Common sense may not be as common as the village elders would have us believe. Indeed, there are times when any sort of sense is trampled by the irresistible desire to indulge reflex and just react, repercussions be damned.
So it was in the restaurant industry this week, with restaurateurs acting like a Doberman who's spotted an unattended pork chop sitting on the kitchen table, all but calling its name. Here are some of the standout examples.
Management nightmare of the week: A piggy in the alley
One of the wows for today’s trend-sensitive restaurant enthusiast is dining on pork from a pig the chef has butchered his or herself to shorten the distance from sty to plate. So when an opportunity arose to break down a whole hog for the customers of Tose Steak & Sushi in Pearland, Texas, proprietor Jimmy Chi seized it. But where do you perform a feat like that in a conventionally sized kitchen?
Chi decided to butcher the pig outside, in an alley behind the restaurant. The setting might have been obscured, but it fell within camera phone range, as one customer proved by snapping a photo and posting it to social media.
The image found its way to local health authorities, since outdoor butchering in a setting more often used for storing garbage is generally frowned upon. Although the hog had been wild and was shot by one of Chi’s associates, the inspectors said Tose hadn’t endangered customers.
Still, the attention wasn’t the sort Chi wanted. He publicly apologized, explaining that he’d acted rashly in the flush of his enthusiasm over having a whole hog for the first time.
Management nightmare of the week #2: Rubber and glue
Customers who find fault with Chimichangos, a Mexican restaurant in the United Kingdom, had better keep their opinions to themselves if they don’t want to catch hell publicly from proprietor Jason “Pedro” Tanfield.
Twice a day he scours the citizen-reviewer site TripAdvisor for any slight to his business. Then he unloads on whoever had the audacity to be negative, no matter how slight the criticism might be. When a post alleged some members of the staff had rudely ignored a request to forgo peppers in a particular dish, Tanfield countered that it just couldn’t be. “The staff is not rude it’s your fault,” he wrote in response.
A guest who didn’t like a chicken burrito was advised to try KFC next time.
Mixing pleasant comments with the harsher ones won’t spare the commentator a tongue lashing in print. Tanfield doesn’t want to hear it, period, and makes no apologies about his zero tolerance.
Employee nightmare of the week: Those customer tags again
This space has frequently mentioned the problems employees can create for a restaurant by including an unflattering description of guests on customers’ tabs. The thumbnail descriptors are intended to help runners or servers know who should get an order that just came out of the kitchen or from the bar, but the cues are often unflattering observations of the patron’s appearance. And then there’s the temptation to be outright cruel, which fostered a controversy that just won’t die for a popular Chinese restaurant in Arlington, Va.
A party that included a former resident of China questioned the authenticity of several practices followed by the restaurant, Peter Chang. In response, the tab suggested that one guest in the group had a small penis, and mocked the individual for being an “asshole” for wearing plaid.
Afterward, employees explained that they intended the delete the tags, which they included merely for their own amusement. But the guests were outraged and complained to management.
Last Tuesday, the restaurant announced that it was firing four employees because of the incident, including two managers and the two servers who dealt with the table.