Attorney Ron Berutti and restaurateur Tommy Casatelli break the federal lawsuit on “Fox Business Tonight”
Chris Sirianni typed four uppercase words, hit print, and taped the message on the door of his restaurant. The phrase simply said, “BE CHILD OR LEAVE.”
In the weeks since Mr. Sirianni posted his sign on the front of the Union Station brewery in Erie, Pennsylvania, as well as on Facebook, customers have behaved better. While it didn’t completely eliminate problem customers, it has curbed the increasing display of bad behavior, he says.
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“Nobody was failed or belligerent,” he says.
Perhaps most importantly, the paper sign sent a message to the employees. General manager Caitlynn McCarthy, who has been labeled lazy and verbally abused for long waits and unavailable crab cakes, says employees no longer feel like walking on eggshells. The note also contained a short paragraph saying that his employees went through “Hell and Back” and deserved better.
Restaurants and others in the hospitality industry have long advocated “the customer is always right” and “everyone is welcome”. Now many are rethinking this philosophy thanks to an increase in toxic customers and bad behavior.
In the case of Mr. Sirianni’s restaurant, he chose kindness with an ultimatum, a directive that resonates elsewhere. Others take a more forgiving approach, admit under-staffing and ask for patience, but do not apologize for masking obligations and other public health measures.
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Almost all hotels, restaurants, and other customer-facing businesses talk to each other to ask what works and what doesn’t and try to find a way to improve the situation.
“We have always been people in the hospitality industry,” said Farouk Rajab, general manager of the Providence Marriott Downtown Hotel in Rhode Island. “The customer was always right. Well, they’re not.”
Mr Rajab, whose staff is exhausted from complaints about not answering calls at the front desk and non-branded free shampoo, has posted signs at the hotel entrance and in the restaurant area letting customers know that this is a staff shortage and asking them to be kind and patient.
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The signs are part of a “Please Be Kind” campaign created this summer by the Rhode Island Hospitality Association, which also created break room signs listing mental health resources for the hospitality industry.
Brian Casey, owner of Oak Hill Tavern and Company Picnic Co., based in North Kingstown, RI and chairman of the National Restaurant Association, says employment in the industry is 8% below pre-pandemic levels. Employee retention is a big issue, and part of that is protecting workers.
More than 60% of restaurant workers said they had suffered emotional abuse and disrespect from customers, and 78% said their mental health had been negatively impacted in the past 12 months, according to a recent report by Black Box Intelligence, a Restaurant analysis company.
In August, Mr. Casey gave his 25 employees one week of paid vacation. “They worked 110%,” he says.
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Mike McNamara, who founded Hog Island Beer Co. in Orleans, Massachusetts, along with hashtags #thecustomerisnotalwaysright and #goodvibesonly, posted a message on Facebook saying that customers who are not in a “good mood” said that they “please find another place” spend your money. “
“To the 97% of all of you who are great – thank you. For the remaining 3% of you, your mother called and she has a bar of soap to chew on. “
He decided to say something publicly after a man in a large group became argumentative and urged a teenage hostess to seat the party at an unavailable table. When Mr. McNamara stepped in and said the group had to go, he remembers the man asking, “Who the hell are you? I haven’t finished with her and haven’t even started you.” Mr. McNamara replied that he was the owner. The group left.
John Dick, CEO of CivicScience, a consumer research firm based out of Pittsburgh, says he doesn’t think that people who are prone to get lost will change their attitudes just because a sign tells them to be friendly. He believes that waiting or wearing a mask will make them feel bullied and take revenge.
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Nevertheless, he thinks it is important to draw clear lines in the sand: “If you do not meet our expectations of decency, go,” he says.
Such signs could help in other ways. Aside from sending a message of support to employees, they can also increase repeat business from customers who value friendliness and bosses who support their employees. “Friendly people want to go to places that value friendliness,” he says.
Dan Mahaney, who owns Scratch & Co. in Pittsburgh, had no qualms about telling his restaurant staff to put a customer on a no longer welcome list. The customer, who turned against a sign asking diners to wear a mask when they weren’t at their tables, swore, called the names of the staff and said he hoped the restaurant would go out of business.
Mr. Mahaney then decided to get his message out in front of the public in a long Facebook post.
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“As we embark on a dine-in paradigm that gives high priority to the wellbeing and job satisfaction of all of our employees, I feel obliged to make one thing clear: Any guest who degrades or disparages the staff of this restaurant will not be here be more welcome, “he wrote.
In Texas, Ellen’s Restaurant was expecting some angry customer reactions to his decision to reinstate mask requirements when diners move. The decision was announced on signs on the front door and in the two restaurants in the Dallas area.
“Just in case you’re angry and want to berate us, we have prepared the following answers in advance,” it says, then lists names of staff members, including traitors, communists and sheep, followed by their answer .
“Sheeple:” We know sheep are, but what are we? Baaaa Hahaha. “
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Most people like the way Joe Groves, co-founder, phrased the message, says Mary Maldonado, assistant general manager at one location.
“People take photos of their families in front of the sign,” she says. “Some absolutely hate it and refuse to eat here. We tell them it’s fine and there are restaurants down the street.”