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Chef Eric Brenner

People who run restaurants deserve respect and kindness. Our staff deserves the same. We smile genuinely and provide sustenance, libation and service for all of our patrons. It’s what we do. It’s our life’s work.

However, I feel the time has come to draw the line in our industry. We need to quit just accepting abusive and disrespectful language and treatment from patrons. Stop enabling and rewarding horrible behavior, appeasing the abusers with free food and drink and apologies.

It happens every day. Angry agro men yelling at our female staff members. Women upset that they have to wait for food, demanding free food for waiting even though they got their food hot and perfect and ate it all.

I‘m emailing with a guy who says we’re smug and lack customer service because we wouldn’t let his party of 15 be seated one hour before we closed (we limit reservations to 8 to 10 guests because of lingering COVID cases, and they didn’t have a reservation). He thinks that because we had an open table, he deserved to be seated. Our host informed him of our policy. They argued. He went to social media and now is sending middle finger emojis through email. Not only did he make a huge scene, but then he took it to social media and continued it days later. Some people are literally incapable of kindness or patience.

My appeal is for patrons to be kind and for my fellow restaurateurs to hold the line with me. You can rest assured that if you abuse my staff and then ask to speak with me, it’s not gonna go how you think. It’s a step we all must take to let our guests know that we will stand by our employees and demand they be treated with civility (and perhaps even gratitude).

We always strive to please every request from any guest, but if we don’t have Ranch dressing, please accept this and choose from the menu in front of you.

If you don’t have a reservation and we are fully booked, making our host cry is not a reasonable action.

If we are short-staffed and you have to wait a little longer for your drink or food, trust that we are putting as much care and love into your order as always. We won’t rush the process and diminish the quality to meet some random timeline you have set for us.

If you come in late for your reservation (15 minutes is a standard concession) without calling, don’t cause a scene just because guests who arrived on time have been awarded your table.

We’re essentially being terrorized by rude and mean people, yet the good people remain quiet, afraid to speak up and fight for their own dignity. I’m not that guy.

I would do nothing else (well, maybe being a rock star would pull me away), and we owe it to ourselves, our partners, our employees and our lively patrons to clear the negativity from every corner of our businesses.

In this stressed labor market, restaurant owners should pay well, provide any benefits we can afford, and absolutely ensure a safe and secure work environment for our fellow employees and our customers — including who we allow through our doors.

Chef Eric Brenner began cooking 35 years ago in St. Louis’ Italian community known as The Hill. He has consulted, opened or flipped over 20 businesses all over the country from 2008 to settling in to Red Gravy and Downtown Colorado Springs in January 2016.