Saturday, August 11, 2007

What Employees Should Not Say...

There are things in business that should not be done in front of the public and that holds for buffet restaurants as well. Recently I observed three episodes in three different buffet restaurants of things that should not have taken place in front of the customers. They all involved conversation involving managers or employees. Now, I am sure that there are a lot of things that happen in all restaurants that the public should not see (I have heard some stories.) but there are things that the public should not hear or unavoidably overhear.

The first story takes place in a Ryans. In one of the sections there are two servers seemingly working together. The usual course in Ryans is that each table has one server who brings drinks, clears away dirty plates, etc. This night at our table two servers introduced themselves working together. One is an experienced employee who has been there for at least the several years that I have gone to this particular Ryans. The other must have been a new employee who was training with this experience server - that is how it appeared, anyway. The trainee is a young lady and the experienced employee is a man (who in my experience is always a bit gruff and annoyed - which is also not a good thing to communicate to the customers in manner and service). The young lady came and introduced herself, very politely, and was very pleasant. About twenty minutes into our meal, as I am walking back to my table, the man is talking to a supervisor - loudly - and saying that he does not want to ever work with this young lady again. He complained that she was "taking" his tips and was not sharing tips equally. He actually then said that she claimed that one customer handed the tip to her and told her that it was for her. He took exception to this with the supervisor. The conversation was loud and clear to anyone nearby, including our table and anyone at the serving bars. The supervisor was pacifying him - but NEVER once said, "Let's take this conversation into the back where no one will hear."

Shortly later, after the discussion had ended, a manager came out and called the young lady over to him - again, in the dining room in front of customers. There in front of everyone he confronted her and then, as all could hear, he told her to leave and not come back. He fired her in front of everyone. Not only is that humiliating to her but also a bit embarrassing for all the customers who listened to it and then watched her leave through the exit crying. What a relaxing meal! I sure hope that there had been other problems with her than this one employee's complaint. That, thankfully, we will never know.

The next story took place in my very own neighborhood's Old Country Buffet (you know the one that I have said is probably the worst OCB in the country). This is actually two stories in one night involving the same Restaurant Manager. We start out on the line to pay on the way in. As the family in front of us get to the cash register the manager comes out from his office and walks up to the cashier. There is some problem with an over-ring and she needs him to help her fix it. He looks at the receipt and listens to her story (in broken English) and then he starts yelling at her about what she did wrong and what does she want him to do about it. She remains calm and meekly tells him again what happened. He begins yelling again. In the meantime there are customers now waiting on line out the door. She has the sense to ring up the family ahead of us standing and waiting to pay. They move on into the dining room and we move up to the register. Now the yelling - him to her- starts again. The same things go back and forth for another five minutes - with all on line listening to every word - and the line getting longer and longer. He finally starts yelling in mockingly, pseudo-Spanish (she is Hispanic, he is not) and then he tells her that she must go into the dining and find the people who had the over ring and get their receipt back from them so that whatever needed to be done finally by him would be done. Off she went to look, and then he had the mind to look up at us and allow us to pay for our meals.

Later that same evening, while we were at our table, this same restaurant manager came over to the soft serve ice cream machine, that needed to be refilled. There was a line of people waiting for ice cream. A few of them impatiently asked what was wrong with the machine and would there be ice cream. His direct answer to them was, "I am just the manager, I am not the technician!" He did this again later on when the machine again needed refilling. "I am JUST the manager, I am NOT the technician!" Well, it does not take a technician to pour ice cream mix into the machine. It does take a manager to apologize for the delay and leave with the customer smiling. This OCB goes through a lot of managers. None but the first one really ever got it right. That first one knew how to keep customers satisfied and did a pretty good job of running the restaurant (probably because he was trained at the home office). An example of what to do - one night, a very long time ago, the pizza ran out and did not come out for quite some time. This original manager spoke to a table who were complaining about the lack of pizza. When the pizza did come out to the buffet table, he made sure another whole pizza was brought to this customer's table. That is how a manager should react.

My final "opps, that shouldn't have been said in front of the customers story" I actually have told in an article before - just a few weeks ago, but it is worth repeating. This took place at the Pennsylvania buffet that I have advised the readers not to go to. There when there were several problems with the food that was being served, the server told the table of customers - who were telling her that there were problems, "I am just the waitress, I don't cook it!" Yes, well that may be true, but that is not something that you say to the customers.

I have a fourth story that is not mine and I am going to relate here word for word as it was posted on this site as a comment -

"I had a very bad experience in Old Country Buffet in Levittown today. It was 2:00 pm on a Sunday afternoon and the restaurant was very crowded.When I went up to take some food, I noticed that there were several empty serving trays.I asked every employee who walked by, to please bring out food.They looked past me as if they did'nt see me. When I went to the manager, Roberto, he told me that they don't speak English. I said this is an American restaurant, and maybe they should have a few associates who do speak English. Roberto got very nasty and abusive and told me that this is a Spanish speaking restaurant and if I didn't like it,too bad.They don't mind taking Americans money, but we are really not welcomed there.I have never been treated so poorly by a manager.There were a few other customers who were also waiting for food to be brought out, and they heard what he said to me.Everyone standing there was horrified. One couple said they wanted their money back and everyone said they would never come back again.If the manager has no respect for the customers, then the employees won't either. This is the worst restaurant I ever ate in.Then I made the mistake of going into the bathroom. It was filthy, and there were 2 backed up toilets. The smell was unbelievable.There were no paper towels and no soap. This restaurant should be sited by the Board of Health.As far as Roberto goes, he should be fired. He is a terrible representative of this restaurant. If they really don't want Americans in their restaurant, they should reconsider OCB as a business."

  • This reader should be outraged! And this manager should be fired! Ths is a second service manager for the Levittown, NY OCB. The other manager is the subject of the ice cream machine incident above. Let me tell you a little bit about the community of Levittown, NY. This is the famous town created when the soldiers came home from World War II so that they could buy affordable housing. The make up of the community is basically the same now as it was then. This is far from being a Spanish community. Recently we have had a few "anonymous" comments from someone who is presenting him/herself to be from Buffets, Inc., the corporate owner of OCB. If there is someone who is reading this from Buffets, Inc. you need to know that you have a serious problem in management and operation in the Levittown, NY OCB - and now it is not just me saying so!

A note to all buffet managers (and employees)- if you have something critical to say to an employee, take the employee into your office. It is bad form to discipline an employee in front of anyone - another employee OR your customers!

Got any stories you have witnessed? Share them with us in a comment.


Anonymous said...

Wow, those stories are horrible. I usually have really good luck. Most of the good buffets near my office are one or another ethnic flavor but you never get the kind of "go away" unwelcomeness you describe, quite the opposite.

I mostly go at lunch but we have quite a rew really good buffet lunches around here, I work in temp space and when I leave my virtual office in Tysons Corner (Virginia) I have lots of choices, I think probably my favorite is Bombay Tandoor.

Anonymous said...

It is amazing that Roberto is still employed at the Levittown Old Country Buffet. And he is!

Apparently no one at Buffets, Inc. cares that one of their restaurant managers makes racial remarks to their customers.