OPINION: Dealing with the dreaded guest

By Stosie Madi, chef-patron of the Parkers Arms

- Last updated on GMT

Rude guests: unkindness is thriving according to Stosie Madi
Rude guests: unkindness is thriving according to Stosie Madi

Related tags Stosie Madi Food Gastropub Chef Opinion

This year has been ‘different’.

In many ways, our working lives have remained unchanged despite the constantly changing costings landscape.

Navigating the current challenges we all face as an industry has been an education in juggling finances and ingredients.

Yes reader, when my local farmer supplier informed me that hogget prices had gone up from £14 per kg to £18.50 per kg on a whole carcass just one week before Easter, I was shocked.

The price hike was apparently due to all the waterlogged fields, which meant the one-year-old lambs could not graze on grass and feed prices had gone up. I understood – I didn’t like it but I accepted it.

We publicans are resourceful and adapt fast. Adapting is what makes us survive in all aspects of our daily lives and no other industry is as adept at it as we are. Keeping costs down, margins constant and quality high has not been easy – but we manage. We learn and we implement.

Human nature

What we have not been prepared for however is humans. The bad behaviour of a minor number of recent guests leads me to question human nature. I cannot recall past times when paying guests were so rude. They has always been an undercurrent of the badly behaved customer recent times has bred super-sized bad behaviour and expectations that exceed venue offerings.

Booking for 6.30pm and turning up at 5pm when the pub is still closed and, although clearly signposted, it is simply not good enough it seems.

We have always sat down to a team family meal before evening service and in days of old early arriving guests could see us all at the table and would just wait in their cars until the doors opened respectful of the fact we are breaking bread.

Now they knock on doors or windows during our meal, gesticulating questioning hands while pointing at their watches, a mere look to the right are the hours signs indicating opening times. Informing them nicely we do not open until 6pm just makes them grumpy. We often watch downcast as they walk round to the kitchen doors to ‘force’ entry.

I try to imagine if they would attempt this at their local bank or M&S store. Storm the storage area when the main doors are closed and demand entry and shopping rights promptly from the packing staff.

Fast food we are not

This recent timing issue occurs in various ways. Book in for 7pm, arrive at 7.30 pm then demand instant service. Order the meal and indignantly call the waiting staff and complain that it has been all of 10 minutes. I mean we aim to get dishes out as quick as possible with a la minute cooking but fast food we are not. There is a constant hurry, an impatience for instant service coupled with brusque rude behaviour of late.

On top of the above, the badly behaved children we have to deal with while parents look on dotingly. The most recent scenario of a young spoilt boy screaming “ice cream” at one of our young weekend waiting staff member as she tried to serve the adults their meals was appalling. No one silenced him. Seeing the young girl quite distressed, the parents simply asked why his ice cream had not been served yet.

Yes reader, the human factor unkindness is well and thriving out there. Although a minority number of incidents it is still hurtful and offensive to us all.

Thankful as I am for the majority of our guests, there are times when my team and I watch with dread when we spot ‘the one’ who is going to be an issue.

I am debating to add a ‘how to behave when eating out’ section to the menu but something tells me that will not go down well either.

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