The customer is always right!

Whether you run a pub, a fine dining restaurant, a tea room or a small ‘chippy’ on the corner you have a lot in common with each other. There are suppliers, bills, licenses, staff – and there are customers. The other common denominator is the need to plan successfully in order to be successful and in that process is the need to try to cater for every eventuality that may occur.

It would seem obvious that the publican would plan differently to the chap with the tea room but planning, none the less is involved. The stocktaker dealing with the tea room will have different formulae and items in his system than when he visits the hotel or the club who are also his customers. Jon Rutter will give you lots of examples of the things he has to consider for his clients that form part of his comprehensive feedback.

But it is unlikely that even Jon would have seen the ‘little black book’ that some establishments are reported to have tucked away that contain the list of rude customers. The implication in Francesca Infante’s recent piece is that the more upmarket type establishments might have such a list that they consult when a table is requested and they can then “regretfully” tell the client that there are no bookings available. The owner of a chippy will generally tell a rude customer “take a hike” rather than waste time consulting a list.

Image: Guenter M Kirchweger

Image: Guenter M Kirchweger

However, one wonders what one has to do in order to “get on the list.” Do you have to generally behave badly and chuck food around? Drink red wine with your halibut? Or merely point out to the waiter that you’d like your steak done a little less rare. Whatever the reasons they seem to be pretty subjective as to what “rude” is. It seems that it’s up to the waiter’s and the maitre-d’s whim as to whether or not to write the name down.

At least being refused a table would seem preferable to having the police called in when you start to have words with the receptionist (a word of warning here – if you plan to have a birthday celebration, make sure in advance that you ARE permitted to sing a few bars to the birthday boy or girl). You don’t want to end up like Mr Doherty who, after coughing up over 300 quid for his child’s outing had the police roll up and query “what’s going on here, then?” because he hadn’t paid for the “party option.”

And if you’re over twelve, don’t ask for fish fingers (even if you like them) – the Cummings family might be branded as rude for asking for this, but the Regional Manager of the hotel in question has apologised “for any inconvenience” after they left.

Any host will tell you that this hospitality business can be a minefield of service, preferences, customers, planning and so on. They’ll point out that there are always two sides to a story but that they cannot accommodate every request. They would be right – it’s just a pity that sometimes PR doesn’t come into play, especially in the heat of the moment.

There is a sign on the wall of one kitchen I know – in full view of every waiter coming in and out as they serve – “The customer is ALWAYS right … even when they’re wrong!