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 more horror stories of terrible restaurant customers. As always, these are real stories from real readers.
I was working at a pretty decent, relatively upscale place when The Table walked in. They sat down at a booth against the wall, proceeded to get a drink from the bar, and once the drinks arrived, told me to leave them be so they could enjoy their drinks — they’d get back to me in their own time.
OK, sure. Whatever. I allowed them ten minutes to drink three sips and I walked by to let them know I was still there when needed. A few more minutes passed, then as I was headed to another table, I heard an, “excuse me, ma’am, where are you going?”
I walked back and said yes ma’am, how are your drinks, and are you ready to order? She proceeded to tell me she had already put in a starter salad (what?! With who?!) and she was wondering where it was. I responded with, “Oh, I missed that earlier, I’m sorry, let me get that for you.” As I brought out the salads, she asked how long until her prime rib would be ready (what the hell?! Do you even know your own name, lady?!). At this point she was snippy with me and starting to be extremely rude, treating me like an idiot. So I asked her how she would like it cooked, whether she wanted horseradish, etc.
She replied with, “I don’t know why I have to repeat myself, just do your job like how I told you the first time.” What in the…OK, fine. Moving on. I figured I’d just put it in medium rare since that was the most common prime rib temp. I waited to put the order in since the prime rib came out extremely quickly, especially when ordered medium rare. So when I saw half of the salad gone, I put the order in, and five minutes later the order was on the table.
I did a walk by and asked them how their food came out. She said it was fine … then broke. She threw down her silverware (literally, THREW it on the table) and said, “Well, actually, it’s terrible. This isn’t what I ordered. It can’t be, this is terrible!” The man jumped in and agreed. As I asked her what was wrong with it and she replied, “It’s just terrible, I don’t think it’s cooked right. I don’t know what it is, but do your job and fix it!”
Fine. I took it back to my kitchen manager and told him what the deal was. He laughed at me and cooked it up to medium. The FOH manager then returned the steaks to the table, and as I peeked slowly around the corner, I saw they looked happy.
Or so I thought.
As I walked by again and asked how it was this time, the silverware flew again. “I know what it is, this is just a bad cow. It has to be. So I want you to walk back to your kitchen manager and tell him that every piece of meat from that cow needs to be thrown away. Don’t think I won’t notice, because I can see the kitchen perfectly. So don’t screw up, I’m watching. Get rid of it NOW!”
Trying to hold back my laughter (at that point, I couldn’t be frustrated, because I realized it was a once-in-a-lifetime table), I walked to my FOH manager and told him what they told me. He thought I was lying, so I took it back to the BOH manager and told him. He also said I had to be lying. Suddenly, we heard my FOH manager start laughing so hard.
I looked at the table and they were staring at us intently, looking confused as to why my manager was laughing, and why my BOH manager’s jaw was on the floor. The managers got a whole new prime rib, served it, and tried to explain why the meat was fine. Finally, blessedly, they ate it and sucked it up.
When they finished, I went to the table to remove the plates and again asked “how was it?”
“It was terrible. I’m a regular customer and I expect and deserve better.” I just walked away (which isn’t the correct thing to do, but seriously, I couldn’t deal anymore).
I walked back to give them their check, and the lady was again frothing mad — this time that I had the audacity to present her with such a thing. “It should be free,” she told me. When I reached for the check to do… something, I don’t even know, she slapped her hand on the billfold, leaned forward, and said, “Tell your manager he has big kahunas.” As I stood there blinking in disbelief, she continued: “That’s BALLS to translate!”
I had to walk away. The tears of laughter were actually, literally falling.
I told my FOH manager, who headed over to the table, looking shellshocked. They talked for ten minutes about God knows what. Afterwards, he came back and told me he was comping half their meal and to stay away from the table, because they would like to be alone.
Half an hour later, they finally decided to leave and scowled at the managers the whole way out the door. I walked to the table to clean up and collect my nonexistent wage…and see a 25% tip off of the original price (before the 50% comp) and a “thank you” written at the top.
I’m still in disbelief this table actually existed, but hey, now I have my war story.
[Editor’s Note: So do we think this table was a social experiment to see how shitty they could be, then they wanted to apologize at the end of it, or what?]
It was 4th of July weekend in DC. My husband and I were having dinner at a restaurant in National Harbor. It was a Saturday night, beautiful day, so naturally was packed. We got seated at a booth across from a 3-top, a man and two women.
My husband and I were enjoying our meal and server but noticed the constant flock of servers to the table across from us. They were keeping their server hopping, along with our server, a server from another section, one of the hostesses, AND a manager. The woman seated closer to me sent her food back twice because it “had too much seasoning” and then finally got something she liked. The woman next to her sent her food back once. They sent numerous sides back (“mac and cheese was too cheesy”) and ordered something else. The other issue the woman near me had was with her water. She would drink it till about half full and then demand a new glass of water because it was no longer cold enough. I watched her take a sip of a fresh glass, declare it too warm and demand a new glass. I say demand because that’s what everyone at their table did. No pleases. No thank yous.
Their meal service came to an end and the man at the table was handling the bill. I heard him make the comment that he only wanted to leave $10 for the tip – the woman near me said “oh no – leave him $5, that’s it!” I don’t know how much their tab was since a majority was probably comped, but our tab was over $100, so there’s easily had to be $200.
As they were leaving, I asked my husband how much cash he had on him as I had none. He had $20 on him and I asked him to give it to me. As this was going on, the Table of Doom’s server came back and I could tell by the look on his face that they definitely stiffed him. I felt bad for the kid, who looked maybe 21 years old. I got up, took his hand, put the $20 in it and said “You did nothing wrong. Those people were horrible, terrible human beings. I hope this helps a little. Take a breath and try to enjoy the rest of your shift.” He thanked me and said it was his first table on his first solo shift. What rotten luck!
I know the $20 wasn’t much, but I hope it helped him some.
I work in a small neighborhood restaurant that serves American comfort food. Our owner has four other restaurants in town, so we have a really good reputation that brings in a lot of new people and regulars. Everyone tends to be pretty high maintenance, but the food is good, so it’s usually not too hard to please them.
I had a 4-top come in one night. I gave them the usual spiel of the specials, with each one getting a comment. “OH DEFINITELY NOT,” “NEXT,” “OOOOH.” Kind of annoying, but not unusual.
I came back to take their order, uneventfully, until I got to the last woman. I couldn’t hear what she said, so I apologized and asked her to repeat it. Still couldn’t hear her. It’s a small place so when we were full, it tended to be LOUD. I apologized again, leaned down, and asked her to repeat. She put her mouth inches from my ear and proceeded to shout “FOR THE THIRD TIME…” Okay lady, I wasn’t insulting your ability to speak.
After they had their food, I came back to check on them. The aforementioned lady started to complain about the size of her porkchop. She told me it was too small, that she comes in all the time and it’s usually bigger, that she shouldn’t have to pay $20 for it. Her boyfriend chimed in, agreeing with her.
I really hate the current restaurant culture where customers expect everything free when they complain. Plus, I don’t want to get fired for comping tons of food, so I try to be more constructive when these things happen. I asked her if I could get her something else, or if she would like a new porkchop. She told me she wanted to make sure the manager and the chef knew.
I took her plate, told her I’d be right back and brought it to the kitchen. Chef told me someone cut the pork chops wrong, which is why they were on the smaller side. So I went back to the table to see if she wanted something else or if she wanted another porkchop made in addition to this one.
I let her know what happened and that they’re all small, but before I could offer any solution, she proceeded to SCREAM at me that she didn’t care about our excuses about why the porkchop is small, that the chef should have come to their table to see it (they never do this), that she’ll “just pay $20 for this porkchop” and that I have been rude and condescending.
This lasted for about three minutes, and every time I tried to interject and apologize/explain that I was trying to help, she just yelled louder. So I stood there and took it, letting her get it out of her system. After she was done, I apologized again and told her that it wasn’t my intention to be rude (I definitely wasn’t) and that I am trying to fix the situation. Her response? “Well, that’s working out great for you ISNT IT?!” At this point, I just walk away.
We have an open kitchen, so Chef was watching this entire interaction, and asked me if I was okay. This immediately triggered the waterworks, and I told my manager I was going outside as I ran out the door with tears streaming down my face.
After a few minutes, my manager came outside to check on me. He proceeded to tell me he knows who that woman is, she comes in all the time and is a huge nightmare that likes to cause problems. Our host has to constantly tell her and her boyfriend to stop groping each other. Since I was a newer face, she probably saw a new mark. He tells me not to worry about it. He also tells me he’ll take over the table for me in order to salvage my tip.
Of course, she ended up getting her pork chop for free and a dessert on top of that. She was quite happy, because of course she was.
I was in Rockefeller College at Princeton and was in the dining hall one day for lunch. A bunch of big strong dudes came in to eat and had gallons of milk with them. I figured they were athletes and using the milk to help them bulk up. They were athletes, although I can’t remember for which team — but I was very, very wrong about the milk.
They sat at a table under a set of those gothic stained glass windows so many of our buildings sport and started chugging the milk as fast as they could. Apparently they were seeing who could chug the most milk without vomiting. And whoever was gonna boot got up on a chair or the table and began loudly vomiting out those beautiful windows that faced out onto the Princeton township where folks driving by could see. That dining hall was built like a church, so the sounds of their revelry could be heard echoing through the hall. I don’t want to think about what our dining staff had to clean up after lunch.
This was some kind of tradition because it happened again the next year, but this time, on the day they chose to do it, the dining staff figured if they’re going to do it anyway they may as well get some help, so they rolled out extra trash cans for them to puke in.
But that was also the day the Director of Studies of Rockefeller happened to be having lunch in the dining hall. She was also my advisor, so she came to sit with me and say hello, when suddenly the young men behind her started loudly vomiting milk into the extra trash cans. I told her I’d seen it happen last year and that I thought it was some tradition.
She got up and told the boys off. They outright tried to ignore her, so she called public safety (campus police) then apologized to the dining staff and told them they shouldn’t feel obligated to accommodate those shenanigans. The athletes turned in to crybabies about the whole thing and it even made it into the school paper. They were, of course, completely shocked that them chugging and vomiting milk in the dining hall during lunchtime would be considered unacceptable.
I used to work the lunch service at this tiny neighborhood bakery and coffee shop. We only offered a few rotating sandwiches, salads, and a soup, because honestly most customers were showing up for coffee and baked goods we served daily, but we had a few lunchtime regulars.
I don’t know what it was about this particular fucking place, but we had some of the most entitled, shitty, ridiculous customers in the whole universe. They’d often throw abusive tantrums to get what they wanted, and because the owner was a huge manchild who would also throw abusive tantrums to get what he wanted, he thought this was an acceptable way to behave out in public and insisted we do “whatever the customer wanted” in order to make them happy, often at the price of our confidence and self-respect.
A few regulars that stand out in particular:
1. This one we called “Lady Grey”: a well-to-do looking woman who came in with her husband like clockwork every Sunday at the start of service. She had over-plucked eyebrows, thin lips constantly twisted into a frown, and her nose perpetually scrunched up like she was smelling garbage. And, of course, like all awful customers, she had a routine list of special demands: “soup extra-extra-extra hot; sandwich, crust on, light grill marks; crostini extra crunchy; etc.”–okay, easy enough, but pity the poor fool who didn’t know who she was and exactly what she wanted when she walked in the door. The woman would become absolutely irate if she had to explain her special order (we did have a manager who took delight in pretending not to know her particular requests every single Sunday, just to annoy her).
[Editor’s Note: Every server has done this as a subtle “fuck you” to a customer at some point. It’s one of our few great joys.]
She would often send her nuclear-hot soup back to be reheated, and she would find things to complain about often (“The crunch on my crostini is OFF!”), after which the owner would come back to pitch a fit at the BOH staff like it was somehow our fault this old troll hated her life. To top it off, neither she nor her husband ever, ever enjoyed their lunch. They cleaned their plates, complained about whatever they ordered not being very good, sat for hours with their wrinkled, miserable friends, and always came back the next week. If you cheerfully told her to have a good day, she’d scowl at you on her way out.
2. Another regular, a middle-aged lady who seemed perfectly sane when you looked at her, used to come in and simply not understand that we were a bakery/cafe, NOT a sit-down restaurant. Nevertheless, when she came in, no matter how busy the FOH staff were or how long the line was, she’d insist on table service, complete with setting our old, wobbly, plastic tables with salt and pepper (we didn’t have shakers handy for customers, oddly enough, so I would have to make ramekins of seasoning for her) and taking her order while she sat. The poor barista would usually have to run her food, and she’d sit for hours, flagging down the staff when she wanted another cup of coffee, another pastry, a bowl of soup to-go, and she’d always refuse to pay for anything until she decided it was time to leave. Like all batshit asshole customers, she never tipped.
3. Another regular ran some kind of wholesale office a few doors down, and she was far and away the worst of the batch. This neighbour would come by for lunch nearly every day, order her lunch “to-go, but not in a to-go box” because she insisted that the BOH should plate her lunch like she was sitting in the cafe to eat, and the FOH should actually LEAVE THE BUILDING to bring her lunch on a glass plate with proper cutlery, like she was some kind of asshole royalty. This wasn’t an issue for me, because I just made the food and didn’t have to run it down the street, but then, one horrible day, she started going off-menu just to feel extra fucking special or something.
She’d look at our daily sandwich board and start making up her own lunch items, often with all the expensive meats and cheeses. The first time this happened, the FOH staff did their job properly by charging her the appropriate amount for “salad, extra cheese, extra bacon, extra nuts, extra, extra.” Of course, she had a profanity-filled SCREAMING MELTDOWN because the total was something like $2 extra than her regular lunch order. Despite the FOH standing their ground, inevitably the manchild owner came out to sympathize with this hideous witch and told us to make her whatever she wanted, and to charge whatever SHE felt was appropriate.
Then the problems really started: she became more entitled than ever before, excessively rude to the FOH, expecting them to know her standing lunch order by heart, changing it occasionally and expecting us to read her mind (because if anyone asked her to clarify her order, she would blow a gasket), flipping out when we stopped carrying a particular ingredient because we’d changed the weekly special, paying whatever she wanted for it, expecting her lunch to be delivered directly to her, expecting someone to come pick up the dishes later, complaining about everything and anything she could think of (once we failed to “fluff” her salad enough), and, OF COURSE, never tipping.
Fuck that place. Fuck those people. So glad I don’t work there anymore.
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.