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Old 13th August 2019, 16:20   #1
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Default Types of restaurant customers

The day to day grind of the restaurant business doesn’t naturally lend itself to humor, notwithstanding the funny menus and signs that we sometimes see being circulated on social media. A restaurant is a place where tempers are waiting to soar, either in the form of an unhappy customer, a chef whose signature dish has been returned and asked to be redone, a manager who has to contend with a cleaner who has not turned up for duty, or an owner who is grinding his teeth over a nasty review posted by a pretentious food blogger.

However one needs to keep the spirits up as no amount of planning can mitigate a bad day if it has decided to show up at your door. Your avenues for injecting humor into the situation are limited as you are dealing with blue collar staff who have different notions about what is funny. The lowest common denominator that works here is what I personally don’t favour – having fun at the expense of peculiar customer habits, or lampooning your closest competitor – something which I have relished on extremely frustrating days.

Here are some of those peculiar customers :

1. Customers who scan the menu every day with the patience and silence required to analyse a legal document and then order the same dish, every day

2. Customers who stand at the billing counter and gossip endlessly on the phone and try to enquire about the menu through hand gestures or lip syncing. Sometimes I too reply in the same way. It is surprisingly effective.

3. Customers from another planet who have a different concept of time. For these customers 15 minutes means 5 minutes and no amount of convincing will do. Once I was forced to mark a circle around the timestamp in the receipt and make it clear that 15 minutes means 15 minutes.

4. Customers who feel they have lost a small battle if they have not received something extra with the food. I usually try to accommodate all preferences and include extras (if they don’t cost much). However I learnt the hard way that this would become the 'new normal' and they would then ask for something else extra. It’s the equivalent of wanting to have the last word in every argument.

5. The onion fetish – Some customers consume copious amounts of onions. To avoid wastage I generally provide what is considered an ‘average/reasonable’ amount. This leads to me being labelled stingy and being reminded of the latest (read ‘extremely low’) market price of onions. I wait for onions to reach Rs 100 a kilo so I can have a comeback answer one day, no matter how much it will hurt my input cost.

6. The clueless customer – These are generally extremely goody-goody customers who come in large groups and for whom food has as much importance in life as a bicycle has for a fish. Sometimes I use gimmicky names to promote ‘today’s special’ such as ‘Chandni chowk walay chhole kulchay’. These folks don’t get a single word out of the 5 in the name and have only one question - ‘Veg hai na?’. On hearing ‘yes’ they have only one thing to say - ‘we will have 8 of them’. I love such customers and want to hug them. They uncomplicate my life.

7. The guide – This customer leads a large hapless pack of expat colleagues and is on a mission to educate them about the menu. He spends about 15 minutes explaining to them the pros and cons of every item on the menu and how by placing their future in his hands they will be safe. I love outsourcing my work to such people.

8. The customer on a quest – Sometimes I get customers who are bored and want something ‘interesting’. Now unless I can invent a cauliflower that is capable of having an intelligent conversation on the dinner plate, my only option is to remind them of how they kept craving for curd rice when I did have ‘special’ things in my menu and had to axe them due to lack of enthusiasm. To such people I recommend Chilly Chicken without Chilly. They can keep contemplating if the chilly is actually missing or is it just their imagination.

9. The ‘brother-in-law’ customer (called ‘saala’ in Hindi) – This guy thinks he is part owner of the restaurant, bosses around with the staff, asks the waiter to serve things that he has not ordered at the counter and always wants to pay the ‘next time’. Such behaviour gets exaggerated when the brother-in-law is in a large group - ‘arey yeh apna hi restaurant hai. Order anything’. I have no issues with such brotherly feelings, as long as people pay up.

10. The skeptical customer - ‘Do you cook non veg in a separate vessel?’. Does your atta contain maida? (whatever the hell that means). Is the chicken fresh (no sir, we sourced it from an Egyptian tomb. It was the Pharoah’s favorite pet). Is the lamb a sheep or a goat (no ma’am, it is actually the sheep which was lamb at one point and neither is a goat). Does the cat outside belong to you?

Jokes aside, an overwhelming majority of customers are good customers. Since we don't know their names and still need to pass on correct instructions to the staff, we refer to them by their peculiar habits.

Cheers!
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Old 13th August 2019, 16:43   #2
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Default Re: Types of restaurant customers

@Malyaj,

Great thread. I was for most points. I usually enter a restaurant with a fixed menu in mind with a plan B in case A is not available

Every job has its hazards. Hospitality is no different.

Just wanted to know what size of restaurant do you operate. Forgive me if i am being intrusive.
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Old 13th August 2019, 17:12   #3
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@Malyaj,

Great thread. I was for most points. I usually enter a restaurant with a fixed menu in mind with a plan B in case A is not available

Every job has its hazards. Hospitality is no different.

Just wanted to know what size of restaurant do you operate. Forgive me if i am being intrusive.
Glad you enjoyed it. Nothing intrusive about your question. My restaurant seats exactly 48 normal sized people.
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Old 13th August 2019, 17:13   #4
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(no sir, we sourced it from an Egyptian tomb. It was the Pharoah’s favorite pet).


Thank you, I really enjoyed that write-up!

It's always interesting to hear such experiences from a different perspective - especially if it's something one can never relate to. Here's a similarly hilarious video on the topic -


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Old 13th August 2019, 18:02   #5
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Thank you, I really enjoyed that write-up!

It's always interesting to hear such experiences from a different perspective - especially if it's something one can never relate to. Here's a similarly hilarious video on the topic -
Thanks @jailbird_fynix ! That video was funny. Bologanesh !! Hahaha
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Old 13th August 2019, 18:58   #6
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How are kids not a separate category lol? They run amok, are noisy, throw food around and do everything possible to chase the other customers away from the place, not to mention, they hardly eat anything. I'm just surprised when parents don't bother asking them to keep quiet. Every once in a while there is a sweet child who either sleeps off, or just sticks to asking some questions and looking around aimlessly. At other times, there are ones who turn the restaurant into an athletics field, and gleefully engage in shouting contests. Have you ever asked a parent to control their child? Just wondering if it happens.
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Old 13th August 2019, 19:20   #7
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Originally Posted by Malyaj View Post
8. The customer on a quest – ..... To such people I recommend Chilly Chicken without Chilly. They can keep contemplating if the chilly is actually missing or is it just their imagination.
I remember a time when I had this brainwave (or so I thought). Why do they call it chilli chicken when you just consume the chicken and not the chillies with which it has been garnished?

I ate the entire set of chillies as well as the chicken and went right to sleep. It was first thing in the morning that I got proof that the brainwave was not as clever an idea as it sounded the previous night.

That said - the skeptical customer is bad enough. A whole table full of skeptical customers is a nightmare. I was in my hometown some months back when a group of eight or ten elderly people walked into the restaurant, standard south Indian type place. They kept asking the waiter which dishes came without onions and garlic, and whether any dish could be prepared without these, and then whether the sambar, chutney etc had onions and garlic etc etc. A very long and detailed questionnaire made even more of a nightmare because every one of the elderly gentlemen and ladies had different ideas on what they'd like. Took about twenty minutes to finalize their order, and it took almost that much time for a waiter to turn up at my table. I loudly ordered two or three dishes off the menu that had garlic in their names, to the accompaniment of frowns and assorted other dirty looks from the older people.

The worst part of it for the waiters was that those fellows walked off leaving a single 5 rupee coin as a tip.

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Old 13th August 2019, 19:37   #8
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How are kids not a separate category lol? They run amok, are noisy, throw food around and do everything possible to chase the other customers away from the place, not to mention, they hardly eat anything. I'm just surprised when parents don't bother asking them to keep quiet. Every once in a while there is a sweet child who either sleeps off, or just sticks to asking some questions and looking around aimlessly. At other times, there are ones who turn the restaurant into an athletics field, and gleefully engage in shouting contests. Have you ever asked a parent to control their child? Just wondering if it happens.
I have had my share of over energetic kids. Once there was a little girl who insisted on getting inside the kitchen as she recognized it as the place where all the goodies were coming from. This was a real annoyance as the staff had to be extra careful not to hit her on the way.

My patience was tested when another little girl wiped out our chalkboard menu (used for highlighting our daily specials and best sellers). As usual I had to bear this episode with a 'heh heh, naughty girl' kind of grin in front of parents who appeared the least bit bothered about it.
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Old 13th August 2019, 21:13   #9
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Default Re: Types of restaurant customers

Even when I visit restaurants, Once in a while I witness some customer who gets overtly specific about the not just the ingredients but also how the cook should prepare them. When the servers bring the dish with their best effort & closest to specification, these people find a way to completely dismiss the dish.

Last month was the first time I saw a manager put his foot down and refuse further servings to such a customer after she was arm twisting him with threats of a bad review.

Then there are those who deliberately allow their kids to run amok shouting, screaming & moving furniture, playing with food etc... Things are funny till they're absolutely not. It's asif these kids are thought and encouraged by their parents to remain indifferent to other people's space. And sadly they defend it saying, "heh naughty kids, we can't do anything", to the extent that they get into tenacious verbal disputes with other customers who're just trying to experience what they paid for.

Again, I've seen these kinds of loons being firmly asked to leave when managers cannot handle them.

Long story short, there are crazy people because of whom businesses need to make special arrangements - which drives up the product cost / drives down the dining experience, for everyone.

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Old 13th August 2019, 21:26   #10
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Once there was a little girl who insisted on getting inside the kitchen as she recognized it as the place where all the goodies were coming from.
That's a dangerous thing to permit, isn't it? At the best of times, a commercial kitchen is as dangerous a place for a child to be in, as their being let loose to play on a street with high traffic!
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Old 13th August 2019, 21:30   #11
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That's a dangerous thing to permit, isn't it? At the best of times, a commercial kitchen is as dangerous a place for a child to be in, as their being let loose to play on a street with high traffic!
Of course we didn't allow her inside the kitchen
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Old 14th August 2019, 08:25   #12
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Can't imagine opening and running a restaurant ever! Gotta be one of the hardest jobs in the country (unless you're backed by a ton of cash I guess).

Remember stopping just outside Mumbai on the way to Pune, fancy place and was witness to an argument between the restaurant manager and a customer. The customer's contention was that she shouldn't be charged more than mrp for a bottle of water. The manager's take was that the price was clearly mentioned on the menu, if she didn't want the water, she shouldn't have ordered it and could have used the water from the glasses placed on the table.

Now legally I don't know who was correct (personally, I think that if it's clearly mentioned on the menu, then that is enough for customers to make a choice). But the attitude of the customer was clearly wrong, she went on to say that she was a lawyer, she would get the restaurant shut down, the manager fired, started taking a video of the whole thing, basically kicking up a real fuss. The manager remained calm and professional, but what a job dealing with people like this everyday! And that's not even considering the permits and other government red tape just to open and run!

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Old 14th August 2019, 08:44   #13
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@Malyaj such an interesting insight into the restaurant business , really broadens the view on how it is be on the other side of the fence as the one providing the service rather than the one getting the service.

So a quick one, I do not know if you've come across this situation or what happens when your customer has relished his meals and when it's time to pay up, he replies with no money/forgot wallet, how do you handle such a situation?
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Old 14th August 2019, 10:38   #14
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The day to day grind of the restaurant business doesn’t naturally lend itself to humor, notwithstanding the funny menus and signs that we sometimes see being circulated on social media. A restaurant is a place where tempers are waiting to soar, either in the form of an unhappy customer, a chef whose signature dish has been returned and asked to be redone, a manager who has to contend with a cleaner who has not turned up for duty, or an owner who is grinding his teeth over a nasty review posted by a pretentious food blogger.
Hilarious . Thoroughly enjoyed reading it. What would you call a customer like me?

My regular food at non lunch/dinner times is pav bhaji with 2 extra pav and a glass of watermelon juice with no extra sugar. Lunch / Dinner is methi malai matar with 2 rotis and fresh lime soda. I have been going to this restaurant since the last 22 of my 26 years and ordering the exact same dish. Ok, maybe once or twice I did order something else. I have seen the father handing over the reigns to the son in this time and even today, the older staff recognise us. I make it a point to say hello when passing by. As a kid, had many fond memories of this restaurant in Navi Mumbai. Oh, and yes, no meal is complete with out an ice candy on the way out.

One question - What happens to the pickles and onions that people don't eat? I always wondered this as its impossible for anyone to finish the pickles at the minimum. Cant there be something done to reduce wastage of this?

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Old 14th August 2019, 11:24   #15
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Of course we didn't allow her inside the kitchen
Relieved to hear that.

Incidentally, how is your experience with customers who have special dietary requirements, such as those on a vegan diet, gluten free diet, have nut allergies, etc.?
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