Chefs are often expected to take criticism lying down, but now, some of the UK’s most well-known and successful culinary figures have revealed the habits of customers that they find the most frustrating.
In a new feature in The Guardian, a number of top chefs from London and beyond shared their biggest customer pet peeves, ranging from customers who overdo it with the PDA, to those who don’t bother to show up at all.
Rochelle Canteen’s Melanie Arnold has little time for amorous couples in her restaurant: “A romantic kiss is fine, but tongues out is embarrassing for waiters serving the table and other guests. But snogging is possibly trumped by the mid-dinner breakup. That puts a dampener on the evening.”
The dining room at Grazing by Mark Greenaway
Elsewhere, Pomona’s Ruth Hanson says she’s tired of guests who are glued to their smartphones. “I love eating as a social event, which is why all my menus are designed to share.” says Hansom. “My biggest nightmare is seeing two people sitting on their phones, not talking, eating but not taking much interest in it. Then there’s people taking pictures for 10 minutes, getting the angles right, who try to send the food back because it’s cold! At a restaurant, you get given something people have spent hours prepping. Don’t waste your money.”
Speaking of social media, Alexis Gauthier, who heads up a long-running eponymous restaurant in Soho, is not a fan of influencers. “Like any central London restaurant, we receive a couple of requests a day for free meals, in return for posts from social media influencers. Most are turned down. The consensus is: if an influencer needs to approach you, they’re not worth working with. Some are polite, some cocky, some downright entitled. They believe their own hype. They think any exposure is beneficial. I’ve seen high-profile openings, booked out for three months on influencer babble, that six months later are empty. Long-term regulars is the holy grail. I have guests who came on first dates who are now celebrating years of marriage. They’re true ambassadors.”
Orwells is among the UK's top-rated restaurants
It’s not just chefs in London who have to deal with difficult customers though. Mark Greenaway, head chef of Edinburgh’s Grazing restaurant, detailed the devastating effects that no shows can have on a business: “Restaurants aren’t airlines – we don’t overbook. We book to capacity, pay chefs to prep the food and staff waiters accordingly. In a 60-cover restaurant, if 15 people don’t turn up, that has a huge financial effect. It’s an industry-wide problem running at about 20%, I’d say. We don’t mind cancellations. Plans change. But if you book, turn up. If you’re not going to, let us know.”
Meanwhile, Ryan Simpson-Trotman from Berkshire’s Orwell’s dislikes when customers complain about so-called ‘cakeage’ charges: “If people want to bring a birthday cake to eat instead of our desserts, there’s a small ‘cakeage’ charge – £30 tops for 10 or more people. Someone said it was ‘terrible’ on Twitter, but you’re taking our dessert value down from £10 a person to £3. It’s like rocking up at McDonald’s with a takeaway to eat and saying: ‘I’ve come for a McFlurry.’ It’s ridiculous.”
You can read the full feature in The Guardian.
In other news, Michelin-starred chef Sat Bains says his restaurant has lost £50,000 because of this reason.