Let’s put it out there right now that we were conned in this very space last week. The only salve to our embarrassment is knowing there were other victims in recent days of practical jokes and attempts to game the system. Here, in a special expanded edition, is a quick review of the restaurant nightmares that rose from behavior you’d expect from a fraternity on double-secret probation.
Employee nightmare: Only break the glass in a real emergency
Pity the general manager of a Burger King in California who arrived at his store to discover all of the windows had been smashed. More exasperating was employees’ rationale for breaking out the glass. Someone from the fire department had called to warn that gas was leaking from the kitchen and the restaurant had to be ventilated right away to save lives. One manager even jumped into his car and drove into the store, knocking through the exterior wall.
The staff wanted to do the heroic thing. But it never occurred to them the fire department would probably dispatch vehicles rather than phone if there were an actual emergency. Or that a gale wind needn’t blow through the store to dilute toxins in the air. It was the modern-day equivalent of calling a drug store and asking if it had Prince Albert in the can.
The ruse cost the store a reported $35,000 in damages and presumably lost sales. The embarrassment: Priceless.
The perpetrators have yet to be identified.
Consumer nightmare: A jaw-dropping what-if
We’re bending the rules on this one because the perpetrator wasn’t a restaurant customer at the time of the nightmare, which came to light this week after recurring in mid-January. Restaurants should hope the human star of the incident doesn’t become a patron.
At issue was the definition of what constitutes a service or comfort animal. As many restaurateurs have learned through gritted teeth, the classification of a companion animal has been expanded from dogs that serve as the owner’s eyes or ears, to snakes, parrots, mini-horses or anything else that might alleviate anxiety.
That’s already creating some challenges for restaurateurs, who’ve learned that some guests don’t want to spy a python around the neck of a fellow customer at dinner. A new outer boundary was set when a traveler brought a turkey aboard a Delta Air Lines flight as a comfort animal. It even got its own seat.
Management nightmare: Policed gender relations
Woe to the operator who okayed the customer rules and admittance policies for a new speakeasy-style place that opened recently in Chicago. Places of that sort often provide guidelines for the clientele, right down to what should or should not be discussed at the bar. One of the many neo-speakeasies in New York City, for instance, clearly stated that men weren’t allowed to buy a drink for a woman who caught their fancy unless the recipient agreed to take it.
Drumbar is similarly monitoring matters of romance, as a married and pregnant member of our staff recently discovered when she was considering it for a social outing with a female friend. She decided to go elsewhere because of her welcome being predicated on whether or not a man was with her.
Drumbar’s rules say that parties should have an equal number of men and women rather than a gender imbalance. Groups of same-sex friends or anyone harboring a hope of bumping into Ms. or Mr. Right can forget it. As the rules state: “It is recommended that guests arrive early and with their entire group, preferably of equal ratios.” And the doorman is charged with enforcing the balance rule, even if the party has a reservation.
Groups of men or women aren’t the only would-be customers whose welcome may be lukewarm, if not denied. What about same-sex couples?
Restaurant writer’s nightmare: We were had
As we reported last week, a Burger King employee was turned into a social-media hero when he confessed in an anonymous post to swiping all of the restaurant’s chicken nuggets as he stormed off the job. He supported his assertion by posting a picture of all the bags of nuggets he’d piled on the passenger seat of his car.
Fellow tweeters hailed the poultry Robin Hood for his courage and civil disobedience. But the scamp’s real triumph seemed to be fooling the Twittersphere and much of the media, including us.
The jokester was indeed a Burger King employee, and he truly piled mounds of nuggets into his car. But John Correa, previously known only as @Zealot, had merely picked up the nuggets from another Burger King when his store’s supply had run low. He thought it’d be a wonderful yuk-yuk to con the world by professing to be a thief. And he succeeded; the original post snagged considerable viewings, retweets and coverage until Correa deleted it.
We apologize to all but Correa for being fooled.