Hospitality hostility: SRJC students share their waitstaff horror stories

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Illustrations by Alex Fuller

From making a steak for a dog to having cookies thrown at you, life as a restaurant server is always interesting.

Ava Domenichelli, Reporter

I managed a customer allergic to electromagnetic waves. I discovered lost cocaine in the bathroom. I accidentally served alcohol to children and spilled soup on a guest. In my three years in the restaurant industry, there was never a dull moment.

But it’s not just me. Every server has horror stories — unforgettable incidents that permanently changed their perspective on the world of hospitality.

With eateries finally open for in-person dining, SRJC students shared their restaurant server horror stories.

Call me Daddy

Mielle McClure, 18

I was working as a hostess one night and this guy came in with his friends. I asked for a name to add him to the waitlist and he said, “You can call me Daddy.” I tried to ignore him and kept doing my job. Then he said, “That shirt does really good things for your body. You should wear it more often.” For the rest of the night, he kept asking all of us to call him Daddy.

Outside heater

Kira Reed, 20

I was working at this fancy restaurant, and we were serving outside because of COVID. We sat this lady outdoors, and she was just pissed off the whole time. Halfway through her meal, she asked us to turn on the heater outside. We don’t have heaters, there’s no sockets for us to plug something in. We can’t change the weather. It’s blue skies and clear.

Dog declined

Connor Sand, 19

I work at this ritzy place, so we get some high class guests. One day, I get this one table that is like the owner of some company, and she brings her dog in too, and they both got the same steak the same way. Yes, she ordered a steak for her dog. The steak ended up being overcooked, so she complained because the steak wasn’t cooked right. She left a bad review, and the server got written up. It’s funny to think this guy got written up over a steak for a dog.

Ice bath

Todd Clow, 49

It was my very first night working in a restaurant, and this was like the mid-1990s. My buddy training me made me bring ice water to this table, and I was so nervous. I was almost shaking trying to set the water down on the table when the glass just slipped out of my hand. I spilled ice water all over this lady. The guy training me could not stop laughing.

Pepper and wine

Anna Jew, 18

We saw this guy put pepper in his red wine. I asked him, “Why, like, is it for flavor?” And he said “Well, it had no flavor, so I put pepper in it.” It was just weird, you know?

A cartoon drawing of a person who looks nauseated wearing a St. Patty's day bobble headbandTurning green

Jose Gonzales, 25

It was St. Patrick’s Day, and this group came in already drunk. One lady from the group sat down at the table and just vomited all over it. It was 7 a.m., and she was drunk and throwing up. My coworker who hates dirty things, and is afraid of germs, was forced to clean it up.

Not like the picture

Trevor Baker, 30

I was managing an Applebee’s and there was a woman who got mad at me because her steak didn’t look like the picture on the menu. When I asked what was different, she said the steak in the picture was bigger. I didn’t feel like arguing with her, so I told her I would go back to the kitchen and look for a steak that matched the picture. I comped both steaks because I knew she would just complain about the second.

Sliced bread

Taylor LaDelle, 27

I was slicing bread for a guest and a tiny sliver of the bread piece fell on the ground. I mean a sliver, like maybe the size of a quarter. The guest proceeded to yell at me, saying that I need to take off a few cents from her bread purchase because she didn’t get the whole loaf. I offered to give her a new loaf that had the whole thing, and she wouldn’t take up my offer. She left the building screaming at me.

Pretty privilege

Lauren Kella, 18

I had someone come in and ask, “Are you sure they didn’t hire you just because you’re pretty?” I said, “It takes more than just looks to take orders, handle money and clean the restaurant.”

Lasted two weeks

A cartoon drawing of a person getting hit in the front of the ribs with a cookieRachel Mortimer, 20

My entire experience at this place was a horror story, I mean, I only lasted two weeks. I had a customer who wouldn’t look me in the eye, but instead just stared at my cleavage and told me I had “a nice set.” I also had a group of young guys that racked up a $1,000 bill and then left without paying. And I had a customer tell my boss that I had given her kid vodka instead of water. She also insisted that I had put toenail clippings in her water.

Cookie to the ribs

Millie Dotto, 18

This guy brought a cookie up to me, and I told him he has to pay at the register and not with me. The next thing I know — bam! — cookie hits my rib cage.