Stories of Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Restaurant Employees
Welcome back to Off the Menu, where we bring you the best and strangest food stories from my email inbox. This week, we've got stories of restaurant employees who were so off their game as to be playing an entirely different sport. As always, these are real emails from real readers, though names have been changed.
That's an omelet!“My father was at a diner with coworkers in midtown Manhattan in the '70s. His coworker ordered a hamburger. Pretty straightforward.
“Except when the waitress brought the hamburger... it was clearly a cheese omelet. His coworker pointed out that he ordered a hamburger. Instead of apologizing or offering to bring him the right dish, she said, ‘That is a hamburger.’ They all looked at her. ‘It’s an omelet,’ ‘No, it's a hamburger’ -- they went back and forth a couple times. Finally, she picked up a fork, prodded it, and said ‘No, this is a hamburger.’
“At this point, they were all looking at each other in disbelief, and out of sheer frustration, in unison they yelled, ‘THAT'S AN OMELET.’
She rolled her eyes, sighed, and took the plate away.” -- Nora Dobler
The dangers of hot sauce“For a brief time in Florida, I was working at a semi-fast Tex-Mex restaurant that had a hot sauce bar at all locations. We had sauces that ranged from the not hot at all ‘sweet chili’ to a trademark named one that was basically designed to reduce your ability to breathe for the rest of the day and then pray to the gods to make it end.
“I was a ‘shift lead,’ which was a bullshit name for being an assistant manager, but only for $0.50/hr more over minimum wage than the BOH staff. So, I had a little authority to assign the side work and/or handle red tickets. On one very slow day, and with the GM picking up supplies, I assigned a newbie who was a total asshat (he was douchey in general, but was especially so to the FOH girls) to clean the sauce bar and then to take his break. There was a very, VERY specific, but simple, protocol for handling the sauces. Since asshat newbie had just finished the training for such, I assumed he would remember the basic steps to cleaning and QC'ing the sauces. I was very wrong.
“I found out how wrong after he came back to tell me he was taking his break, and went to the bathroom. Seconds later, we heard screaming and wailing coming from the bathroom. The bathrooms were singles and were in the dining area. So I ran out to investigate and the noise was coming from the men's bathroom. I realize that asshat was in there, and with little need for deductive reasoning, realized that he forgot to put on gloves before handling the hottest hot sauce, and then proceeded to wash his hands, which makes it spread easier. Then he had handled his man parts to pee.
“Crying from laughter, I pulled a bucket of sour cream, gave it to him, and sent him home. We never heard from him again. The FOH staff rejoiced.” -- Dan Majors
You keep using that word...“My coworkers and I eat at a bar near our office for lunch every once in awhile. It shuts down often and changes ownership all the time. We really only go out of convenience since it's so close.
“Last time we were there, it had just reopened the prior week (under new ownership, after being closed for about two months). We were seated quickly as they were not busy and our waitress greeted us offering drinks and apps to start. We asked for some time to look at the new menu (hardly anything on it had changed) but everything was off to a fairly normal start. She returned a few minutes later with some waters and took down our orders. We decided to start simple with some chips and salsa.
“Then she disappeared for about 20 minutes, came back with the chips we had ordered, but no salsa. When we asked about it she said ‘Oh right!’ disappeared for another five minutes or so and came back with a bottle of Tabasco sauce. My boss: ‘Thanks, but what about the salsa?’
“‘That's your salsa!’ she exclaimed with complete confidence, pointing at the Tabasco sauce. We all just kind of looked at each other.
“‘Do you have any queso dip or guacamole instead?’ my boss asked.
“‘No, sorry. Just this salsa.’” -- Kevin Parker
No more bread, please“Years ago, my wife and I went to a hole-in-the-wall Italian restaurant next to the movie theater we frequented. We placed our order and the waiter brought us some bread. My wife bit into a piece, looked puzzled and pulled a cigarette filter out of her mouth. I called over the manager, told him what happened and showed him the evidence.
“He took one look, analyzed the situation and said, ‘Do you want more bread?’” -- Ted Sapers
Pushing anaphylaxis“My husband and I were out with another couple at a locally owned place that was a pretty nice for our small town. Our server was 19 or maybe 20.
“Apparently, the staff had been told to push some of the appetizers hard, because even after we ordered some other appetizers, she kept asking if we wanted the Bang Bang Rock Shrimp. I'm allergic to shellfish, so we just politely kept saying no, until I'd finally had enough (I mean, at this point, we'd already ordered our entrees). I just said, ‘Thanks, but I'm allergic to shellfish, so we won't be ordering it.’
“She said, with a completely straight face, ‘Oh, there's no shellfish in it. It's just shrimp.’ I just politely said that shrimp are shellfish, and she was legitimately confused and surprised. In my head, I thought ‘How many people have you inadvertently killed since you started working here?’ I mean, if she was pushing pecan pie and someone said they were allergic to nuts, would she say, ‘Oh, there aren't nuts in it -- just pecans?’” -- Amanda Hamels
Math is hard“I manage a Rita's Italian Ice which serves soft frozen custard in Vanilla, Chocolate, and (in stores that have multiple soft serve machines) a rotation of three other flavors. All the flavors are made by adding a flavored syrup to the vanilla custard mix in store. One day I was training a new employee how to measure out the right amounts. Most of the employees are high school students, so we assume nothing about how much they know.
“Since we were not going to be very busy on this day and there was already some mix in the machine, I decided that we would make a half batch of our normal recipe. I told the 16-year-old new employee that we only needed half of the 64oz carton of vanilla custard mix, handed her a measuring pitcher, and asked her how much that would be. She stared at me blankly for a moment and responded that she didn't know because she wasn't good at math.
“I mentally shrugged and asked ‘OK, well, what would half of 60oz be?’ thinking that perhaps with a round number she'd be better off. We could work up to the right answer.
“She thought for a second and responded ‘20?’
“‘Uh, no. What about half of 6?’ Maybe if we get to one digit numbers we'll be okay.
“Her response: ‘4?’
“At that point I gave up and told her the answer. I didn't even try to walk her through half of the three ounces of flavor mix we needed.” -- Linda Kotter
She's definitely not racist, but...“My husband and I were having lunch at a local restaurant (not a chain place). It’s a basic lunch/dinner place serving the standards: club sandwiches, caesar salad, burgers, etc. We were sitting on the patio area, and a couple, I’d say in their late 20s, was sat at a table next to us right after we gave our drinks. Our server asked if it was a special occasion, and the woman said it was the man’s birthday, so she was treating him to lunch. The server asked if they were a couple, and they, who for the ease of storytelling we’re going to call Emma and Noah, said no, just friends.
“Midway through, the server came out with another server, and went around to each table to tell us he was going on break, but Olivia would take care of us. Fine. The only issue was when he came to Emma and Noah’s table. He explained they were there for Noah’s birthday and Olivia said they were a very cute couple. Emma corrected her, ‘actually we’re just friends.’
“Olivia: ‘No, I can just sense these things. You two definitely have chemistry. Are you going to get married soon or have you just started dating?’
“Emma: ‘We’re definitely not dating and not getting married.’
“Olivia: ‘You don’t have to hide it here. No one has any problems with mixed-race couples around here you know.’ (Emma was black and Noah was white.) [Editor’s Note: Oh god. The contact embarrassment. Oh God.]
“At this point, the server told them the food would be out soon and shuffled Olivia away.
“The meal continued and was fine, except Olivia kept insisting Emma and Noah were a couple, even accusing them of not admitting it because they thought she was racist. Olivia did remember it was Noah’s birthday, so he got the free ice cream and candle. My husband and I found the whole thing very funny to watch. We paid and were getting ready to go when she delivered the check to Emma and Noah. Emma said, ‘Oh here, you can just take this right away,’ and offered her card.
“Olivia: ‘Are you serious?’
“Olivia to Noah: ‘Are you really going to have your girlfriend pay? What’s up with that?’
“Emma: ‘Hi, I’m right here. One, he’s not my boyfriend. Two, it’s my money and I get to spend it however I want. I want to pay, so please take my card.’
“Olivia: ‘No. I’m not going to let this guy force you to pay. It’s not right to ask a girl out, then make her pay.’
“Noah: ‘OK, just drop off the check then and come back in a few minutes. Then you won’t have to see who pays.’
“Olivia: ‘No. The minute I turn my back you’re going to force her to pay, I know it. Why’d you ask her out if you can’t afford it?’
“Emma: ‘His money is not your business. Now take my card or get the manager.’
“It went on like this for a while with Olivia demanding Noah pay and saying he deserved to be embarrassed and Emma demanding that Olivia take her card or get the manager. My husband and I stayed to watch, because it was entertaining and we’re not saints. [Editor’s Note: Are you kidding? Who the hell DOESN’T stay to watch this? I would’ve bought popcorn.]
“Eventually, Olivia’s shouting was enough that someone inside must have heard, because the manager came out and sent Olivia in. He listened to Noah and Emma, then took Emma’s card and said he would run it.” -- Pauline Gray
Do you have a restaurant, home-cooking, or any other food-adjacent story you’d like to see appear in Off the Menu (on ANY subject, not just this one)? Please e-mail WilyUbertrout@gmail.com with “Off the Menu” in the subject line (or you can find me on Twitter @EyePatchGuy). Submissions are always welcome!
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