Restaurant Bullies

The gray haired gentleman was following the hostess around like an annoying kid brother-an annoying kid brother in a $200 shirt and a $150 tie. Even though it was abundantly obvious that the hostess was doing something else he kept peppering her with questions. It wasn’t as if she wasn’t answering- she was- he just didn’t like the answers he was getting.

“No you can’t have that table, it’s reserved,” she said. “I know there’s no one there now, but they are due in at any minute,” she continued.

He kept following her around.

“I know that you know the owner, but that doesn’t make the table any more available,” she said.

“Well,” he said. “You don’t have to be rude about it.”

It was then that I knew what was going to follow, a sternly written letter about how unaccommodating the hostess was. I’m sure the words “rude” and “mean” would be used and I’m also sure that a manager/employee discussion would follow. A discussion that would only highlight the fact that the hostess did nothing wrong.

Mr. Gray Hair was behaving like a restaurant bully and we see them every single day in the restaurant business

Merriam-Webster’s defines a bully as: “a blustering browbeating person; especially: one habitually cruel to others who are weaker.”

For the restaurant bully I add the following: someone who is completely unconcerned with the needs of others, but who manipulates the service equation with threats and or complaints.

Restaurant bullies know that a restaurant employee will usually go to great lengths to try and make a guest happy. The bully uses this information to push the envelope. They push and push, often even suggesting that the employee make them happy at the expense of other people.

“Why don’t you just let me have that table since they are not here yet?” and “change the channel to what I want to see?” are the things that they say. And even though a waiter/bartender/hostess has told them “no” politely several times they keep pushing until they get a definitive and resounding “no”. Then they cry foul, using the words “rude” and “mean” as ammunition.

Restaurant bullies often pick fights with service personnel. Creating situations where the employee has to try even harder to please them and their unreasonable requests. They use tools like letter writing, complaints to the manager and Yelp to “put people in their place”.

Bullying is big news right now. Statistics from show that 1 out of every 4 kids is bullied and that 1 in 5 kids are a bully. Other surveys show that up to 77% of kids are bullied at some point in their life. Reuters recently published an article with the headline “Bullies may get kick out of seeing others in pain,” and suggests that “Bullies seek to enslave targets. When targets take steps to preserve their dignity, their right to be treated with respect, bullies escalate their campaigns of hatred and intimidation to wrest control of the target’s work from the target.” The site also goes on to say, “The most easily exploited targets are people with personalities founded on a prosocial orientation — a desire to help, heal, teach, develop, and nurture others.” I ask, who is more prosocial than somebody who’s very job is to see to somebody else’s enjoyment?

The website lists some common bullying tools:



Withholding necessary information or purposefully giving wrong information.

Yelling or using profanity.


Some or all of which the average restaurant service employee deals with every single day. So as we all await the inevitable letter, or scathing Yelp review, and it’s consequential meeting, I leave you with three pieces of information.

  1. According to the polls, California ranks #1 as the worst state for bullying.
  2. Bullied children will sometimes themselves become bullying adults, which means that in addition to that 1 in 5 statistic we can also add a fair number bullies from the 77 percent.
  3. President Lyndon B. Johnson once said, “If you let a bully come in your front yard, he’ll be on your porch the next day and the day after that he’ll rape your wife in your own bed.” Dramatic perhaps, but if you give in to a bully, it is only going to get worse.