It has only happened 3 times and one time, I got a call from the husband threatening me, then threatening to sue me.... I gave him my attorney's number and never heard anything back...

the other time, the husband called and begged me to reconsider, admitted his wife was a bitch, and offered more money... I responded, "money will not repair the damage done here, it is best you find another caterer or another wife...." to which he responded, "that's the best advice I have every received!"

The third time, the daughter started crying and the mother said something else bitchy and they walked out.... the daughter was a witch too.... so don't feel sorry...

life is too short to be mistreated by a tight @ss client and honestly, you will be talked about for standing up to the nasty clients.... but as long as they get your name right, it will be the best advertisement for your business... believe me, people know the bitches out there and they love it when they are put in their places....

By Mbw (Mbw) on Monday, September 02, 2002 - 07:32 pm: Edit

House policy?

As a house policy you were stuck with it. Good move making the garbage. The best way to say NO would have been by walking out (something I have never done mid shift). If you DID walkout because of that it would make a GREAT story for an interview. I would tell it proudly. It may scare a few employers, but would send the messege to some you had high standards.

I was fired once for "fishing on the Job" LOL I may tell that one later.

If the customer was a friend, if you had an after shift drink with them, or had SOME familliar ties this would have been less troublesome for you. the restaurant wants you to extend YOUR hospitality the thier customers right?

I have worked in places that changed chefs/menus often, but kept house specials such as "Liver and onions" "Pot Roast" "Fried Calamri" with yummy jarred coacktail sauce.

I remember the fight to change the classic spicy cocktail sauce to a fermented black bean, garlic, and ginger sauce.. Good sauce BUT the regulars wanted the jar darn it!

Smaller bistros, cafes, and restaurants would KILL to have a cook with a fire under thier butt. Forget the "reputation" or "Calliber" of a restaurant, and find some little place that will order the food you need for YOUR specials. THEN if some customer wants to put A1 on your filet you can tell them no. The owner WILL back you up be you a chef, sous, line cook, whatever.

By Mbw (Mbw) on Monday, September 02, 2002 - 07:48 pm: Edit

We are all servants!

Anyone that gets into this industry that doen't get that, needs to run a check. I often joke that I took the highest paying servants position I could get (catering)

As to the clients/customers. If they know how to be served we are all good, but bring me mid level second generation money, and we will have problems. In my experience Very OLD money, and very NEW money is the best to serve. Old money has practice, recieves service gracefully, and commands staff well. I have been around an 8 year old that was very comfortable ordering around servants. Bossy but NOT a jerk it was a pleasure doing his bidding.

New money is thrilled as all heck to be rich, and sees no separation between them, and you. It can be fun "Playing" servant, as to them is is more of a theme, act whatever. They are just enjoying the ride, and are usually up for anything you do to please them.

As for everybody else.. they are work.

"yes sir I am sure you, and your company are VERY important, but could you PLEASE tell me if you want mayo on your sandwich or not?"

By Chefrev (Chefrev) on Monday, September 02, 2002 - 09:29 pm: Edit

Gotta tell one mor story:

This one still kills me. Same restaurant as above, but THIS time it was a young woman who came in and presented her server with a laminated, dog-eared 3X5 card. On it were her food preferences, and suggested methods of preparation. Again, please note, she had NO food allergies, NO special diet, SHE WAS JUST PICKY BEYOND ALL REASON! So what did I do? B*tched and moaned and ended up making a stir fry for her anyway from her list because I was told to.

Since these experiences I gotten more cojones but it still galls me when people pull stuff like this. Now it's kind of fun saying "no" when I need to. Good for the soul.

Thanks everybody for sharing your experiences!


By Weekapaug (Weekapaug) on Tuesday, September 03, 2002 - 08:15 am: Edit

Did I read that correctly...walk away from an event??!! I work in the country club arena and every client that I work with is demanding. I know in the back of my mind that I can diffuse any situation and if you can't then you should hire an underling that can. Why screw everyone else at the party just because the host/hostess is being a raving bitch? Try killing with kindness and if that doesn't work you can always stage an "accident" near the host/hostess in question.

By Snuffaluff (Snuffaluff) on Tuesday, September 03, 2002 - 09:52 am: Edit

Quote from Mbw: "THEN if some customer wants to put A1 on your filet you can tell them no. The owner WILL back you up be you a chef, sous, line cook, whatever"

A buddy and I went to a steak house one time, and when we got our plates, my buddy asked for some A1. I knew right away that he just made a mistake. The chef came out and asked, in a highly ticked off voice, "Why do you want to ruin my steak w/ that crap?!!?" My friend replied, "Listen here, I paid for this, and if want to put ketchup on it I will, now bring me some A1!" I just sat there in amazment as this happened. Needless to say, the chef bit his lip and brought some A1. I on the other hand just ate the damn thing how it was(delicious too).

By Mbw (Mbw) on Tuesday, September 03, 2002 - 12:02 pm: Edit

The other side of the lamenated index card.

I sometimes deal with people, on strict diets. Being given instructions like, "I can only have 1 CUP of lettuce, 2 oz cucumber, etc." can be fun. These customers often come in bummed out that they HAVE these restrictions to begin with, and presenting fresh delicious food that is on their diet is real pleasure. They keep asking me "Are you sure this is on my list" yep, I tell them. BTW a mesuring cup will fit (packed) enough spring mix to make a huge salad on a 12" oval. Some griled herb chicken, etc. Atkins here we come!

Yes walk out before you do something silly like "Stage an accident" <-just kidding! I have NEVER walked out on an event, or shift. I have walked off the line for 15-60 seconds to keep from killing someone (a chef, a waiter etc.), but as you know 1 full minute in a rush is a long time.

A1 Sauce
Good for the customer! He was 100% right! Our schools/restaurants are educating well, but turning out primadonnas NOT cooks. The way to deal with this is to NOT have it in the restaurant in the first place, or forget where it is (wink wink). So it WAS in the restaurant wasn't it?

Takes the Steak
The only story I have heard close was from an ex-girlfriends mom. She had cooked steak for several guests (Hells Angels), her daughters, whoever else.. one biker asked for katsup. She snatched his plate away, went to the kitchen and cooked him up a burger. No one argued with mom even at 53, trust me on this one She was a good shot, and on her own land.

"I am here to make Ceasars not to praise them"

By Catergreat (Catergreat) on Tuesday, September 03, 2002 - 06:37 pm: Edit

Did I read that correctly...walk away from an event??!!>

I am a caterer, so we may be thinking of different circumstances...So "walking away from an event" means refusing to do an event... long before the event...

By Chefmanny (Chefmanny) on Tuesday, September 03, 2002 - 07:33 pm: Edit

Carl, I think they were confused! On the next topic, the customer is paying for dinner guys, he/she can put whatever they please after the kitchen is done with it!!!!!!! Next you are going to tell me I have to lick the ice cream cone from left to right because that's how the ice cream god taught me at the CIA!!!!!!! You culinary grads are real @ss#oles sometimes! I don't mean the food ones, you know the ones I"m talking about....the ones that don't do dishes and don't take out the garbage!!!!!

By Chefrev (Chefrev) on Tuesday, September 03, 2002 - 08:35 pm: Edit

Mbw (Beamer):

Re: The other side of the lamenated index card.

I understand that some folks HAVE to have certain foods. If they go out to eat it's usually a rarety and a treat. I have no problem doing special stuff for them. My dad is on a VERY restrictive diet for his heart. But please note that neither of the people I cited in my stories had any such dietary restrictions. They were just being picky. That's a disease no diet will help.

Just clarifying. :-)

By Corey (Corey) on Tuesday, September 03, 2002 - 10:09 pm: Edit

"the ones that don't do dishes and don't take out the garbage!!!!!"

and the dumpster diving to find the chef's 250.00 knife you were not suppost to borrow which somehow
fell in the trash...

By Snuffaluff (Snuffaluff) on Wednesday, September 04, 2002 - 09:22 am: Edit

lmao @ Corey...
can't say that I blame ya... I just bought a new set myself, and after HE got outta the dumpster, and gave me my knife back, he better run!

By Corey (Corey) on Wednesday, September 04, 2002 - 02:10 pm: Edit

ya, my set is just 300.00 messermiester 5000's
but I am tired of people taking my knifes out of the roll because they can't find a house knife and I am not in sight, and then have to do a knife count and the great hunt after every shift. thank god I am the only one here using this brand, and all I have to do is look for the logo on the blades, and poof, thats proof it's mine. also, the house knifes are all the white handles dexter/russels or wood handled brand. thanks to messermiester and the 1"in knight and shield logo, it really stands outs.

By Mbw (Mbw) on Wednesday, September 04, 2002 - 02:37 pm: Edit

My knives are house knives now. As soon as I bought a cafe, my knife set got passed around like a... Well a...? *Can't say it MOM may hear* Anyway I miss the fanatical attitude I use to have over my set, but no more *sigh*


What does "lmao" mean?

Who, or what is a "(Beamer):"?

Is it closer to Chicago, or by bus?

Manny-Not confused, just pushing the envelope of the conversation

As far as the CIA goes, most CIA grads have been ok next to the S&@# I see the CCA Here in SF turning out. City College Culinary students are a better hire in general, and don't have an $80,000 student loan attitude problem.

By Catergreat (Catergreat) on Wednesday, September 04, 2002 - 05:39 pm: Edit

Beamer: (MBW)

lmao = laughing my ass off
beamer = you (mbw)
What the heck are you talking about "Chicago or by bus?"

don't mean to offend, but do you smoke weed before posting here? just curious, most of the time, I have no idea what subject you are talking about.. Maybe I am the one smoking weed...

Hey Manny:

I am coming to your area Tomorrow...flying into Miami.... taking the little woman to Key West for a few days.... it is our 20th anniversary, wanna buy our dinner?

By Chefmanny (Chefmanny) on Wednesday, September 04, 2002 - 06:00 pm: Edit

Would love to have you visit my class, can you? We are close to the airport, maybe coming in or going out? I am in Miami Lakes. Miami International has pretty beefed up security, get there early when leaving. My # is 305-557-1100 Ext. 2264 if you decide to call! If you are hanging around Miami I would love to take you out somewhere, if you stay in the keys....well that's a tourist drive!!!!!

By Mbw (Mbw) on Wednesday, September 04, 2002 - 09:05 pm: Edit

Thanks for the clue on lmao. I have seen it quit a bit on-line, and didn't know.

No offence taken. My communication style has always been a bit weird, and going to public school in California didn't help much. As to your other inquiry I suppose it matters when I am posting now doesn't it? More often than not I am clutching a double mocha NO WHIP.

The "Joke" I told about Chicago was told to me in High School, and I was told it was a "shaggy dog" joke, but I guess they could have been pulling the wool over my eyes. I didn't get it then, and I don't get it now, but it is fun to tell anyway. It got YOUR attention didn't it?

By Chefspike (Chefspike) on Thursday, September 05, 2002 - 12:55 am: Edit

"don't bogart that joint"
i think that was a song, from where i don't know, or maybe it was a song that somebody made up while waiting their turn. LOL.
hell, i don't know.
this construction job is killing me, my old as* will be dead pretty soon, HaHaHaHaHaHa.
i gotta get a chef's job again here in LA.
i've got saw dust, and dirt and pain in places i forgot i had.
when i get home, i start icing the neck and end at the knee's.
i need a nice soft Pastry Chef's job.
something, 8am-2;30pm. mon.-fri.

By Snuffaluff (Snuffaluff) on Thursday, September 05, 2002 - 01:17 am: Edit

smoking weed... wow... didn't think I'd hear that come up. Figured you guys would just cook w/ it anyways seeing how this is a chef's forum. lol (laugh out loud beamer!)
Spike, what on earth are you doing working construction? Get back in the kitchen where you belong. Goodness gracious
Oh, and btw (by the way beamer) Happy Aniversary. Hope everything is well w/ you and yours.

By Mbw (Mbw) on Thursday, September 05, 2002 - 01:14 pm: Edit

Cook with it? YUCK! Chefs forum? This isn't the wannabe a chef section? DARN sorry all.

By Snuffaluff (Snuffaluff) on Thursday, September 05, 2002 - 04:40 pm: Edit

you've never cooked w/ it? You don't just add it like taragon or something, you have to make a butter out of it. I won't go into detail.

By Mbw (Mbw) on Thursday, September 05, 2002 - 11:57 pm: Edit

No need to go into detail, "I have forgotten more about that than you will ever know"

It is my experience with wine that is lacking. Maybe I will go get a beer, balsamic beef brochette, and watch other people drink wine.

By Snuffaluff (Snuffaluff) on Friday, September 06, 2002 - 12:24 pm: Edit

What kind of beer do you drink?

By Mbw (Mbw) on Friday, September 06, 2002 - 04:08 pm: Edit

Mostly micro-brewery beer as well as Anderson Valley Ale, Red Tail, Anchor, and Red Hook is a personal favorite of mine. A 1/2 pint of porter, or stout, and a roasted turkey sandwich on Frech roll is a great stress reliever in the middle of a ball busting week. A full pint, and I need a nap too.

By Mbw (Mbw) on Friday, September 06, 2002 - 04:35 pm: Edit

And when the customer is an employee too?
I worked in a little inn near the opera house that specialized in 3 star "curtain call" dining. You know? Every one needs to be out by 7:30 and, "Why is it too late to order the soufflé?" type of stuff.

We had a pastry woman (not a chef to be sure) who had a brought a friend in to the bar to impress with her ability to get FREE drinks, food, and generally be pampered. We ran three menus there breakfast, lunch, dinner, and starting at 10PM a room service menu.

Wanting to show her pull, she ordered a blue cheese burger knowing is was 20 minutes too early, and we were not setup for it (at least she SHOULD have known). As our line was a total disaster I told the bartender that she would have to wait.

Upon hearing this she charged (drunk) back through the kitchen to the chefs office where he was talking to one of his best friends who was celebrating a VERY nice write up in Gourmet magazine as "up and coming pastry chef" blah blah blah. After some screeching, he came eyes lowered, and said just make her the burger.

Later she threatened chef with a sexual harassment suit that never went anywhere, and ended up at a local Irish bar as a barmaid where she called the INS on all the "Irish" she could, as the sexual harassment suit didn't fly there either.

Blue cheese burger Oui chef

By Chefrev (Chefrev) on Friday, September 06, 2002 - 10:33 pm: Edit

Mbw: I have one word for you: REFERENCES

Worked w/ a letigious nutball once too. She pulled the same schtick everywhere she got fired from. Almost got me canned because I cursed in her presence (not specifically AT her) in the middle of service during freakin Mother's Day buffet. Boss didn't fire me, but because the wacko was threatening to sue ("hostile working environment"), I was "demoted" until the suit went away. It was humiliating for me , but taught me never underestimate the value of knowing some one's history. AND that it's not how you intend something, it's how a nutjob perceives it that counts.
My $.02

By Dustman (Dustman) on Monday, September 09, 2002 - 12:40 am: Edit

Hey, it would be nice to get some honest references. If you personally know the previous employer you can get the real deal. But... in this durned sue happy environment we call America I have been told by previous employers to only give start/end date, rate of pay, sick and emergency days taken and was notice given. All of that info given only if asked specifically.
For the most part when I call someone for a reference on a potential I get the same hot air up my asterisk. But for all that suffer the same rules that protect a company ( from jerks, habitual workers comp abusers, lawsuits for slander, and any other frivilous (sp) cr@p) I have resorted to a single answer for anyone that scr@wed me. EX "question... Did you find smithheart to a productive employee?
ANS. You would have to speak to... our attorneys... to get a true reflection of this company's opinion of thier work ethic.
I am not a prick in the finger, I gave a sous chef of mine an good reference ( I fired him two weeks before the leaf season for insubordination and had to work 45 days straight until we closed for the season. oh yea, I am a family man so you know that went over real well at home)I gave the usual line and when I was asked if I would rehire the person my only hint was that it was not the company's policy to hire terminated employees( per GM's and owners orders). I ramble now ... But who can give an honest reference without fear of a lawsuit. @ss h@les can but for the most part they get dismissed ( usually rightly so) because everyone knows they are @ssholes.

Oh, I almost forgot... the customer is always right, while they are in your place of business. We are in the service industry after all. Would you apologize to your butler for dirty silverware, or the chef for serving oysters as the main course even though you are allergic to shellfish? I think not, yes some people are unreasonable but we should be able to recognize them and take them with a grain or two of salt.

By Snuffaluff (Snuffaluff) on Monday, September 09, 2002 - 11:04 am: Edit

The only way I've ever given a "bad" reference on someone was simply put. They asked if my opinion on his work ethic, I simply said, "I cannot answer that." They got the hint that this person was a retard. That way, you don't say anything that can get you sued while at the same time, you are not giving a good reference on someone that doesn't deserve one.

By Ladycake (Ladycake) on Monday, September 09, 2002 - 11:16 am: Edit

I was told by our attorneys that I could tell propective employers if we employed the bad boys and if we would rehire them. There ends the problem. Details were never necessary.

By Mbw (Mbw) on Monday, September 09, 2002 - 11:36 am: Edit

I was told that too. As a perspective employer you are only legally able to ask the date of hire, the date of termination, the job held, and the ALL important, "Are they eligible for re-hire"

I was even told that giving a GOOD reference was a liability, because if they do not do well in the new job the NEW employer can sue you!

As for America being sue happy. EH? It is mostly the insurance companies, and lawyers that fuel THAT. Besides we have quite of a collection of slime-balls here in the good ol U.S.A., and need SOME way of protecting ourselves.

By Ironhead (Ironhead) on Monday, September 09, 2002 - 12:30 pm: Edit

First off, this is my first post here so howdy everyone! Secondly this seems like a good topic to jump in on......

Is the customer always right? Yes, just ask them :) However, I have had the privilege to work in places that are on both sides of the coin. At one job, we would not cook a steak past medium rare, period. In my eyes, that is a bit extreme, but boy it was fun to be able to say "absolutely not" and have the owners back you up on it. (yes, the place is still open and quite successful).

At my current job, I try to accommodate any reasonable request. (things like dietary restrictions, starch substitutions and <shudder> vegans.) I even take unreasonable ones into consideration as long as they won't cause a back up in the kitchen. That is not to say that I am not, while safely back in the kitchen, moaning and whining about having to do such things, but hey, customers are what keeps my paycheck from bouncing..... One of the more popular requests is to cook the Ahi, served rare (it says this on the menu) past rare. Medium rare I will do without a peep, however when they want it past that I have the servers try to explain that "the chef goes to great lengths to find the freshest, best quality tuna he can (usually having it flown next day from Hawaii to Louisville, KY) and it is really meant to be served rare." Then they try and point them toward another seafood entree. If that fails, I have the server suggest that the guest at least try the rare tuna then if they don't like it they can send it back to have it upcooked.

As I have often said, "the hospitality industry would be great if not for that pesky 'hospitality' part." :)

By Ladycake (Ladycake) on Tuesday, September 10, 2002 - 10:26 am: Edit

Hello there, IronHead (I guess that's better than Meathead, Huh? haha)! I think we've all been in that spot, but you always run into someone who thinks "it just ain't cooked 'till it's gray", know what I mean? Welcome aboard!

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