“That’s no duck…” he said… I saw the bartender reading autographs on his baseball bat…
“This is no duck! That’s beef!” He argued.
“This has to be a joke.” I thought and, “His timing is certainly off!”
A WAITER’S NIGHTMARE
I had a group of six who had been drinking before they got to us. They were greeted and seated and menus handed to each of them. A colleague, who had teamed up with me for the evening, brought one order of bar-drinks to them.
I took their dinner and wine order at the same time. They ordered a bottle of Freemark Abbey Merlot and I served the wine. None in the group wanted an appetizer or salad as such. All they ordered was one course. They told me several times “We aren’t hungry, we have been snacking all day!” This did not bother me. I get this, on and off, that people come in for an appetizer only, or dessert and occasionally just for drinks.
I posted their order on the pick-up-wheel in the kitchen and took care of my other tables. Within twenty minutes their food-order was prepared and I served it. There were: An angel hair pasta with pesto sauce, a Caesar salad, a duck salad, a cup of asparagus soup, a shrimp cocktail and a regular tossed salad.
One of the customers ordered more wine and a round of cocktails at the same time. I checked with these guests twice as they were eating their meal. This was nothing else but the normal routine, to see if everything was right and according to their wishes. They seemed to be happy with their food.
However, then, as I walked by again, one guest grabbed my arm and got all my attention. For two reasons: One, I was carrying a tray filled with food for another table, which I nearly dropped; Two, he didn’t let go till I told him to take his hands of me. It was the fellow who had had the duck salad.
He did not apologize for his rude behavior but pointed at a single little piece of meat left on his plate. “This is no duck! That’s beef!” He argued.
“This has to be a joke.” I thought and, “His timing is certainly off!” But he was serious. He was persistent and repeated the question “How come, you pass beef of as duck?” several times in a loud voice, which drew the attention of all the surrounding tables. I gathered “This is no joking matter anymore.” I tried to get out of the by the guest anticipated argument. Whether this tiny piece of meat came from one two legged or a four hoofed farm animal did not even matter to me right then. What mattered was, that I did not want to get into any argument. I said therefor, “Let me take this back to the kitchen and check with the chef.” So I did.
The talk in the kitchen was one-sided. The chef thought I was trying to pull his leg. He told me “I do not think it is funny!” When he realized that I indeed had a guest who insisted that the meat used in the duck salad, was beef and not duck, our chef lost his even temper. To escape harms way and flying frying pans. I decided at once to leave the kitchen and the infallibly all mighty chef.
At the complaining guest’s table I translated the chef’s words into: “I’m sorry to hear you are unhappy. Still, the salad must have tasted good. You did eat it, all of it but one little scrap. I checked with the chef and let me assure you we don’t use substitutes. Our duck salad is made with duck breast.”
“Don’t give me this b.s., that was beef and I want to know why there is beef in the duck salad?” The customer was stubborn. To resolve the problem, which was not the salad anymore, but to have to argue with a guest, I went one step further. “Sir if I take this salad off your check, will this satisfy you?” I thought I heard a “Yes!”
So that is what I did. I took the salad in question off the guest’s check. (Where I worked at the time, we were allowed to mark items which were unsatisfactory as N/C on the check. N/C standing for no charge. This was within the policy the guest is always right.)
I thought it was handled correctly. And therefor I was under the impression that there would be no further problems with this table. The guests sounded happy, making jokes and laughing. I was getting busy with other tables. Less than half an hour after I had successfully solved the duck salad problem, at least so I thought, they called me over to their table.
Now the same fellow who had the duck salad earlier started over again with his earlier question: “Why did you put beef into my duck salad?” Politely I reminded the guest that I thought we settled this. He did not want to listen. Nevertheless, he kept on telling me and everybody who wanted to hear it all sorts of things. None had anything to do with me or the restaurant. I noticed this fellow had enough to drink.
When he ordered another drink, I decided to serve this troublemaker no more booze. I also went to add up this table’s check. They paid up and there was no problem.
A short while later, a certain customer walked up to the bar, where the chef was talking to the bartender. The drunk fellow did not wait but butted into the conversation. He told the bartender to give him a drink. Then looking at the chef said, “So you are the cook who replaced the duck with beef in my salad?” The chef was speechless first. After the guest added, “Aren’t you or who did it?” the chef was trying to defend himself. The bartender was on the chef’s side. And the guest who was feeling no pain was enjoying his position accusing both of conspiring against him. I heard them arguing. It would have been funny, but it was not the way the guest relationship in a fine restaurant should be. The bartender told me to put another drink onto the guest’s bill. So I advised him, “This gentleman behaves like he had had enough to drink!”
I barely finished saying, what I was saying. The bartender, with a smooth backhand, swiped the guest’s glass from right in front of him. The guest looked angry at me. However, without argument he followed my suggestion “Sir! Kindly go back to your table to your group of people! You had enough to drink! I am sorry but we are not going to serve you any more alcohol tonight.”
The group was leaving. Five of the six were leaving. The bartender had gone to the bathroom and returning to his bar found my guest behind his bar. Our bartender called me to witness the situation. He was ready to get his hands on this s.o.b. and he expressed, “It will be my pleasure to eighty-six this fellow from behind my bar!”
I cautioned the bartender not to overreact and asked him to let me deal with the situation. With an angry voice I told my guest off: “Sir! I want you to leave this establishment right now!”
“I want you out of this door and don’t come back until you are sober!” I saw him hesitating, so added: “If you don’t go right now. I shall call the police to remove you from our restaurant!” He looked in my direction. His face reflected surprise, recognition, and suddenly enlightenment changed his facial impression. I knew he understood now. He headed from behind the bar straight for the front door and out the same. He was in a great hurry.
I knew I had handled the situation the right way. This customer, who had interrupted the steady flow of the night’s business, finally had decided to leave at once. He had taken my advice and listened to me, so I thought. Until I turned around and saw a smiling bartender reading the autographs on his baseball bat.