Deccan Chronicle

Celebrity chef bans vegans from his restaurant!

Deccan Chronicle.| Nivi Shrivastava

Published on: July 4, 2023 | Updated on: July 4, 2023
Australian chef John Mountain

Australian chef John Mountain

Recently, popular Australian chef John Mountain made headlines for his obnoxious online post on banning vegans from his restaurant for "mental health reasons." The chef took this extreme step after a customer reportedly expressed dissatisfaction with the plant-based options in his restaurant. He shared a statement regarding the ban on vegans on his restaurant Fyre’s Facebook page, and has been facing online outrage.

Right to admit:

Food is art and is very subjective and it’s not possible to make everyone happy. As every restaurant owner has the right to admission and they can blacklist guests, but doing so because of a bad review might be a little too extreme, believes Chef Vanshika Bhatia, co-founder of Omo Café. "Hospitality professionals have to be accepting of feedback but also not give in to every whim. It is not ok to be rude," she remarks. Adding, "We always have a smile on our faces but if it gets out of hand then we hold the power to politely ask the guest to leave. I became a head chef at a very young age and there have been many instances of guests saying that they have been cooking since before I was born and then telling me how to do my job. At the moment I was very polite but such guests are blacklisted from the restaurant. We also had a guest who after eating everything she ordered, complained when the bill came that she didn’t like what she had and wanted things removed from the bill. We refused to do so since she had consumed the entire dish! Told the guests that it’s company policy and we cannot do anything about it."

Ban the drama:

Similarly, Le Cordon Bleu London alum Chef Alisha Mehra, and co-founder of Bomba restaurant, finds the news on the ban as tabloid fodder. "It’s made headlines and that’s the whole point. However as a chef, I think "banning vegans" is very dramatic though not having vegan options is his choice," she adds. Speaking about the hospitality industry, she says, "We get rude guests all the time though in the service industry you have to have a thicker skin. For every obnoxious person, you also get really lovely people who appreciate the effort you put in and that’s what drives you to do better. You can keep rude people aside, not everyone is going to be a fan, and slowly I am learning that it’s okay. I have had to deal with many rude individuals, people that think that we in service owe them something, people storming off, lacking patience, and treating our staff members rudely. You politely smile at them, apologise for your part in their bad experience, and pray to God they don’t return."

Safety of staff:

Dealing with difficult customers is a challenge that many restaurant staff face from time to time. It is important to handle these situations with professionalism and prioritize the safety and well-being of the staff and other customers. Assessing the situation, determining who was at fault, and taking necessary action accordingly is crucial, feels Chef Vaibhav Bhargava, partner chef at Cho- Vietnamese Kitchen & Bar. He recalls an unpleasant incident from a previous job, and mentions an unhappy customer who slapped one of the servers in the restaurant. Before the situation could go haywire, the guest was asked to leave politely and it was handled in time.

Chef Vaibhav says, "It is unfortunate that such incidents can occur in the restaurant industry. Asking the guest to leave the restaurant was a reasonable response if they had physically assaulted one of the staff members. It is important to follow any established protocols and guidelines to ensure the safety and comfort of everyone involved. Unfortunately, instances like these can happen in any customer-facing industry. Restaurant staff and management need to be prepared to handle such situations and to provide support to their employees. Training programs and protocols that focus on conflict resolution, de-escalation techniques, and ensuring a safe working environment can be beneficial in dealing with difficult customers."

Silence is golden:

In the food business, customer feedback is highly valued and the staff tries to exceed customer expectations. However, in situations with unhappy customers, the professionals are trained to remain calm, empathetic, and understanding to diffuse any disagreeable situation. Chef Sukesh Kanchan of Sana-di-ge New Delhi, shares an important tip for being successful, "From my two decades of experience in the industry, I learned a valuable lesson. We faced an incident from a customer getting upset and confrontational due to a food order delay. I went out and listened attentively to their grievances, offering no interruptions. Once I understood the issue, I proposed a solution: a complimentary appetizer and expedited service for their order. As the customer appreciated the swift resolution and personalized attention, their anger gradually faded. Remarkably, this customer became a loyal patron, consistently visiting our restaurant. This demonstrates the power of empathy and proactive problem-solving in salvaging situations and creating a lasting positive impression."

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