Restaurant Horror Stories

Many things go awry in a restaurant on a daily basis. Food orders come out wrong, customer service is terrible, ketchup bottles explode… wait, what? Restaurant horror stories are gut-wrenching when they happen, but after everything is resolved, they turn out to be great reads. Below are some tales from Central’s own employees with restaurant experience.

From Rick Arenstein, Senior Product Consultant

“While working as a manager at Frisch’s Mainliner in Cincinnati in the early 70’s, one of their largest restaurants, on a bright March  Sunday morning, I had a family of 7 come in and sit at the round table for lunch. They all had their finest church clothes on, and were a fine looking family.  The previous evening, the servers filled the ketchup bottles from the Heinz #10 can, forgetting to wash out the old bottle.  After sitting on the warm table overnight, it was ready and waiting for this family.   They were served their lunch and upon opening the Heinz ketchup bottle for their hamburger and fries, were all drenched with the volcanic spray of bright red ketchup out of the bottle.  The ketchup had fermented from adding new product to old.  Needless to say, besides a free lunch for the family, the store was treated to a hefty dry cleaning bill the following week. I never allowed the servers  to refill ketchup bottles after that day.”

From Tracey Rector, Catalog/Web Content Coordinator

“In college I worked part-time for the university’s food service in their catering department.  I had stumbled into the position of catering admin, which if you’ve worked in catering know there are several times during the work week, if not per day, that are “all hands on deck.” I have many fun memories of my four and a half years there such as the time an entire holding cabinet full of a food fell over en route or the time I gave myself a bloody nose trying to shove a small cart into my back seat after a small Christmas delivery. Great way to kick off that Christmas break. I digress.

Every Wednesday we did coffee rounds for a children’s hospital across the street. Typically our catering lead delivered the coffee, but in the event there was something else she had to attend to, I did it. I’ll admit, it made me nervous. I wasn’t a coffee drinker, hadn’t ever brewed coffee in my life before that job, but quickly learned how to work the big giant scary coffee machine and suppose I made it well as there were never any complaints.

When there wasn’t enough time to wait on the large coffee brewers to make coffee, there was an automatic coffee machine we called the “Dewey Eggbert.” We used it when we were in a pinch for time.

One day the client who requested the coffee rounds placed a last minute order for a smaller amount—and our catering director asked me to do it. “No problem,” I thought. I much preferred smaller orders, especially using the Dewey Eggbert because it was so easy. The downfall was I had to put them in our disposable cardboard coffee containers which were impossible to put together. I always eventually got them set up, it just took a few tries and always seemed more difficult in a hurry.

As I was finishing up pouring in the last container, and knew it was getting full, I tried to shut off the pour. Only, it wouldn’t. Not good. I moved the container out of the way, getting coffee all along the side of it and tried to shut off the machine. No luck—and I was all alone. There I was, coffee spewing everywhere, and I needed to have left five minutes ago to drop off the order. Panic much? At least the Dewey Eggbert sat on top of a sink, so there was a drain for the coffee to pour into.  After tinkering with it for a few minutes, the only thing I could think to do at that point was to leave.  “I’ll deal with it later,” I thought.  In catering, you have to do what you have to do.  Thankfully on my way out, I saw our driver and yelled “I have to go but the Dewey Eggbert won’t stop!” It was fixed by the time I got back, but I was paranoid about using the Dewey Eggbert ever since.  And smelled like coffee all afternoon during classes.”

From David Anderson, Staff Accountant

“I worked for Burger King when I was a teenager. It was my first job and I would often work either the front counter or the drive thru. Obviously, we would get upset customers from time to time but you would think that drive thru would have a few less angry patrons. The line tends to move faster and since people are in their cars, there is some distance between you and them. That, unfortunately, isn’t always the case.

I vividly remember the whole ordeal. A man had ordered a kids meal with a plain cheeseburger for his daughter. It was during the lunch rush, so many things were happening at once. I was taking orders at the drive thru speaker and handing them out through the window. Another young employee was bagging everything for the orders. I handed the man his kids meal bag and began to take someone else’s order from the speaker. As I finished, the man at the window knocked on the glass. When I asked him what was wrong, he told me the cheeseburger wasn’t plain. It had ketchup and mustard on it. Checking the wrapper, I saw it was a regular cheeseburger. I apologized and reminded the staff in the kitchen we needed a plain one. The second burger wrapper was marked plain, so I quickly put it in a bag and handed out the window then returned to take another order. The lines were beginning to back up very quickly by now. As I was finishing, I heard the drive thru window slam open and a half wrapped cheeseburger sailed only a few inches past my face, landing with a loud splat on the floor. The ketchup and mustard left a trail where the burger had slid. The angry customer was now screaming through the window about how inept our staff was. At this point, the other young employee had reached her limit and began to scream back at him. In the middle of a crowded restaurant. With lines at the counter backed up almost to the door. After some coaxing the young woman was removed to the break room and the man finally got his plain cheeseburger. Lucky me, I was the one who had to hand it him.

I had never seen anything like it and still haven’t, to this day. While I admit that we made multiple mistakes on his order, I don’t feel that throwing the food back at the employees is an appropriate response. I doubt I will ever forget that.”

Hungry for more horror stories? Check out this article from the Business Insider, where stories range from ordering an omelet that doesn’t exist to asking for chicken and noodle soup without the chicken.

One thought on “Restaurant Horror Stories

  1. Brian Ash

    Usually the main horror story that most restaurant workers fear is cleaning out the grease trap. It’s nasty and the smell permeates the whole restaurant. Most grease traps get filled with food solids rather than grease. Installing a grease trap strainer like The Drain Strainer will keep you from having to clean your grease trap nearly as often. Invented by a former restaurant owner, The Drain Strainer filters 3 compartment sinks, protects your grease traps and is an affordable commercial garbage disposal alternative.

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