Wednesday, June 25, 2014

How to Not be a Terrible Restaurant Manager (or Diner) When There's a Glutening Mistake

If you follow me on Facebook you know that about a month ago I had a pretty bad experience at a local restaurant I visited for the first time for a relative's birthday celebration. The restaurant didn't have a separate gluten free menu, but they had options for gluten free pizza, pasta, and other items. Upon going through the usual spiel on the phone when making the reservation AND when we went to the restaurant we learned that they had separate prep tools and locations, and well trained staff. So, we felt safe and ordered away. Unfortunately, half way though our meal we found a dirty little secret hiding in our gluten free penne:

That right there, my friends, is spaghetti. This restaurant DOES NOT carry gluten free spaghetti...Needless to say, I was immediately concerned and brought this to the waitresses attention. What followed was several discussions with the manager that started out kind on my part but which, to my better judgement, resulted in me saying "I'll be shitting my guts out for three days, thank you." at one point because he was really grating my nerves and insulting me left and right. Rather than go through what happen verbatim, I want to use this as an opportunity to take this experience and educate restaurant staff, managers, and of course diners about the best approaches to handling such a situation.

Below you'll see two sets of tips, the first for managers and the second for diners. After some tips in both sections you'll find examples of things NOT to say, some of which were said by the manager in this conversation. 

How Not to be a Terrible Manager When There's a Glutening Mistake
  1. Don't be belittling:
    • "How is your meal, except that tiny little piece of spaghetti?", "It isn't a bit deal", "You don't need to worry", laughing in general at the situation
  2. Don't accuse the patron of ordering incorrectly:
    • "You probably didn't tell the waiter you were strictly gluten free.", "Are you sure you said you were gluten free?" 
  3. Do not deny any potential symptoms that might come about from the mistake:
    • "No, that won't happen." , "I don't think that'll be the case", "You'll be fine!" 
  4. No passing the buck, or blame shifting:
    • "This is a new waitress, she has no idea what she is doing.", "The chef must have not been in the kitchen at that time." 
Overall, restaurant managers should show empathy and concern during these situations. While it is understood that all diners "eat at their own risk" so to speak, any mistake ultimately falls in the hands of the restaurant as a whole, and the manager is the face and mind of that restaurant. You want to make a good impression, not have diners cursing at you because you don't want to take the blame. When possible, try accommodating the guest, for example by removing the item from the check.

How Not to be a Terrible Diner When There's a Glutening Mistake
  1. Don't be afraid to speak up and be assertive. 
  2. Always act with grace and professionalism. 
  3. Be as polite as possible, and kill 'em with kindness.
    • "Your restaurant is disgusting!", "Who's the idiot that made this mistake?" 
  4. Don't act entitled and expect accommodations.
    • "I need you to remake this food.", "I need you to remove this from the check immediately.
The diner has a right to bring up any mistakes or concerns, especially when it relates to a medical issue that's been clearly stated from the beginning. However, ultimately, this does not give you a right to put anyone down and make a scene because mistakes do happen. When offering any criticism try to make it constructive so it can help prevent this mistake from happening to other diners. For example, try suggesting to the manager that the restaurant consider getting improved training such as GREAT Kitchen training from the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the shout-out to GREAT Kitchens! I'm sorry to hear you had such an awful experience, but I think you're doing the positive thing by sharing your experience to help others in the future. Great post!

    - Alicia, NFCA


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