April 4, 2014 |

Employee outbursts awkward for customers

By Denise Greer

When I enter a restaurant, I’m not just a customer. I’m an observer, a student really, taking mental notes on how my favorite places function.

A regular spot for me is a neighborhood restaurant that also happens to have a wide craft beer selection and a quaint Old World tavern room. I often choose to sit in the bar section because it’s laid back and the staff’s so friendly.

Our server was charming, witty and made us feel comfortable, as usual. But as our dinners arrived, I hear the bartender shouting to another server to “tell the back to turn ‘it’ off.” A look of confusion swept across the waitress’s face. She was dismayed as to what the bartender wanted. Meanwhile, one of the beer taps had malfunctioned spraying beer all over the bartender, the bar and a few patrons’ belongings on the bar. After a moment of shouting, the waitress finally commanded the kitchen crew to turn off the valves to the kegs.

It was as if the bartender and server spoke two different languages and, in a sense, they did. The bartender’s directive was not clear and the miscommunication resulted in a huge amount of expensive stout ending up in a mop bucket.

But that wasn’t the worst part. As the bartender cleaned up the mess and the server apologized for the misunderstanding, the bartender spent the next five minutes belittling and berating this poor server loudly.

So much for my casual, laid back setting. There is a time and a place for a discussion on the miscommunication that transpired — a training opportunity to teach the entire team what to do if this scenario happens again. Instead, the bartender scolded the server with an “I’m right, you’re wrong” mentality in front of a room full of customers.

My question: Where was management during this altercation?

This was during the peak of the dinner rush. I kept waiting for a manager or owner to step between them and end it. But that leader never appeared.

It’s up to you to set the policies and guidelines in place for employee interaction. One of those should be a “zero tolerance” for outbursts in front of guests. Make respecting one another part of your core values. If someone steps out of line, it’s up to other team members to alert a manager of an altercation so that customers do not have to spend their time and money in an awkward, uncomfortable environment.

Had this been my first visit to that restaurant, it could have easily been my last. Lucky for the business, I am a regular and will give them another shot.

You strive to make your guests feel comfortable at your restaurant. What do you do when that is disrupted by an employee altercation?