Let us salute the kid in kindergarten who ate the crayons, the fourth-grader who tried to see how much of a pencil he could get up his nose, the teenager who microwaved a battery to see it blow up. Apparently, many of those knuckleheads managed to evade death (and prison) and find work in restaurants. How else to explain the serial lapses in judgment that make the industry seem like it may have sniffed one too many Magic Markers?
The repeated flubs—the four cardinal restaurant sins of 2015—have been reported, condemned and regretted. Yet chances are high that a restaurateur will awake on Monday to ask how his staff could have made such a patently bad call over the weekend rush.
Maybe word never hit the boneheads. Or harried management failed to anticipate the temptation. Or, perhaps the transgressors just didn’t get it.
Regardless, here are what recent headlines suggest as the four commandments that should be up on the walls of every restaurant break room.
1. Don’t pick a fight with cops.
Olive Garden’s president recently had to call a policeman and apologize for the officer’s ouster from a unit in Kansas City. The officer was asked to leave due to his service revolver. Elsewhere, staffs of other restaurants have aligned themselves (and, by extension, the restaurant) with groups protesting alleged overreactions by law enforcement. An employee of a Whataburger told cops in the wake of suspects’ deaths in places like Baltimore and St. Louis, “We don’t serve police officers.” He was fired, but the transgression made national news.
2. Let sleeping service dogs lie.
Michigan recently had to pass a bill to guarantee that people accompanied by a service dog would not be hassled in public places. Ears probably perked up at New York City’s famed Tavern on the Green, which is being sued by a woman who alleges she was turned away for trying to bring a service dog in. She said she was grilled about why she needed one if she wasn’t blind. In Gallup, N.M., a customer was similarly doubted because his service dog was a Chihuahua. Yes, staffs are taught that dogs aren’t allowed in restaurants. But how tough is it to make an exception to the black-and-white rule?
3. Don’t give kids a cocktail. Period.
Despite several high-profile instances where toddlers were inadvertently served alcohol, booze still is making it into restaurant sippy cups. Armando’s, a Mexican place in Detroit, reportedly gave a full-strength daiquiri to a 4-year-old. Not coincidentally, a nonalcoholic version apparently went to the next table. In March, a 2-year-old was given sangria because the server thought it was cranberry juice. It’s easy to understand how screwups can happen. Less obvious is why servers and bartenders can’t avert the risk through greater diligence.
4. Leave breastfeeding moms alone.
As many restaurants have learned, don’t treat the situation as an emergency. Don’t try to hustle the mom out of the dining room, throw a towel over her, insult her or align with a customer who claims to be offended. The place could end up the target of protests (called “nurse-ins”) by pro-breastfeeding groups, of which there are many. And the laws in most states are unambiguous: Mothers have a right to breastfeed openly in public. At the least, the staff should see that outraged other customers are the problem, not the mother feeding her baby.
Let’s hope the industry’s slow return to rosier health will channel more money to training staff on the issues. Otherwise, the whole business comes across as a haven for lunkheads.