Salad stealers, how do you handle them?

For those with a salad bar, how do you handle the “sharers” and the blatant salad thieves? In the last two nights, I have had one group who came in and ordered a very low-priced Monday special, no salads, and proceeded to scoop pepperoncinis and saltine crackers off the salad bar. I am talking a lot of saltines here.

Last night, another group of 5 comes in, orders two salads and two pizzas, 5 small drinks. The lady complains that the salad bowls are too small, grabs a paper plate and gets her salad. Hands the bowl to a child, who gets her own (little) salad. I let that go, ok now two + the little girl are eating salad. Another boy comes over to the salad bar and I ask him if he ordered salad and shooed him away, as politely as I could. The lady comes back with his same bowl, loads it up and gives him the salad to eat, now there are two adults and two kids eating salad.
I have to draw a line, I feel. I go over to the table and VERY politely ask the woman if there is a misunderstanding because we only rang her up for two salads.
She gets worked up immediately, telling me I am complaining about her kid eating a couple of pieces of lettuce and says I am having a hissy over it. I am saying nothing, letting her vent her steam. When she shuts up, I say someone is having a hissy here, but it aint me. She gets up and continues with a raised voice (it’s Tuesday night, there are no other dine-ins), I start to explain to her that I have a business to run, yaddayaddayadda, of course, now she is going to leave, upset, and tell 10 other people how rude we are to customers.

How do you handle the situation? Removing all extra paper plates from the counter is a preventative measure, but there are still the “sharers”.

I wait until they get to the register and when they present their ticket I add the salads they thought they were going to get for free to it. When they ask why it’s more than what the original ticket said I explain to them
“you ordered 2 salads and you got 4 salads.” If they get upset I explain to them that the salad bar isn’t buy one get one free. If they get upset and throw a fit, screw them. they aren’t worth the business. But one piece of advice, never argue with a customer.

Sometimes you just have to suck up your pride and let the customer have their way and make sure they are satisified. The customer is always right :). We have a Pizza & Salad Lunch Buffet and people will come in with their kids… Order 1 buffet and slide slices off to their kids. They are obviously stealing but whatever I still make a few pennies off of them and they leave happy. You’ll get your money out of them sooner or later if they are a satisfied customer and keep coming back. Its better to make $1 off the customer then to piss them off and make $0… Let them think they are right. Even tho deep down inside you want to slap them silly. In these types of situations, I handle them correctly 50% of the time… I just let it get to me sometimes… but other times I can hold back :slight_smile:

Like last friday night, I had a guy phone in his dine in order. I mean come on who calls in a dine-in order? But anyways, we have our carry-out/delivery specials on our message system and of course this guy is pissed because he heard the special for breadsticks and got charged more then what the recording said… Even tho the recording is meant as an upsell message to boost carry-out and delivery orders… AND he didn’t even bring up the fact, he wanted the special on the message until we had charged his credit card and he even signed it… Then he wanted the special… I let it get to me and just told him it’s a delivery/carry-out special and not dine-in… When infact I should have handed him a couple of dollars back, or fixed his credit card receipt… I probably bite the bullet on that one but damn it gets to you sometimes… !!!

Anyways, hope that helps…

We actually have several customers who call in their dine-in orders on a regular basis. We hold in our warming cabinet, and it works out.

For the guys taking advantage of things, we have a general practice. When we see it happen, we let it go the one time, and use it as an educational opportunity. We tell them it is absolutely no problem that it happened, and that we won’t be able to honor the same pratcie.special/coupon/price the next time. We bend over backwards to give away free food, discounts, offers when we foul up and do not at all feel awkward asking that the customer follow our business plan and process. They get one, but we cut it off at that point . . . we even apologize for being unclear, poor communications, making the decsion due to cost of business and market pressures.

We get once and a while someone flies off the handle. Scant few ever, and it hasn’t hurt the business. Treat them like reasonable adults, and act like compassionate business people. That is our theory.

So if I come in your store and buy a pizza for 15.00 and then steal 5.00 out of your till your alright with that? Come on folks, are you hear to make money or not? Its different if someones has a salad and says wow this is really good and the husband has a bite of it for a taste or if you have non stop pop and someone has a sip or two but dont let people steal from you. I would rather make 0 then a dollar if it is comeing from someone that is dishonest. Yes you have to be polite and dont argue with them but you also have to keep people honest unless you like giving your product away

Out of my 9 years in the restaurant industry, I can only remember 3 people that have called in Dine-In Orders. So I guess thats why I thought it was so odd he was calling it in.

I’d personally be worried about my service if alot of people were calling in orders ahead of time for dine-in. If they feel it takes so long to get their food they have to call it in. But thats just my perception. Not wrong or right :slight_smile: just my perception.

And as far as stealing money out of the till. Thats a bad comparision to someone stealing a 25 cent piece of pizza off the buffet and giving it to their child. Or someone stealing fifty cents worth of salad and letting their significant other eat it.

There are so many variables that could go into this situation that would change my personal reaction to it, that I couldn’t even list them all.

Heck, you could comp the families whole meal and let them know your happy to have been able to help out those in financial hardship that can’t afford a good meal. And even offer them a nice discount when they come in next, since they can’t afford it.

And to conclude, this is yet another question that is YOUR PERSONAL PREFERENCE. There is no right or wrong answer. It’s what you perceive to be correct and what YOU feel comfortable doing. And it’s what will put money in your pocket. Everybody’s situation is different.

You really hit on this one. What you do has to be consistent with the relationship with your customers and the business model you operate. I can only make my ideas work in my place because of the atmosphere and perception we have created in our market. Some folks with a more “dog eat dog” competition have t obe far more accomodating, others can be more demanding and forceful.

It always helps to have skils in de-escalating explosive situations. People skills and a clear philosophy of business will be my guide most times.

I have to dissagree, stealing is stealing especially the way it was explained to us this wasnt just some person giving a few pieces of lettuce to their kid. But hey what you are saying then is its ok to steal someones product just dont steal their money? Is it also ok to go in the bulk food section at the grocery store and help yourself to a couple of pieces of candy after all you are buying 50.00 in groceries so .25-.50 cents worth of candy doesnt matter? What kind of example are we setting when that is OK?

I usually dont say anything, but I will remember them and overcharge them next time a buck or so. If they order delivery I use less sauce or all cheap cheeze on their pie, jip them of a mozzerlla stick or a raviolli.

I used to phone ahead on my dine in orders all the time, especially back in Chicago when a stuffed was going to take 45 minutes-an hour.

I am an impatient person, very impatient. It is better for everyone if I do what I can to cut down on the time I wait.

Oh yeah, I have dine-in orders called in ahead all the time. I am in California, people are quite impatient here, they come in and ask for slices, and when I offer a mini pizza that can be ready in 7 minutes or so, they will not wait 90% of the time.

Anyway, to focus back on the topic, I cannot charge them after the fact because we are not full service, we are pay-at-the-counter and find a seat and eat. I think I have a fix for the largest part of the problem, don’t leave plates and bowls sitting out that they can load extra food onto.

The debate on customer service is enlightening, but I am a stealing-is-stealing type of guy. I was taught not to look at food that is wasted or stolen as “I just lost 50 cents worth of salad” (food cost), but instead “I just lost $4 from a paying customer” (revenue).

Stealing is stealing, if someone consumes something they did not pay for it’s theft plain and simple. The way I look at it is that I just lost that revenue. Sure it’s only 4 bucks or so, but still that’s four bucks toward the bottom line. When you’re crunching numbers, every last cent counts. People have lost their sense of value and I don’t know why. It used to be that people were happy to pay good money for good food, but now they want everything free. I can understand maybe helping someone once in a while who “can’t afford” to pay, but you know… if you can’t afford to pay for a meal out should you be spending your money? If you let someone walk allover you once, they will do it again and… they will tell their friends. “hey lets go to Pizza Joint, I’ll buy a salad bar/buffet and let you eat off of my plate”

Customer service is one thing, and yes I agree the customer is always right. But there are times when they aren’t, like when it comes to stealing. My philosophy is this… If you can’t afford to go out to eat and pay for everyone in your group, then don’t go. Spend that money on food from the grocery store.

I think it is a matter of perspective and definition for me and for FastBreak. If I am willing to allow the 25 cent piece of pizza to be taken, then by definition it is not stealing. We are both coming from what I’ve heard described as “not tripping over a dollar to pick up a quarter.” I may be missing his point, though. Letting them know we prefer they don’t do it makes the point, preserves the dignity of the customer and leaves the customer knowing that I didn’t deride them, and value their patronage if they can follow our policies regarding food and payment for same.

The other key is that we both think each place needs to make their own policy and follow it with consistency.

One time when I was in Maui, I went to a restaurant that offered All You Can Eat Mahi Mahi , or whatever the dish was… But I remember reading a table tent on the table that politely asked customers not to share the all you can eat food and if they caught you, they would shoot you.

In my opinion, it sounds like you are just looking for something to cry about. Step back, take a deep breath and consider this;
A family enters your business and orders only 2 salads, but also 5 drinks. CHA-CHING on the drinks. How much salad did the 2 or 3 children “steal”? If two adults (with no kids) come to your business and order two salads and end up eating more salad than the above mentioned family paid for and stole, combined, it wouldn’t be an issue right? Chances are that the two adults will buy only 2 drinks, not 5 drinks, and still eat more salad. You’re making money on the drinks. Parents will “steal” salad for their kids because, in the consumers mind, the kid won’t eat enough for them to justify paying the full menu price for another salad. Why not offer a “child’s salad” to your menu for, I don’t know, $1.00. You get a buck and the family is happy and they don’t have to try to “cheat”. Don’t forget about the extra drinks you’ll sell as well as the free “positive word of mouth” that may come with this.

that’s a great idea, at my store kids get a salad for half price of the adults, and kids under 3 get free food as it is. I can understand someone being a bit upset when someone “steals” salad from the salad bar. Salad bars are a high food cost item and are hard to control because you don’t know how much of each item on the bar a typical person will use