All the signs screamed, “How could it get any worse?” Then come the customer and employee excesses of the past week, when restaurateurs could be excused for suspecting some sort of alien-induced mass insanity. Pranksters once thought it was hilarious to phone shopkeepers and ask if they have Prince Albert in a can. Now they’re convincing restaurant crewmembers to destroy the place. And that’s just one of the ways sense was upended.
Read on—and stay on the lookout for a full moon.
Employee nightmare of the week: ‘Better smash all the glass’
Let us bow our heads in reverence for the innocent days when restaurant pranks were harmless. We’ve lived through the rash of fire-in-the-hole stunts, where knuckleheads would order a drink via the drive-thru and then fling it back inside at the staff before tearing away, convulsed in laughter.
That resulted in a few burns, bruises, soiled uniforms and raised tempers—not excusable stuff, to be sure, but nothing compared to the damage being done by the restaurant practical joke of the moment. Twice in the last week, jokesters posing as safety authorities called a local fast-food restaurant and warned the staff that a buildup of gas was threatening the lives of everyone inside. The only way to avoid an explosion, the callers stressed, was to smash all the windows and aerate the place.
Which, astoundingly, the staffs of a Burger King and a Jack in the Box readily did. And if you’ve ever tried to smash the plate glass used on restaurant exteriors (don’t ask), you’ll know that’s not easy to accomplish. One staff reportedly raided their cars for tire irons. Resourceful souls at the other restaurant, a Jack in the Box in Indianapolis, used a fire extinguisher as a battering ram.
Those examples follow similar punkings from coast to coast, signaling that this is the modern-day equivalent of placing fake pizza-delivery orders (youngsters, ask your parents). One firefighter told local media that similar incidents have been reported in at least five states.
Customer nightmare of the week: ‘Then I’ll drive in’
Restaurants and other service establishments wage a never-ending struggle over use of their bathrooms. Suggestions that guests exercise even a hint of etiquette, like waiting patiently when the facilities are already in use, often have the same effect a full moon has on werewolves.
A case in point: the straightjacket candidate who insisted on access to the occupied restroom of a Jack in the Box in the Koreatown section of Los Angeles. The man knocked and yelled the name of a woman whom he apparently thought was monopolizing the facility. When he got no response, he went out to the parking lot, got in his car, and rammed the place.
Convinced he had the occupant’s attention, the man then knocked on the bathroom door again and called the woman’s name a second time. The customer now cowering inside did not respond. So the man went back to his car, drove around the restaurant, and plowed into it again.
He was apprehended by authorities and brought to a facility where he’d have access 24/7 to a stainless steel toilet right in his cell.
Management nightmare of the week: Those customer comments again
Can’t restaurants decide right now to stop printing observations about customers on the tickets generated by enunciators and POS systems? If not, the next staff meeting should include a pointed reminder that tabs eventually end up in customers’ hands, and most guests can read.
Witness how wrong things went for Starbucks after an associate added a dash of commentary to the order for a large White Chocolate Mocha. In the space on the tab where crewmembers can add cues to help baristas identify the patron waiting for an order, the staff member had noted, “Diabetes here I come.” The words were clearly visible on the ticket that was stuck to the cup.
The unidentified patron took umbrage, explaining in a note handwritten on the cup and then submitted to the staff, “2 of my sisters are diabetic, so not funny.”
Bonus nightmare: The cook who would not be denied
This week’s shoo-in for Hall of Fame status is the still-unidentified man who ducked through a doorway left open by the employee of a Five Guys near Washington, D.C. The intruder hid inside the restaurant until it shut, then seized the opportunity to grill himself a burger while he sipped some soda from the fountain. The culinary expedition was caught on security cameras, as was his systematic ransacking of the establishment.
Authorities released the footage this week in hopes of tracking down the culprit. At least one competitor of Five Guys took avid notice.