Unannounced allergies, PDAs, complaints about cakeage: top chefs name their pet peeves

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 24th February 2020

A week doesn't go by without a chef taking to Twitter to lament and laugh at an incident involving a customer.

From the slightly irritating to the outright rude, chefs told The Guardian what most gets on their nerves at work, from the TripAdvisor keyboard warriors and customers glued to their smartphone screens to the ever shameless no-shows. 

1 - The ones that don't complain in person, but go wild on TripAdvisor 

Si Toft at The Dining Room in Abersoch, Gwynedd

“There have always been people who lick the plate clean then say it wasn’t very nice and start haggling for a discount. Now they think TripAdvisor gives them power. I’ve had people look at the bill, then suddenly start criticising the food and threatening floor staff with: ‘I’ve written hundreds of reviews,’ or: ‘I’ll do a good review if you knock the wine off.’"

 

2 - The very un-British rude ones

Alex Claridge at The Wilderness, Birmingham

"“A reshuffle of tables might have been possible had you been polite on the phone, but if you’re rude, if you kick off because we’re full on a Saturday night, it won’t be."

3 - The ones intent on PDAs 

Melanie Arnold at Rochelle Canteen in London

“A romantic kiss is fine, but tongues out is embarrassing for waiters serving the table and other guests."

 

4 - The ones that don't bother turning up

Mark Greenaway at Grazing in Edinburgh

"It’s an industry-wide problem running at about 20%, I’d say. We don’t mind cancellations. Plans change. But if you book, turn up. If you’re not going to, let us know."

 

5 - The ones that don't understand that restaurants have overheads 

Mary-Ellen McTague at the Creameries in Manchester

"We charge a fair price for the amount of food, its quality and the time it takes. It would be good to do an infographic on the wall explaining how what you pay is divided up on staff, food, rent, utility bills, business rates, VAT, insurance." 

 

6 - The ones that want to bring their own cake - but don't want to pay for it 

Ryan Simpson-Trotman at Orwell’s in Berkshire

"If people want to bring a birthday cake to eat instead of our desserts, there’s a small ‘cakeage’ charge – £30 tops for 10 or more people. Someone said it was ‘terrible’ on Twitter, but you’re taking our dessert value down from £10 a person to £3. It’s like rocking up at McDonald’s with a takeaway to eat and saying: ‘I’ve come for a McFlurry.’ It’s ridiculous."

 

7 - The ones who think they know better than the chef

Andrew Wong at A Wong in London

“One of my biggest peeves is when a guest assumes there is one definition of what Chinese food is. [...] It’s difficult to introduce people to new aspects of a cuisine when they don’t want their fixed ideas to change.”

 

8 - The ones with allergies - who think chefs can accomodate without notice

Liz Cottam at Home in Leeds

"We do pescetarian and vegetarian versions of our tasting menu and can accommodate nut and shellfish allergies and gluten intolerance. We provide you with our allergy information at booking. You’ll be asked questions about this. If necessary, our admin team will call you. But although we do all that, you’ll still get someone with a lactose and gluten intolerance that precludes 99% of the elements on every dish who won’t tell us until the night."

 

9 - The ones who help themselves 

Sai Deethwa at Buddha Belly

"On Saturday nights, when they’ve had a drink, certain people can get carried away and start helping themselves to the garnishes on my street-food stall like it’s a Harvester salad bar [...] I’m like: ‘What are you doing?!’"

 

10 - The ones who stare

Aktar Islam at Opheem in Birmingham

"When someone sits in silence, staring at you for hours, you feel it. It begins to freak you out. Show a bit of emotion, please. Give us a smile, maybe."

 

11 - The ones who like their phones more than the company they came with 

Ruth Hansom at Pomona’s in London

"My biggest nightmare is seeing two people sitting on their phones, not talking, eating but not taking much interest in it. Then there’s people taking pictures for 10 minutes, getting the angles right, who try to send the food back because it’s cold!"

 

 

12 - The 'influencers' who expect free food

Alexis Gauthier at Gauthier Soho in London

"We receive a couple of requests a day for free meals, in return for posts from social media influencers. Most are turned down. The consensus is: if an influencer needs to approach you, they’re not worth working with."

 

13 - The ones who like to nip out for a cigarette between every course

Roberta Hall-McCarron at the Little Chartroom in Edinburgh

“We want people to have a good time. If that involves having a cigarette, it’s a free world. But it can mess up the timings in how we run service. You’re cooking fish to order, it’s got 30 seconds left in the pan, then you’re told: ‘No, sorry, someone’s out having a cigarette.’ That’s a niggle.”

 

14 - The ones who think they're the only guests in the room 

Henry Harris at Harcourt Inns in London

"If someone likes very well-done steak, give it to them, otherwise they’ll think you’re an arrogant cock. But then there are the people who think they are far more important than they are, who demonstrate that by making pointless requests such as: ‘I want a steak between rare and medium-rare, slightly on the medium-rare side.’ If someone likes very well-done steak, give it to them, otherwise they’ll think you’re an arrogant cock. But then there are the people who think they are far more important than they are, who demonstrate that by making pointless requests such as: ‘I want a steak between rare and medium-rare, slightly on the medium-rare side.’" 

 

15 - The ones who eat finger food with a knife and fork

Nieves Barragán Mohacho at Sabor in London

"If this irritates me, it’s only because I want guests to enjoy the food."

 

16 - The ones who are unnecessarily rude

Monica Galetti at Mere in London

“One of the toughest things I find to deal with is when guests are unnecessarily rude to my team. Coming to my restaurant should be an enjoyable experience for everyone involved and my team work very hard to make sure of that. On the occasion there may be a problem, I’m sure we can find a solution, but rudeness is not something I like to tolerate.”

 

17 - The tireless tweakers 

Samantha Evans at Hang Fire Southern Kitchen in Barry, Wales

“People cannibalising elements from lots of dishes to create their own menu can be frustrating. A little is OK, but chefs spend days tweaking dishes so that elements balance and enhance. They don’t always appreciate a dozen swap-outs.”

 

Chefs! What customer practices really grind your gears? Would you like to shout out to the exemplary customers out there? Leave your feedback in the comments!

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 24th February 2020

Unannounced allergies, PDAs, complaints about cakeage: top chefs name their pet peeves