The worst part about owning a restaurant is having to deal with awful customers. The good thing is having the authority to kick those obnoxious customers out.
Here are 13 stories from food service employees who’ve had to kick customers to the curb.
1. Take Me Home
This happened last week. Guy comes in with two kids. Makes his orders. And then tells his brats to get some chips. So they get bags and bags of chips and just sit there eating them. Then the guy complained about being charged for ‘stuff I ain’t takin’ home.’
Refused to leave. Gary, the store manager, tells him to leave. Guy starts screaming. I come out of the kitchen and in a deep voice say, ‘Problem sir?’ The guys younger son actually started crying. They left.
Not my proudest moment. Yes, I meant to intimidate but not terrify the kids. Besides they had pushed over a stack of beer bottles and we lost about 60 dollars worth. Plus fifteen bags of chips.
2. Let’s Call Him Dan
The most recent was for violence towards staff. I was on shift with one of my coworkers when this customer (let’s call him Dan) came in already very drunk. He was a customer who had been in several times before, each time ending in him being cut off for being too drunk. I refused to serve him alcoholic drinks, offering him soft drinks or water instead. He declined these and decided the best course of action was to come round to the bar gate and try and pull his own pint. Obviously we stopped this from happening at which point Dan decided to punch my coworker. Since he was drunk it wasn’t particularly hard, however since then he has been permanently banned and is not allowed near my coworker or on the property.
3. Mom And Pop
One time, at my parent’s mom-and-pop diner that my parents have owned for years, this guy got really drunk. Drunk off what, I have no idea, we don’t sell any booze. There’s a bar down the street, though. Anyway he stumbles in and asks for a whiskey. I tell him we don’t have that. He orders a pink lemonade. I make him one and give him it. He promptly takes it and chucks it across the room. I tell him, ‘Sir, you will have to leave.’
‘Sir, please leave now.’
After a few minutes of this, I get tired and grab his arm, and point him in the right direction.
‘Okay, okay…’ And he leaves.
Now, multiply this by a few times per week, maybe 8 or 9 times per month. It’s not too bad when compared to big restaurants, but it gets annoying.
4. Packing Heat
The best one was when I was an assistant manager in Jackson, Missouri. This place was in a bad neighborhood. There was quite a bit of gang-related activity there. Drugs, prostitution, fights, you name it. All in a day’s work, at this place. Well, one night, we had a disagreement between 2 pretty big dudes right in our dining room. It escalated quickly and suddenly these guys were fighting. I called the cops and walked over and with a little help got them separated. I explained to the guys that the cops have been called and were on their way. I noticed when one of the guys turned around that he was carrying a gun. My thoughts… ‘Whooa, dude’s packin’ heat and you just put your hands on him trying to keep him from fighting in the store. Dying for this place.’ Luckily they went outside peacefully and left.
After that, I became a little bit more complacent about maintaining the peace. I’d make my call to 5.0 and wait it out. I was no longer getting involved.
Another time, we had a guy get stabbed in my store. I would mostly turn a blind eye to drug deals in the dining room, but I didn’t like seeing it. If I saw that, I’d kindly ask the patrons to leave. Seeing the remains of drug use in the store was commonplace. Empty baggies, blunt leftovers etc. Girls were as bad as guys often. About once every 2 weeks, 2 chicks would have a knock-down drag-out. Those weren’t as big a deal, though, cause the women weren’t as big as the guys.
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5. No Touching!
Main reasons include being disruptive to other diners or the staff. This has to be intentional, active, and unrelenting. I won’t ever kick out someone for a crying baby (though, as a parent, I’ll never understand why they can’t take their kid outside and calm it, then come back, it’s what I do), but I have kicked out a family for their kid playing loudly on a tablet and not stopping even after the appetizers arrived.
Another reason is being belligerent towards my staff. My front of the house is my family, they’re my coworkers, employees, friends, and depend on me to make their job of making your day as amazing as possible. If someone insults, touches (the unwanted kind), or berates my staff they’re out. I don’t ask twice in many cases, and not even once in some. A while ago some drunks touched my waitress’ butt.
she shrugged it off but I saw it. That’s the end of their welcome at my place.
Being there to be a nuisance is another one. As a steak house we have our share of people who come in just to show us off or make a statement. No, we don’t have vegan food, and yes we mind if you make puking noises when meat is carried past. And while we cater to and support guests with real allergies and dietary restrictions, we won’t stop serving bread on your table or pork and dairy from the same kitchen just because your Gods hate them.
Oh, and don’t try to come back if you’ve been 86’d from my place or someone else’s. We have long memories and we talk among ourselves. Grope a waitress at a different place and you can bet your butt someone in my restaurant will recognize you. Some time back a man who’d done something like this came to my place with his wife and kids. We asked him politely to leave, he didn’t want to, waved the ‘I am a lawyer’ threat, and that he has 14,000 followers on some review site and would destroy us. My Sous chef at the time, a quirky, short, and not very patient woman, responded with ‘oh, don’t you remember? You groped my servers’ behind at when you were there, drinking that $900 bottle of champagne with the blonde girl you practically had sex with on your way in.’ Usually we’re the most discreet bunch on the planet, but harass my staff and you’ll be kicked out and get a free divorce in the process.
6. Greatest Kick-Out Story
My husband has kicked people out of his restaurant before. This particular story stands out to me as one of his greatest kick-out stories.
He was the general manager at the time for a fast/casual dining restaurant. He was walking up to the front and saw the end of a transaction, then saw his employee leave the register and quickly walk into the back in tears. He asked what happened and this is the story he got:
While the employee (let’s call her Sarah) was ringing a family of 4 up the mother of that family began insulting Sarah, saying that she was stupid and telling her that she looked like a boy and was extremely ugly. This, understandably, upset Sarah, who is a sweet and quiet girl- hence the quickly walking to the back and crying.
My husband doesn’t stand for this sort of behavior. He confirmed the story with employees who saw this happen and asked for the family to be pointed out to him. He walked over to that family, looked directly at the woman and asked her what she said to Sarah. She had no answer and was shocked that she was being confronted. The dad of this family at this time piped in saying that he knew the owners, my husband quickly shut that down by saying ‘Really? Good. I know them too.’ Then he went back to asking the woman what she said to Sarah to make her cry. When she still didn’t answer him he told her what he heard, asked if it was true. The woman fumbled and gave no explanation, still had no answer. He then told them to finish their food and never come back. They promptly left without finishing their food.
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7. Lunch Rush
My husband walked up to the front during a lunch rush to make sure everyone was doing well. He walked up at the perfect moment, because he saw this go down:
The girl scooping up rice for the plates didn’t hear the man when he said he wanted white rice, so she asked him to repeat himself. Apparently to this man doing such a thing was a just unacceptable and he went off on this girl. He was yelling at her, calling her stupid and the like. She was holding back tears. My husband saw all of this, asked for this girl to step aside so he could finish this guy’s order. With every step my husband double checked everything saying ‘Sorry, I didn’t hear you.’ ‘I just want to get this right’ and ‘Sorry, I’m really slow so you’re going to have to say that a few more times,’ so getting this guys food order was taking forever. Husband gave everyone waiting in line a free drink saying ‘Sorry- I just need to make sure this guy gets exactly what he wants’. After my husband rang him out he said ‘You are no longer welcome in this store’ and he took a picture of the guy. When the guy was leaving the entire restaurant was applauding and every other person in that line left a tip.
My husband has a few stories like that. If there’s one thing he does not stand for it’s people mistreating his employees. He’s not afraid to call people out on their rude behavior. It’s one of the things I completely admire and love about him.
8. Not Enough Produce
I worked for a very busy bar/restaurant with incredible burgers. The other food was good, but the burgers were absolutely the best within 100 miles or more. The owner was persnickety, he served a burger how he thought burgers should be served. You can have ketchup and mustard on the side, onion and pickle on your burger, you could get the patty cooked how you want it, you could have bacon and cheese and even a mixture of green olives with mayonnaise; but the only items you could not get on your burger, the only accoutrements out of bounds – were lettuce and tomato.
It didn’t make sense, it didn’t have to make sense. The owner hated putting lettuce or tomato on a bun with ground beef. Truly, the burgers were so good you didn’t miss these items if you didn’t get them, but people were always asking.
I would politely reply ‘I’m sorry, we don’t have lettuce or tomato for burgers.’ They would point out that all of our 3 salads had both lettuce AND tomato on them. Once again, I would reply; ‘I’m sorry, our burgers don’t come with lettuce or tomato, they are truly excellent without either addition, please understand, we simply don’t offer lettuce or tomato on our burgers.’ Some would accept this with an ‘O-kay…’ I would thank them for their understanding.
The ones who didn’t accept my version were also persnickety types. (continued…)
but in this town they were almost all over-entitled deep pocketed old money people with more money than sense. They would demand to see a manager, which means the owner. After about two minutes talking to these customers, explaining his position and listening to theirs, if they began elucidating their personal feelings about my terrible service or the quality of the restaurant, the owner would raise his voice and point at the door.
‘Get outta here, go to Burger King if you wanna have it your way.’ Having never been told, in their life, ‘NO’ for anything, the over-entitled little nugget would either fight or flight. The fighters were few and far between, and didn’t last long. The flighters would hurl insults over their shoulder as they left. No one cared.
Business would resume, and people would keep eating their food. This man still owns the bar, he still does a roaring trade, and to my knowledge he still kicks out someone almost weekly.
To be honest, I would rather work for an owner with principles who kicks my customers out (my potential tips) than an owner who rolls over when customers drink too much, or treat the servers like s–t, or make disparaging comments towards staff. I’ve worked for both. Besides, the over-entitled customers are always the people who tip you the least. Don’t come to a restaurant if you have poor manners; an owner, a manager, or a server will teach you manners. We are the gatekeepers of what is polite in America.
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9. Out On Your Butt
Too many times, but the one I’ll never forget was a gorgeous example of karmic justice.
It was a slow Monday night in a bar I owned years ago and almost all our customers were regulars or friends of mine or the staff. Two drunk kids complete with baggy sweatpants and baseball hats with those silly flat brims perched precariously high on their heads came in around midnight and immediately started problems. Nothing too crazy, just being way too loud and talking to people who were obviously not interested in making new friends. You know the type.
This is honestly one of the toughest types of situations to deal with. When a customer gets aggressive with my staff or makes my other customers feel unsafe, it’s an easy call- you toss them. What these guys were doing wasn’t so out of line that they deserved an instant 86. In fact, if it had been a busy weekend night I doubt that anybody would have even noticed their behavior. This was a bar, a limited amount of rambunctiousness is to be expected. But a huge part of our job is to provide an enjoyable atmosphere for our customers and in this case, these guys were ruining that.
So I gave them each a glass of water and quietly told them that they were welcome to hang out at an empty table as long as they like, but we won’t serve them any more alcohol and they need to leave the other customers alone. This tactic works about 80% of the time and the customer usually doesn’t even realize how he’s acting and is grateful for the heads-up and the opportunity to save face.
Not this time. The mood turned ugly very quickly and the kids got in my face and started talking about all the violence that they wanted to inflict on me. Bad move. One of my bartenders and I threw them out on their butts. They stood outside the bar for a few minutes yelling about how the owner is a jerk and nobody should go there but when we opened the door and took a step outside, they jetted off leaving in their wake nothing but the scent of fear. I bought everybody sitting at the bar a round of shots and we spent some time laughing at those two clowns.
About 20 minutes later, we heard a sharp CRACK. (continued…)
and I turned around to see the glass on the front door spidering out from a small hole. I tore the door open and ran outside, one of our regular customers hot on my heels, to see those two running away down the street and a rock on the ground in front of the broken window.
I turned around and shouted at my bartender to call the police, and then the customer and I started running after them. We chased them for a couple blocks and when they noticed us catching up, they jumped into the middle of the street, flagged down a passing police car and told the cops that we were trying to assault them. The cops, understandably, started coming at us. I put my hands up and started to explain the situation. They weren’t having any of it.
But right as I’m having my moment, my bartender comes diving into the middle of the scene, cell phone in hand, telling the cops that they might want to talk to their dispatcher before handcuffing anybody.
We were all escorted back up the street to the bar, my crew and I were let back inside, and the kids spent the next hour on the sidewalk in handcuffs while the police took statements. They spent the night in jail and had to pay for the window damage, but I decided not to press charges. I think they learned their lesson.
10. Well Done
One night we have a family of 4 for dinner. The husband was in a bit of a mood upon arrival, so I knew it was going to be a bit of a difficult table. I made sure that I assigned our strongest waitress to their table and I made a point of also keeping an eye on them.
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When they ordered main courses, the husband ordered a T-bone steak, well done (I’m a bit of a food snob, so any well-done steak to me is just wrong, but each to his own). I immediately went to the table and explained to him that, in order to get the piece of meat around the bone well done, we would have to cremate the rest of the steak. I suggested that we grilled the steak until most of it was well done. He could then eat the part of the steak that was well done, after which the waitress could return his steak to the grill and we could grill the rest of his steak until it was all well done. He agrees.
After all this, there was a thin strip right up against the bone (less than 2% of the meat in the steak), that was still a little bit pink (no ‘blood’). He started screaming at the waitress, at which point I stepped in. He proceeded to start screaming at me, at which point I walked him outside.
We stood nose to nose outside.
I told him that I was doing him a favour by not beating him up in front of his family, that’s why I took him outside. If he said or did anything other than handing me the cash for the dinner, I would reverse that decision. He paid up and had to wait outside while his family finished their meal.
Now here’s the nice part of the story: A few days later, we took my wife’s (did I mention that she was the waitress? ;-)) new car for its first service at the dealership. We asked to see the service manager as there were a few minor issues with the car that we wanted sorted out under warranty. Who walks out to greet us? You guessed it, Mr. Well Done T-Bone… My wife can be a VERY difficult customer when she wants to be…
11. Two In The Bag
I am having a hard time deciding which story to share. I used to be a manager at a restaurant down the street from a mental health institution. Our restaurant had a big neon sign. We would get a lot of people that had just checked out…we always thought it was the neon sign that brought them in. I’m going to share a select few favorites.
A scammer came in once complaining there were stink bugs in his salad. We felt so terrible, we instantly refunded his money. His story seemed a little weird because he couldn’t tell us which salad it was. We were very close with the restaurant next door to us. The manager of our neighbor restaurant happened to come in during that exact moment and saw the man right before we were about to hand him the refunded money. The manager yelled, ‘What the hell are you doing here? You scammed us!’ Then we realized he had literally just pulled the same scam on our neighbors and was about to pull it on us. We called all the local restaurants to warn them.
One time a woman came in obviously drunk off her rocker. The bartender, obviously, refused to serve her. When the bartender asked how many drinks she had consumed that day, she responded, Imma be honest with you. I’ve had two.’ The bartender responded, ‘Two liters?’ And then the woman fell down the stairs leading to the restroom, and we had to call the cops/ambulance.
Another time a man came in when I was bartending. He didn’t appear to be intoxicated, but I was wrong because he definitely was. I served him a beer; he took one sip, fell over and asleep on the floor. I didn’t see him fall. We didn’t notice he was on the floor until someone walked around the corner around the bar. We called the cops/ambulance.
Another time a customer came in and started singing opera songs to tables. We kicked him out. Another man started playing the saxophone. We kicked him out. Another man played the flute. We kicked him out. Another man went around begging people for money. We kicked him out.
Another time I was serving, and a man came in by himself. I am Korean-American, and this man was clearly very racist. He started bowing to me and saying things to me in an accent. I put up with that for about two minutes before I told him he had to leave and that he was never invited back.
This one woman used to complain about every single thing every time she came in. Finally, after years of this, my general manager went up to her with a binder. Inside of the binder were pages of all the things she had ever complained about. My manager said, ‘Here is a binder full of all of the things you have complained about. Clearly, we cannot make you happy. So, you are not welcome back here because we just can’t please you. Please do not return.’
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One time a woman came in, drank a number of drinks and ate food, then said she couldn’t pay her bill. We told her we would call the police if she did not figure out some way to pay. So she asked to borrow our phone and called a friend. Obviously this woman was an alcoholic. Her friend was so pissed to find out she was at a bar that she told her she wouldn’t help her pay and that we could call the police on her. So we did. And bless his heart, this police man. He came in, we explained to him the situation, and he offered to pay the bill. He said the woman obviously needed help and not to be thrown in jail. I was managing at the time, and I completely agreed, but I wanted to scare her enough that she would never try it again at our restaurant. Obviously I did not let the cop pay for the bill…we ate the cost of that bill that day. But I was extremely touched by that cop’s generosity and kindness.
I could really go on and on. I worked there for 7 years, and it was the most entertaining 7 years of my life.
12. Mr. And Mrs. P
Yes, I have. It just so happened that due to lack of finances to travel, I took up a job at a local fancy restaurant run by an awesome lady.
So one day this man (let’s call him P) walks in with his girlfriend (Lady P) and they are seated. Our manager makes it a point she personally greets every customer at their table, so once they ordered their food and got settled in with their wine, she went up to them and greeted them. Lady P says to the manager, ‘Took you long enough to come over here.’
The manager ignored this and answered very politely that she saved the best for the last. She ended the courtesies as the food arrived and let them eat.
She was standing at the door seeing off another customer when the Prick called her. She went to their table and their waitress, my friend, also came over.
P: ‘Eat this.’
Manager: ‘Is anything wrong with it?’
P: ‘I ordered a chicken soup not salt soup. There is so much salt. I had to spit it out.’
Manager: ‘I am really sorry this happened. We will be happy to replace it and not charge you for your dinner tonight. It is on us.’
Lady P: ‘That’s not enough. You have to taste this to know it is crappy and what we went through.’
Manager: ‘I completely believe that the soup was not to your liking – ‘
P: ‘Not to our liking? You are talking as if the food is great but there is something wrong with my taste palette.’
Manager: ‘No sir, I mean no offense. Let me replace that for you.’
My waitress friend leans in to take the soup bowls away. She took it from Lady P. Right then, Mr. P takes a spoonful and tries to force feed her the soup. (continued…)
I was standing two tables away and I had to interfere.
Me: ‘Sir, there is no need for that. Let me take that for you and replace it with fresh soup.
He pushed his chair back with the spoon in his hand and swung it at me.
The soup was all across my shirt. The Lady P shoved my friend to reach out to her boyfriend and they pushed past my manager. I grabbed Lady P’s arm and said, ‘Apologize to them. We have been very patient with you. You – ‘
Lady P: ‘I ain’t apologizing to anyone. You serve rotten soups and charge us and then ask us to apologize!?’
She freed her arm and pushed me hard enough to make both of us fall. The sous-chef came out and called the cops. Mr. P saw this and helped Lady P up and quickly left.
13. No Denim Jeans
I was working for a hotel franchise in Greater Cincinnati back in the early ’70s. I usually worked front desk but it was a small place with an attached bar and occasionally I got pulled to bouncer duty. Pretty funny considering I was a 5’8″ 130 pound girl. Mostly it consisted of checking I.D.’s and making sure that the dress code was observed. For some strange reason the manager decreed NO DENIM JEANS. No exceptions at all. This was my job and I had to do it or lose the job (which I needed). One night a group of big, burly guys came to the door; I stopped them and stated that they could not go in as they were wearing jeans. They looked at me like I had two heads and the big guy with the beard and white cowboy hat said, ‘DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM?’ There I stood surrounded by six big dudes, but my boss said no exceptions…so I replied ‘Yes, Mr. Daniels I know who you are…and you still can’t go in unless you are properly attired.’ At the time I needed the job so badly but in the years since I really regret throwing out Charlie Daniels and his band…