The Christmas Rant.

There really has been a dearth of Christmas cheer this year.
I accept that that lots of people are forced into going out with colleagues/acquaintances that perhaps they wouldn't normally be inclined to socialise with but dear God why on earth it becomes acceptable to take out frustrations on service staff I have NO IDEA.
There must be some sort of pack mentality at play here..
The first of the biggish groups consisted of a party of females who had opted to choose from the regular menu.Usually this bodes well the implication being they're willing to try more than just the bog standard Christmas stuff.
We happened to have mallard on the menu.
When three of the group went ahead and ordered this particular menu item I was feeling slightly nervous.
Please note I am not a snob..but I would have put money on this lot not enjoying this particular dish.I thought I'd try to dissuade them and influence them towards something I knew they'd appreciate.Something inoffensive and slow cooked.
'The mallard is served pink-will that be ok for you'
I smiled and waited expectantly for the alternative orders to fly in..
'Well as long as it's not raw that's fine'
A determined lot.What else could I say other than 'listen mate, you're not going to like it'?
To which the only rational response could be 'well why's it on your menu then??'
I accepted defeat and hoped for the best.Though my heart sank as I just caught the comment 'I love crispy duck, I always order it at the Golden Dragon'
When the meals were sent initially all appeared to be well,there was much cooing and positive comments.
A couple of minutes later,predictably I was called over to the table.
There is a good and bad way to make a complaint,what follows should really be classified under 'Obnoxious complaint'
'This duck is DISGUSTING.I can't believe the Chef has sent this out of his kitchen.I eat out all the time and I've never been served something as disgraceful as this' (repeated stabbing of the poor breast with knife)
'Ok let me take that away for you,can I get you something else instead'
'We'll all have the braised beef'
The offending duck..

Note the absence of any P word but Eureka they'd identified something I knew they'd like.
You will know by now the score with the kitchen and the standard response'Tell them to get out' so I wont bother to go into any further details,suffice to say three braised beef were put on.Job done as far as I was concerned.
When the substitute dishes were ready I thought I'd better take them out myself in order to do a bit more grovelling just to avert any possible future TA assassination.
As I approached the table the ring leader raised her hand.
'We don't want that now its too late and we've waited too long,everyone else is nearly finished now'
'Well I'm very sorry about that but  we cant make the  food cook any quicker than it takes'
'Well its just NOT GOOD ENOUGH is it????'
She was shaking her head so vigorously in disgust that her Christmas Pudding earrings gave her the look of a living maraca, I momentarily became concerned that the make up she'd meticulously applied with a catapult a couple of hours earlier,might unwittingly slide off.
'Look I'm very sorry but I don't know what you expect me to say,you didn't enjoy your original choices so we've prepared alternatives as requested,which you are more than welcome to eat now,what more can i do?'
I stood there expectantly with the three plates of steaming food in my hands.
'No its too late,we expected to eat together.The service here is a disgrace'
'Have you eaten here before?'I enquired politely.
'What's that got to do with it??I KNOW THE DIFFERENCE between a good and bad meal,I eat out all the time and to be perfectly honest we WONT BE BACK'
'Thats the truest thing she's said all night' said Chef as the three untouched meals were flung unceremoniously into the bin.
Next day we had 'whole plaice' on the menu.You'd think we'd have learned by now with all the problems we've had over the summer with 'whole' fish but we're nothing if not optimistic and doggedly determined to the last, so on it went.
A couple of old dears came in for a 'special Birthday lunch' which they hadn't bothered to book for so despite wanting 'your best table' ended up sitting on the small table in front of the bar,normally left for drinkers.
They both ordered the plaice.Seniors like fish.Not much chewing effort involved.
When I took the plates over there was a an audible gasp.
'My goodness they're big'
And no it wasn't my Christmas baubles they were referring to.
I have to admit they were more akin to small whales than your average bottom feeder,we'd already commented earlier on their gargantuan proportions and at only £1.20 per portion Chef was rubbing his hands with glee at the prospective excellent GP.
A couple of minutes later I heard a sharp 'pssst'.I jerked my head towards the perceived direction of the sound.There it went again,a definite and most determined psssssst.
Now normally this sort of attention seeking action gets my goat almost as much as the clowns who tap on the bar and then wonder why they get served last, but coming as it did from a couple of tweedy spinsters, I found it unexpectedly amusing and had to stifle an inadvertent giggle.
'Can you find me some mushy peas in the kitchen,dear, preferably marrowfat?'
'Im sorry we don't have peas on the menu today-I can get you a side order of vegetables if you like?'
'Only green veg Dear, anything else gives me terrible wind'
And so it came to pass(joke) that the only green vegetable available in the kitchen being 'sprout' the plaice and chips had a somewhat untraditional if not Christmassy feel.
Much later,when I went over to clear the plates and on enquiring had enjoyed their meal I was unprepared for the content and ferocity of the response.
'Well no not really,I didn't expect the plaice to fill the whole plate..'
This is all wrong.How could you not expect the plaice to fill the whole farking plate?The plate could have been so tiny that even a very small fish would still have filled it.Good God shall we fish to order?Yes that's a bit too big, lets throw that one back and catch a smaller one..
Yes. The Plaice was too big yet you still went ahead and ordered a massive bowl of the least flatulent inducing vegetable known to man to accompany it...
Next day being Saturday and all indications being for the Shit to hit the proverbial fan we girded our loins and drafted in extra troops in the form of a particularly efficient seventeen year old who normally only works Sunday lunch.
At 11.20 we were nearly set up and planning to grab a quick coffee before opening when the phone rang.As I answered it I noticed in my peripheral vision a couple appear at the side of the bar.Sunday Girl was furiously hoovering and hadn't heard them approach.As she turned around she screamed very loudly as they unexpectedly appeared right in front of her face.
The couple were unruffled.
'Are you open?'
Yes, we always welcome customers with a spot of impromptu hoovering..
'No I'm sorry we aren't,we don't open until midday'
'Well, why is the door open?'
'The door isn't open, its locked'
'That door isn't locked we just came through it' (pointing at the back door)
'Ah yes thats the back door,thats the entrance over there'( pointing at the front door)
'Well if you're not open why is that door unlocked??'
I was quite pleased with her response.
'So that the staff can get in...'
The couple turned and headed towards the locked entrance.
'Ahem,excuse me.. that door is locked...'
This scenario kind of set the tone for the rest of lunch.
Within twenty minutes of opening all but two tables were taken and things were definitely hotting up in the kitchen.With every new check pinned on the board Chef was becoming increasingly annoyed,when the latest check to hit the board was welcomed with the comment 'this is effing ridiculous' I thought it was time to take diversionary action.With two tables remaining to order I thought I'd forewarn the punters that the kitchen was very busy therefore the food wouldn't be appearing any time soon.
Christmas Production line in full swing

I approached the first table.
'Hello,just to let you know that the kitchen is very busy today,a lot of orders have just gone on therefore there is a bit of a wait for meals at the moment'
Second beam.
The younger of the two women scowled.
'WELL that doesn't make me feel very welcome at all in  your restaurant,I've just sat down and now you're telling me that I'm going to have to wait and I haven't even ordered any food yet'.
To say she  was seething would be putting it mildly.
'Well I'm really sorry about that but there is a wait,so rather than letting you go ahead and order, then having you sit and wait for longer than you expect I thought I'd make you aware of the delay in advance'
'But we've ordered drinks now..'
'Well if you prefer not to stay, I can cancel the drinks for you..'
'No we're here now and we're hungry so we will stay but I don't feel welcomed into your restaurant AT long will the wait be?'
How long is a piece of string?I didn't dare ask the kitchen for an estimated delivery time so used the tried and tested 'Well that depends what you order' i.e. if you end up having to wait its your own fault because you ordered something which takes a while to cook.
As it happens the other table yet to order were within earshot of the table which I'd just had the exchange with and they'd earwigged the whole debacle.Complainers usually have either a beneficial effect or an infectious effect,on this occasion the woman's demeanour and attitude went well in my favour.I was greeted with the level of warmth and affection usually only reserved for the return of a long lost relative..

'That's no problem AT ALL we're in no hurry, just sitting here enjoying our drinks and soaking up the lovely atmosphere'
I did a quick circuit of the bar to assess the situation and noted further Christmas revellers streaming in through the front door ready to pounce on newly vacated tables.I clocked a couple being directed to the only table for two,a smallish one squished into a corner,one you don't dare book out, but reserve for walk ins. I thought I'd better get another order from a table of four who'd been sitting for a while.
'Is that all you have for vegetarians?'
Please God no.NOT that old chestnut again.I decided to take the direct approach.
'Yes I'm afraid vegetarian food isn't really our thing,though if you had let us know in advance that you were coming we would have offered an additional option.'
'Ok well I don't like your veggie option so can I have some of the bubble and squeak and some vegetables please but no pork chop on there because I'm a VEGETARIAN'
You don't say.
As I checked the order on and explained the lack of a pork chop I didn't dare ask for a veggie gravy due to the volume of checks already on the board and no craic being available in the kitchen at all.It was one of those rare occasions where the pressure out front was greater than that in the kitchen and being the perceptive fellow he is,Chef had cottoned on and clearly feeling sorry for me offered of his own free will to make a veggie gravy..!!
As I turned to leave with a new found spring in my step I was called back.
'Whilst you're here take that starter to table 3'
It was the difficult table.They'd ordered one starter between the four of them.
'Your kipper pate'
'No I ordered the Craster kipper'
'Yes the kipper pate,this is it'
'NO that's not what I ordered,I ordered the Craster Kipper'
'Yes the Craster kipper is in there, its been made into a pate'
Pointing directly into the pot.
'But that's not what I ordered'
'Well there's no whole kipper on the menu...would you like me to take this away?'
There was a minor disturbance going on as I passed through the bar en route to the kitchen,the couple allocated the small table were now standing, the woman's voice raised.'Im not happy sitting there CANCEL my drinks' I could see Sunday Girl already on her way over with the trayed beverages.
'Would you like this table instead?' I overheard her say pointing at a just vacated bigger table.
'NO I'M NOT HAPPY now, Cancel the drinks, we're leaving'
The husband mouthed sorry as he scurried out of the door behind her.
'Drink?' said Sunday Girl as we both headed back to the bar where OCD Boy was busy issuing a Gift Voucher in the midst of the mayhem.
We both eyed the vodka and coke enviously as the Human Christmas Cracker extended back to the front door,resplendent in Festive sweaters, M & S carriers and the odd set of antlers.
'Next time you ask me to work a Saturday Biff,the answers's NO'
We plonked the drinks tray down and both rushed to the kitchen to answer the bell which was ringing increasingly impatiently now.
'How long is the wait time now?' I asked with further diners continuing to appear.
'Well with the grill temperature at around 4 degrees I'd say around teatime today,if not later' said Chef sarcastically.
I could see The Apprentice standing behind,red faced and holding a pan full of bacon topped with grill stones,no doubt the result of an over enthusiastic pan grab..
I made a sharp exit and headed back over to the bar.

(Have I ever mentioned I hear all these voices in my head?Every twitter user has a voice which I read their tweets in.In the same vein I hear music according to situations,the current situation had Queens 'Don't stop me now' along with the visuals from the fight scene in Shaun of the Dead playing on a constant loop in my head.I walk around to the pace of the music.I'm weird I know ....)

By now,OCD boy was bent over, pen in hand,meticulously filling out the Gift Voucher Record File in beautiful evenly spaced tiny writing.Oblivious to the impatient crowd eager to be served.A chap at the end of the bar called out for his bill.Without even raising his head from the beloved file which is indeed an exciting and irresistible prospect for someone with OCD,with all those little columns and lines to be completed with delightful accuracy and precision,he muttered:
'Just give us a minute mate..'
He was so engrossed he hadn't seen me approach.
'Forget the fucking calligraphy practice and get the bloody bill for the customer'
'Yes Biff'
I'd make a great ventriloquist.

As things calmed down, the kitchen caught up with orders and with 2pm and last orders about to pass,a couple entered the bar.
'Are we too late for food?'
Due to the hammering we'd had at lunchtime and with the afternoon chip restocking about to commence I thought I'd do the kitchen a favour and tell the latecomers they could only have starters or sandwiches.The last thing they would be wanting would be a chancer coming in and ordering a leisurely three course meal just after 2pm.
I imparted the bad news.
'So basically we're stuffed?'
'Well no,we can offer sandwiches any starter,a hot soup and chips,what were you wanting'
'Well as I said we are happy to offer any starter or sandwich as we have finished serving now'
I resisted the urge to tell him it wasn't compulsory to stay.
'I can't read those boards,the writing is terrible'
Following a prolonged description of the dishes on offer I managed to extricate an order and pass it to the kitchen.
What is wrong with people??' I later enquired of Chef.
'I wouldn't worry' he said thoughtfully 'its all relative innit?? The more people you do,the more fuckwittery you get,two weeks today it'll all be over..'
At least someone was happy..



Nicky said…
Maybe you should put up a sign: "Do as you would be done by." Such awful behaviour! So much for goodwill to men and peace on earth ;)
belleau kitchen said…
my god I feel spent... need a lie down... don't know how or why you do it xx
Been there, done it, got out before I killed somebody. The amazing thing is that if you challenged them on their behaviour they would swear that they had been entirely reasonable. My sympathies.
m.lawrenson said…
Bloody hell. I'd certainly need a drink after all that. My mouth would be dry after spitting on all those plates...
Alison Cross said…
I don't know HOW you manage to put up with customers like that, I really don't. You are a veritable SAINT!

Not long now until it's allllllll over!

Ali x
Vivianne said…
I used to ask the rude ones, where did they work, because I was going to come in there and speak to them just like they'd spoken to me/my staff.
Lee Burns said…
Sigh. I used to work as a wine waiter in a 1-rosette Scottish country type place. Cheapest wine on the list was a Liebfraumilch. By the end of my time there I'd perfected the polite "that wine is very much medium; you wouldn't prefer something drier?". Almost never worked. The dining room was quite imposing and so a lot of guests were afraid to complain. We could have filled the loch by the 16th green with leftover Lieb. You r fictional restaurant occasionally gets some nice customers too though, right?!
Liz said…
Ha ha - people just never believe the world we inhabit as publicans / restaurateurs do they!!???

Keep on keeping on

Liz x

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