Sunday, 16 December 2012

Customer Tropes

The humble customer has many faces. If you're thinking of a career in hospitality, here are just some examples of the kinds of people you may have to look out for.

The Anxious Customer
The Anxious Customer acts so terrified of every unremarkable aspect of a restaurant that one speculates they were bitten by a menu as a baby. Anxious Customers flinch when greeted at the door, and prefer trying to sneak past the staff to find their table themselves. The second their guests have finished reading the menu, Anxious sits bolt upright, waving frantically for a waiter, because if their order isn’t taken right now the jaws of hell will open up underneath the table. When meals take longer than three minutes, Anxious constantly tunes out of the table conversation to crane their necks, always worriedly looking for the waiter.

Anxious Customer Catchphrases
  • “Oh my god, I can’t decide what I want!”
  • “Are our meals coming?"
  • “We can’t split the bill?!”

Heed the advice on those cute tea towels you got from Typo, sweetie: keep calm and carry on.

The Very Busy and Important Customer
Easy to spot in their fitted suits, these customers as so busy and so important that they will often mistake you for their PA. It’s not uncommon for them to spend their entire stay on the phone, pausing only to beckon you over. This type favours heart-healthy meals such as 700g rib-eye steak, bacon and chips, washed down with three bottles of red wine and a long black. Warning: if the establishment does not coordinate with their schedule, the Very Busy and Important Customer gets extremely irate and threatens to “have your job”. My advice is to let them have it.

Very Busy and Important Customer Catchphrases
  • “Buy! No, sell! Damn it Watson, you’re fired!” *covers mouthpiece* “Porterhouse, medium well.”
  • “I need to be out of here in thirty minutes.”
  • “That Spiderman is a menace!”

Don’t worry, this particular species rarely lives past 55.

The Cricket
Have you ever followed the noise of a cricket, trying to find out where it was coming from, only for it to fall dead silent as soon as you got too close? Cricket Customers follow the same principle. Noisy as hell when they want something, Crickets know what they want and how to ask for it. But as soon as you return with the requested item? Eerie silence.

Cricket Customer Catchphrases
Cricket: “Oh! Excuse me! Hey! Can I get some tomato sauce?”
Waiter: “Here you go.”
Cricket: *silence*

Cricket: “Hey! Hey! Hey! I dropped my fork, can I get a fresh one?”
Waiter: “Here you go.”
Cricket: *silence*

Cricket: “Oh, oh! Excuse me! Excuse me! Could I get another coke with no ice and a lemon wheel that has been sliced into four equal quadrants in a short glass with two straws?”
Waiter: “Here you go.”
Cricket: *silence*

You’re welcome.

The Parrot
Parrot Customers seem to believe they’ve been hired as a waiter-customer translator and repeat everything you say to their guests, and vice-versa.

Parrot Customer Catchphrases
Customer: “Can I get a lemon, lime and bitters?”
Parrot: “A lemon lime and bitters for Judy! Squawk!”

Waiter: “Who ordered the vegetable tagine?”
Parrot: “Vegetable tagine? Squawk! Vegetable tagine? Who ordered the vegetable tagine?”

Waiter: “Would anybody care for coffee or tea?”
Parrot: “Coffee? Coffee? Does anyone want coffee? Squawk! Coffee, Judy?”

Nothing a couple of crackers can’t solve.

The Academic
Used to playing the role of teacher, the Academic tends to use annoying concept-checking questions, instead of simply asking for something. They do not respond well to slang or colloquialisms, and have very little social grace with their guests.

Academic Customer Catchphrases
  • “‘Grab’ my order? That is incorrect English!”
  • “Psst. That bottle of wine I ordered is for this side of the table only.”
  • “Now, how long do you think that bottle of champagne has been open, hmm?” (Translation: This sparkling tastes a little flat, could I get a fresh glass?)

Interestingly, the Academic rarely knows the difference between champagne and sparkling.

The Comedian
Possibly the worst of all. I am not referring to professional comedians (who are actually very respectful and polite customers), but patrons who labour under the delusion that they are funny, and thrive on the loyal giggling of their dinner companions. These obnoxious smartarses soon embarrass the shit out of their friends, who know full well that the waitress is spitting in their food come dessert.

Comedian Customer Catchphrases
  • “Waiter! There is an X in my Y!”
  • “Were you killing the cow?”
  • “Taxi!”

Ha. Ha.

The Foodie
Professional, amateur, blogger or otherwise, these people appreciate food – but whether their knowledge is genuine or consists of regurgitated clich├ęs they read in Epicure is debatable. Look out for notepads, cameras, and overuse of flowery prose to describe commonplace taste sensations.

Foodie Catchphrases
  • “The use of garlic cloves is particularly rambunctious.”
  • “The textures were delightful – the silky smoothness of the X provided a lovely juxtaposition to the crunch of the Y.”
  • “Unfortunately, the saltiness lingers a little too long on the back of the palate.”

Oh, shut the fuck up.  


  1. I didn't have time to read your article, but I have a few comments to make. I have seven split personalities and as such I want changes to this piece, although I can't decide exactly what changes I want - but I want them now. what? Go away? Go away? Go away. Oh, you've gone? *silence* Anyway, I want some more mellowed reflections to provide a counterpoint for the strong, bitey sarcasm. I've posted a picture of your post on Urban Spoon and my friend and I all agree that the plating up was disastrous. With couscous. Now I've got to strain this fly in my soup, whose doing backstroke (Zing!), so get outta here kid and get me those pictures of spiderman!!!

  2. LMAO the parrot!! SOOO TRUE!!! XD

  3. Wine retailer here and we have the same group! I especially loathe The Comedian, that asshat that walks through the front door as hells, at the top of his lungs, "Hey, you got any wine?!" or, "This is Chateau Rot-Gut vintage 1982" and the ever cleaver nicknaming of wines like, "Pinot Giggly-O" or "Where is your Que Syrah Syrah section"....asswads.