Shoplifters in the Restaurant.
It happened on June 18th 2011 at any restaurant in any neighborhood. In fact this happens more frequently then one would expect. Everyday restaurant operators and employees have to deal with these people. Unless the restaurant is a small mom and pop establishment, the big chains will give in and not argue with the guest in hopes that the guest will not tell their friends of the “horrible experience” they received. The operators hope that these guest do not tell their friends how they won one over the restaurant.
It was any other Saturday during graduations. A family of 30 who made a reservation came in thirty minutes late. They were sat immediately and the serve started to take the guest’s order. The food started to arrive and then two of the members of the group approached me the manager and wondered where their buffet was. The manager resoponed with ” I did not know of any buffet. Our reservation sheet only mentioned that it was to be opened menu.” The guests said that they told the manager that it was to be a buffet group, approximately 15 of them. In this particular restaurant the policy is that only a group of twenty or more is able to have a party. The group though 30 strong, only half was to have the buffet. The guests exclaimed that this was set up three weeks prior, the reservation said that they made the reservation exactly one month ago. The party also said that they told the manager the day before about the buffet and to confirm the amount in the party. What wasn’t mentioned was that I was the manager who they talked with and there was no mention of any buffet. Needless to say the restaurant got the buffet set up and going. The party did not have any idea what the buffet was about nor did they have any idea what they wanted. All they had was a printer copy of the menu with all of the selections which looked as if they printed the thing up that afternoon. Once they figured out what they wanted half of the party had already finished their meals. An additional fifteen minutes later the food came out. Would you believe that the entire group got up and got the food, that is the entire 30. Do you think that they were going to pay for thirty people? No way only 15!
The management and the servers bent over backwards to sooth the group over the miscommunication with the buffet. Still they wanted more. To make a long story short the restaurant wound up discounted over two hundred dollars off the bill and additional seventy-five dollars in comp cards just to make sure that they do not call the corporate headquarters. They probably would and come up with a story that the management did nothing to resolve the situation and get more in comps. In this business the guess is aways right even when they are wrong. The first encounter with these guests you already know that this will be a long day and that they will be getting stuff at a discount. Why? They know how to play the game. If any one were to challenge them and say no then the establishment will have a discrimination suit hanging over their heads or a bad reputation that is brought up by this party and friends. The bad reputation is what these large chains try to avoid. The interesting thing is that the restaurant staff can see these freeloaders coming once they walk in to the door. The staff will put up all defense mechanisims up and all will be watching the guests as they try and do their stuff. A large party would come in evey Sunday and only half of the party would order. As the food is brought our other people would claim the food and all of the sudden the ones who actually would claim that they did not get the food that they ordered and will have it removed from the bill. After a couple of weeks the staff including the manager would watch the party carefully and put in measures that would prevent such trickery to happen. Once the plate was sat down the guest who order it would pass it down to someone else and then would claim that they did not get the food. With all of the dedicated eyes watching this time the manager was able to challenge the guest and mentioned that we saw you give it to someone that did not order anything. No deductions off the check this time and this particular party never came back, Was the restaurant sad that they lost these guests and their money? No, the restaurant was glad that they did not come back and was able to move on with our loosing more money.
Again this form of shop lifting happens everyday. There will be guests that will either call the restaurant or their corporate headquarters and complain about poor service or product and they have never step foot in the restaurant. Another popular scam is the ole dry cleaner bill. The guest will come in to the restaurant and present the manager with a dry cleaning bill from when a server spilled a drink on their pants. The bill will be forty or fifty dollars and they expect cash for it. Restaurant operators are savy to this. If a spilled occured then the manager on duty will present a guest with a business card and ask the guest to bring the bill back with the business card. Many restaurants will not give cash back even if it is for a refund. Chances are the shoplifter will get gift cards in return.
This not to say all complaints are not true or suspect, a small amount are. Restaurants want to hear when they screw up, they want to correct it and then learn not to do it again. Most seasoned managers know when they are getting scamed yet they know that they will not win if they challenge the guests. Who pays for this? You do every time that you go to a restaurant to eat. One day you paid ninety cents for a cup of coffee and then another you are paying a dollar fifty. Just like retail stores, the consumer will pay in the long run with higher prices. These people will not go away. The stuff they do will be with them until they die or until the day that a restaurant operator challenges them. If you are reading this and you know of a person that does this because they can tell them that you are going to take all of their Christmas gifts away and put coal in their stockings or you can say thank to for costing me extra to go out.
A restaurant in San Jacinto just recently had a guest that did not like anything that was put in front of them. The guest would take a few bites and complain that the food was terrible and demand to take it off their bill. Another item was chosen and again the same thing happened. After the third or fourth entree that was pushed back the owner came out and asked the patron to leave. The owner said: “Since it is obvious that we cannot make anything you may like I would ask that you leave and not come back.” That is what we as operators wish we could do. Obvious we cannot in most cases. We can only hope that these people would just stop coming in after their first experience. If a restaurant can please 98% of its guests then they are doing good. The other two percent cannot be pleased and half of them are the ones who come into a restaurant expecting to leave without paying by coming up with something that did not happened. Folks this happens daily. If you are in a restaurant and you see these people silently tell them that you know what you are up to. Have a nice day and good eatings. It is encouraged for all of you to write any comments or experiences that you may have had with this topic. Thanks for reading and spread the word.