The other day, I was talking to a young woman who worked her way through college by bartending at a busy restaurant. I asked her if all the second-hand cigarette smoke she had to inhale in order to do her job bothered her. She answered in the affirmative, but said there was something else that bothered her even more, which is why she eventually quit bartending before she finished school: the harassment she endured.
It seems this woman had one too many customers “accidentally” bump into or otherwise touch the curves in her female figure. She says the unwanted advances were not directed at her alone, either. “Pretty much every female bartender I worked with went through the same thing,” she said.
Sadly, she claims, when she alerted the restaurant owner about the repeated incidents he covered for the customers: “Don’t pay any attention to them,” he said. “They don’t mean anything by it.”
Before I go any further, I should point out that I have no idea whether this story is true. I suspect it is, however, because I have several friends in the restaurant industry and this is not the first time I’ve heard stories like this. It happens. The restaurant industry is tough.
My question is this: is enduring such behavior simply “part of the job,” as the female bartender with whom I had a recent conversation was told? I don’t think so, and I don’t think any reasonable restaurateur would agree. If a customer acts inappropriately, it is your job as a manager or operator to remedy the situation by making the customer leave your establishment.
I know no one wants to kick out a money-spending patron, but there’s a lot on the line for restaurateurs who look the other way. For starters, if you are aware of inappropriate behavior but choose to ignore it, you are guilty of allowing it to persist. Secondly, not intervening in situations like this could cost you to lose a good employee, who most likely will find a job in a restaurant across the street rather than put up with nonsensical treatment in your establishment. Thirdly, you are pretty much asking for a lawsuit if you don’t come to the defense of your employees. Today’s society is litigious to begin with, but if you don’t make every effort to curb harassment you are more or less getting what you deserve when you are asked to appear in court.
The bottom line? Appreciate your employees. Understand that their efforts contribute to your success. Defend them if they need defending, even if that means upsetting an unruly customer. The price of not doing so, after all, could end up being more than a restaurateur can bear.