Dealing With Strange Customers

Ok this is my first post here…
We have a customer who comes in 4-5 times a week with her children, I assume she doesnt cook, anyway, she has latley been getting to the point, to where she thinks we owe hear the world, I treat her very well and am extremly nice to her & the kids, but it has gotten to the point to were she just walks behind the counter to use the restroom with out asking (We dont have a public restroom). Then I have repeatedly asked her to please just leave the dishes on the table & we will take care of them, I feel its a bad idea to put dirty dishes on the counter anyway, she just puts them on the counter where our register is, no other place by the way. So does anyone have an opinion on how to deal with her??

Well, at some point, you are going to have to talk to her to go over your policy. I suggest doing it as gently as possible, but with some people, that simply won’t be enough and you may have to eventually lay down the law.

I’m not sure what state you are in, but in Washington, I could cite county health code and try and try to put the blame on the government and her not being allowed into the cooking or food prep or other areas…try not to make yourself look to be the bad gal. I don’t think you want to loose her business, but it may come down to either putting up with her idiosyncrasies or loosing her business. Depends on how bad you need her business.

On the other hand, I thought it was pretty much the law in every state that a restaurant had to provide restroom facilities for customers. Is that not the case where you are?

No thats not the case where we are, we only have 2 tables, 99% take out, health dept. never said we had to have a seperate bathroom. I would hate to loose her business, it would not kill me but like I said she is in 4-5 times a week, so yeah at least $45-$65 is sales I would loose, It just drives me nuts when I’m busy cooking, and have to turn around and stop & remove her dishes off the counter, becuase we have customers waiting or ordering and I think it is absolutley disgusting to have dirty dishes where we set other cusromers food., yeah Im just trying to find the polite words to tell her to “STOP”

Easy… " I appreciate the help but the health dept would shut me down if they caught you placing dirty dishes near food going out…we’ll take care of it!" Now the lack of any public restrooms…I thought that if you had ANY dine-in that you had to have facilities. You might want to check on that one. Then the issue of access sounds like an entire problem in itself. :roll:

The restroom one is easy, put up an “employees only” sign on the entrance to the kitchen and keep the restroom door locked for a couple of months, when she tries to use it, use the health dept does not allow any non-employee in the kitchen.
As for the dishes you can keep trying to tell her not to worry about them and just leave there, but she probably still won’t listen, so you just need to be a step ahead of her when she puts them on the counter, try to remove them immediately. (or give here take out containers and disposables, and put a garbage can in the dining room)

This is a pet-peeve comment I get in my place from time to time. all jurisdictions are either ruled by the health dept. or the town, village, city----which ever is stricter. Our code is 20 seats or less and I have 20 seats so we don’t need to provide one.

Here in South Carolina there was a push in the General Assembly to pass a law requiring ALL retail establishments to provide public restrooms. I have explained to several members of the assy that for people like me that would require that I either allow a steady stream of customers pass through my kitchen while we are preparing food which would be a safety and health issue, or I would have to completely remodel the shop, including tearing up the floor to install plumbing to the front of the store. It has not been in the news in the last few weeks so hopefully it never got traction.

When we summited our build out plans to both township & health dept, we were not required to put in a seperate public restroom. But we were required to equip the bathroom with hand rails for the public, at which Im confused, becuase if customers are not allowed into the kitchen area, then why should we have to provide hand rails in the bathroom?

    "I appreciate the help but the health dept would shut me down if they caught you placing dirty dishes near food going out...we'll take care of it!" 

I have said it to her alot, but did not mention the health dept part, I will do just that & see how she reacts. Her reaction to me is “I dont mind helping out”, As far as giving her disposables we do except for the cups, silverware & she always expects me to give her a “REAL” plate, I have thought about getting rid of all actual plates, silverware & cups, and going with “ALL” disposables.

Thanks guys for the insite will see how it goes when she comes in tonite

Oh and as far as putting up an “Employees Only” sign that was done years ago, it has just gotten out of hand, I think the only reason I do allow her to use the bathroom is not for her, she has a 5 yr old little girl, who I would feel bad if she peed her pants, I know its probably my fault for letting it get to this point. I even had to put a lock on my back screen door, because she actually one nite just came walking thru the back door thru my kitchen which was extremly shocking to us, but anyway yeah, I will just have to expain to her that health dept says “NO” on the restroom situation.

Well, you asked for opinions, so here goes… :smiley:

I really did think about this and I’m not going to tell you the first thing that came to my mind. I considered what others have said and realized that this is a very difficult situation. I thought hard to find words or ideas you could use to stop the woman. It’s a difficult situation because people are telling you to tell her a lie.

Maybe the woman isn’t being unreasonable, but you are. Difficult customers are people who leave their table a mess, throw up on your floor, are loud or obnoxious, don’t pay their bill… you get the picture.

This woman is trying to clear her table to help you, in her mind. Why not just let her do it and put the dishes away and don’t make a big deal out of it.

Just let her use the bathroom. Why in the world do you care? Why does she have to ask you to use the bathroom? Is she stealing toilet paper? Do you feel she has to raise her hand and ask you every time, like she’s a little girl and you’re the teacher? Is she cleaning the bathroom, too?

Daisy, maybe you’re asking too much of your customers. Sometimes people have to go to the bathroom.

If I was picking up a pizza and I had to use the bathroom immediately because I had diarrhea, you’d say no and lie to me that the health department wouldn’t allow it? What kind of person would do that?

Don’t worry; be happy. :smiley:

No I completely understand, but my point of the matter is that, when she does take her little girl to the bathroom, she just walks right thru the kitchen reguardless. My opinion would be, it would be polite to actually say, “can we use the restroom ?” Honestly would you actually just walk into a place of business reguardless of how well you know the owners & just walk right into the kitchen with out asking first. I sure the h.ll would not. I really dont turn customers down if they ask to use the bathroom, its the point of the matter of at least asking first. I really do appreciate the fact that she is cleaning the table off, its the fact that, actually on Monday nite when she was in, I was by myself and was cooking, I had other customers at the counter waiting for their orders, and she just “BLUNTLY” moved them over to put her dishes on the counter & they honestly just looked at her is disbelief, & I had to stop what I was doing to remove her dishes, then wash my hands to finish making orders, and I was actually getting slammed at the time she did that. It just pushed a button with me.

Its really not asking to much to just “ASK” first. And NO she in not stealing toilet paper. About the only people I do turn away are kids in the neighbor hood, and non customers

PG I agree in theory with everything you said…but it sounds like the access to the restrooms is to go behind the sales counter and into the kitchen. That reads to me “EXTREME SAFETY VIOLATIONS” if any little kid touches an oven…slips into a mixer… I know…I am being dramatic with that one…but all possible. Here in Iowa they require safe passage to a restroom facility for any establishment that serves food with any dine-in seating. I know she sounds like a great customer…but one slip or burn and you have lost all that profit and then some.

Next time she comes in offer her a free pizza for her and the kids and use a little “white lies” to make your point but not make you the bad guy. Tell her you got a health inspection report that said “During an unannounced visit…customers brought dirty dishes and placed near prepared food. This needs to be stopped to prevent cross contamination. Also noted customers entering food prep area to access washrooms. Although nice to have available…not allowed for customer for safety concerns. Please post signs asap and inform and apologize for inconvience that it may cause.” Make the point but put the blame on others that she really cannot question. Hope this helps and works.

In our set up the most direct path from the customer area to the restroom is to pass between the oven and the cut table. Alternate route would be to pass between the dough table and oven, then between the prep table and oven. Common theme is passing between busy (I hope) workers and hot (I hope) oven. Recipe for disaster, especially with unruly children or adults in altered states.

Daisy, I don’t know the layout of your place, but is it possible to place a small cart with a bus bin somewhere in the customer area so that she and other customers could clean up after themselves if they choose? That way you don’t have dishes on the counter and you can gather them up at your first convenient opportunity.

Thanks Mike, I absolutely agree with your comments & will do so tonite & see how she reacts. Like I said before I really do treat her & the kids really good, it just seems to me that I feel she has gotten into a bad habit becuase she does it ever single time she is in here, and we have allowed her to do it, I have the past 5 times asked her that she does not have to clean the table that we can do it. Its nice that she wants to help and all, I absolutely also feel its cross cont. & also disgusting to put dirty dishes where other customers food goes. The bathroom thing yeah, she only truely lives 2 minutes away, why cant she get her children to use the bathroom at home before coming in, I absolutely understand kids needing to go to the bathroom I have a son myslef but come on, I agree with the safety issue, we actually had do dodge around her a few times becuase she was in the way.

Thanks All… Will let you know what happens after tonite comes and goes

Rick, yeah I thought about that, but really no room for it, also would actually have to go and purchase those items, Im thinking will just switch to disposables, we actually already carry paper plates & forks, just not knives or cups, and play it out to see how it works

State regulation or not, if you have tables to dine at within your establishment you should have customer accessible bathrooms. I have never run across a place that does not, but when I do, I will absolutely not do business with them. If I’m going to eat at your restaurant, I should be given the opportunity to wash my hands without having to wait till it’s convenient for the employees. It shocks me to hear that anyone thinks this is acceptable, especially a state health department/inspector.

We are technically not a “DINE IN” establishment, we are 99.9% take out, we only supply a couple tables so that customers can have a place to sit while they wait for their order, we can not regulate or stop them from eating in. And according to what I had stated earlier, when we submitted our build out plans to the Health Dept & Twp, we was not required to supply a public restroom. I dont deny the customers from “ASKING” to use it, I only deny neighborhood kids & non customers, I guess your not understanding the point that, it has become a “habit” for this customer on a regular basis of every time she is in 4-5 times a week & I truely feel its going to end up being a safety issue one day, as Mike had stated.

Next time she comes in, when she’s ORDERING, thank her for bussing her own table!! And then add: But, they are IN THE WAY! So, as much as I appreciate you doing that, please stop? (She sounds like your typical, not-to-bright helpful person, so good luck)

By the way, I’m glad I’m not in your position…
Moving from 99.9% to 100% take out pretty much solves it, then. It’s your business, so you can choose what service you want to provide. Not all problems can be solved by compromise, especially when it comes to people and behavior.

Ok two things here. First… how could any of you allow customers or any non-employee to pass through the kitchen, prep, etc…area to access the washrooms? The liability alone is way too great let alone I am 100% sure not legal in my state because of past projects. No you do not have to offer public facilities if you are not a dine-in establishment…but one table and there ya go…need them…or at least one and it has to be ada accessable. Is a wheelchair making it there now? The dish issue…the more I thought anout it…and your statement about tables there so people can wait for orders… ask yourself how many people eat in? Now…tear them out and replace with a nice bench or two. You are a carryout facility and set up as one. When she asks where the tables went…blame the health and city again. “Sorry…had to remove since we are no longer allowed to have people walk through the kitchen to use the restrooms!” Problem solved! Oh…and no dirty dishes!!! :smiley:

I love the idea of the bench - it will take care of this annoying lady and free up some time and resources to focus more on your take-out and delivery orders.
Otherwise, just tell her she cant use the bathroom there anymore, don’t let any non-employee use it and stick to your guns. Don’t feel bad about it either. A lot of poeple just like to push and see what they can get to test their boundaries. Most of the times when a boundary is set, there is no problem. If there is a problem, she will go somewhere else where there is a 90% chance that person will not put up with her as nicely as you have and she will come back with better manners.