Hello, and welcome back to Off The Menu, where we explore the craziest stories about food from my email inbox. This week, we’ve got another favorite: extremely dumb restaurant customers. As always, these are real stories from real readers.
First, though, I’d like to say a couple words to some of my regular readers. I already talked about this at length on Twitter, but basically, if you’re complaining about the site in the comments…that’s really not cool. I understand some ads can be frustrating, but you’re always going to have to deal with ads, and at least THIS website doesn’t have very many of them (or any obnoxious broken autoplay video pop-ups). As far as the site design itself, do you walk into your neighbor’s house and shout “HEY, FUCK THESE CURTAINS”? Because if not, please extend the same courtesy to this website, which is in fact my favorite place I’ve written OTM/BCO for since there’s no bullshit or hassle involved with working for Bitter Empire.
Okay? Okay. Now let’s enjoy some stories.
Some time ago, I was working as a bartender at a high-end steak and seafood restaurant in western Massachusetts.
I was working one Monday night and we were fairly busy, which means our dining room was full and my bar was decently populated. In comes a man in his forties with a significantly younger lady in tow. I go to take their drink orders and notice the woman is already tipsy. That becomes a non-issue when they both order soda.
Now, the establishment was well known for having fresh oysters on the half shell every day. It was kind of our thing. So I get the couple’s order and she is very enthusiastic about the oysters, which I explain are raw and served on the half shell with a variety of sauces or whatever. They get those and some other apps and entrees.
A little while later, after I’ve dropped the oysters and apps and have seen to my other patrons, I go back to check on this couple. I ask how everything is. The young lady looks me in the eye and says “I’m sorry, I think these oysters are undercooked.” I blink a few times and ask her to clarify. She says “I don’t think you cooked these enough. They aren’t crispy.” At this point it’s all I can do to not inform her that the entire point of her dish was that they were not cooked. She then wonders if I can cook them some more for her.
Well, of course I can, miss! I saunter into the kitchen and look one of the sous chefs in the eyes and explain my situation. His explosive outrage flays the skin from my bones. By the time he’s done and I escape, I am a skeleton clad in black-on-black, clutching a plate of rabbit turd-sized super crazy over-fried oyster tidbits.
I get ten percent.
I worked for Pizza Hut for two years as a delivery driver and never really got any weird customers. However, weird calls were another thing. Sometimes you get your usual asking for an odd topping we don’t offer, or ask if we deliver to some city that was literally wasn’t even in the same county or area code.
One busy night, though, the phone goes off and everyone else is too busy to answer it. I run over from washing dishes and this was the short exchange that happened:
“Thank you for calling Pizza Hut, will this be for delivery or carry out?”
“Oh uh, actually I just have a quick question.”
“No problem, how can I help you?”
“What’s your phone number?”
“What’s your phone number so I can order a pizza.”
“Uhh… what’s the number you dialed?”
*Guy reads out our phone number*
“That’s our number.”
“Oh okay. I wasn’t too sure. Thanks.”
He hangs up without ordering anything. To this day I still believe the guy was serious and it wasn’t a prank call.
I work in a casual Mexican restaurant, doing everything from taking orders to waiting tables to cooking. We have one regular customer, a guy who loves to talk about his globetrotting vacations and how worldly he is because of them. He’s particularly proud of his travels to Mexico, which of course he tells us all about whenever he comes in.
One day, he was at the counter, looking at the menu board. He pointed to the burritos and asks some routine questions, which I answered. He decided he would have a burrito, and I repeated his order back to him, as I do for every customer. There was no doubt that the burrito dinner was his intention that evening.
Fast forward a few minutes: his food came up and we took it out to him. A few minutes after that, he sent his burrito back, not because it wasn’t good, but because what he really wanted, what he thought he was going to get, was a tostada dinner.
You’d think after a few trips to Mexico, he’d understand what is and what isn’t a burrito.
I recently went on a trip, in one of those organized tour groups with about a dozen other people. We’re all in our twenties and thirties, so young enough to be pretty much up for anything but also adult enough that we know how food is eaten.
A lot of the restaurants we stopped at for lunch had the same general concept: choice between a couple of main dishes, plus a salad bar. So basically all of the sides were at the salad bar and the main dish options were explained to us by the restaurant staff or translated to us by our tour guide. Or both, in the case of this one restaurant whose specialty was a local fish. Before we even got to the restaurant, our tour guide told the entire group what they were serving that day, including this fish, which was served whole. She explained what she meant by “served whole,” in case anyone couldn’t guess that it meant we were getting an entire fish, not a fillet, not fish sticks — the whole fish. It seemed like everyone understood her, and a whole fish wasn’t a problem for most of us, who grew up in fish-eating families and cultures and/or were capable of using utensils.
When we got to the restaurant, our waiter again took us through the menu, and told us that the fish is served whole. It’s a whole fish. You get the whole fish. He even reminded some of us as we ordered the fish, so that we could confirm it was okay that we were getting a whole fish.
One guy, though, must have fallen through the cracks, because after multiple verbal warnings, and overhearing conversations about the fish being served whole, and seeing everyone else at his table being served a whole fish on a plate… waited until his fish was served to look down at it, eyes bulging, and ask “HOW am I supposed to eat THIS?”
I was too busy dismantling and enjoying the whole fish that I purposefully ordered to find out HOW he ate his.
My first and only restaurant job was during grad school. Friends of the family were opening a restaurant with an upscale diner theme. It was a long narrow room with about 14 booths down the left side, a bar with 15 stools on the right and beyond that an open kitchen ending in a chef’s table/counter area. Diners don’t have “chefs,” but the designer and owner though it would work in the atmosphere.
Not so much. Usually it was the place the hostess would stash people waiting for a booth to open up, thus requiring the bartenders to zigzag through the kitchen to take a drink order, back to the bar to make it, back to the counter to serve it, and back to behind the bar. Major pain in the ass, especially when the guests wanted to order food to munch on as they waited, because the ordering system was at the other end of the bar. The worst design decision made for that counter, though, was installing the commercial sink and disposal right behind it — within sight, sound, and reach of the customers.
Anyway, the night of nights was a Saturday about a month after opening. Absolutely slammed. There was a group of 8 at the chef’s table/counter who politely called ahead to reserve it and wanted to converse with the cook (“chef”) as he made a variety of items on the menu.
Apparently, after numerous cocktails the gentlemen in the party initiated a game of “Let’s see what we can jam into the disposal and get pulverized while nobody’s looking.” Remains of salad, appetizers, entrees, sides, all went without a problem. Issues arose with them shoving a cloth napkin down followed by a coffee cup, half a block of paper towels from the gents, a roll of cash register receipt paper and, of course, a whole pineapple swiped from the bar.
Killed the disposal right there at 10:00 pm. The credit card used to make the reservation was immediately dinged for $7500 to cover emergency repairs. They didn’t even attempt to apologize; they feebly attempted to explain by saying they thought the disposal could handle anything placed in it and were absolutely shocked when it crashed.
Do you have any food-related stories you’d like to see included in Off The Menu?Feel free to submit them to WilyUbertrout@gmail.com. New submissions are always welcome! (Seriously, you don’t need to ask if I want you to send them in, the answer is always yes). If you’d like to stay up to date with OTM news, my Twitter handle is @EyePatchGuy.