Is your staff harassing customers? Here’s how to fix it!

The Customer Always Comes First

Patron harassment comes in many forms. It can be a subtle as a sigh, an eye roll, or something muttered in a hushed breath. Alternatively, it can be as blatant as touching and name-calling.  Since alcohol reduces your patron’s inhibitions, it’s essential to make sure your staff can address and respectfully handle harassing situations. The best way to do this is education regarding the civil treatment of your patrons, clear guidelines in your house policy, server training, and mentoring programs. Since house policies can be stricter than state laws and city ordinances, it gives your establishment better control over these types of situations if house policies are laid out clearly.

Ask Yourself Before You Act

The golden rule escapes no one.  Every server should ask themselves, “Is this how I would want to be treated”. If the answer is even remotely close to no, then it’s time to redirect, walk away, or involve a manager. Pause, take a deep breath, take a step back and take a moment to think.

“Installing a sense of civility creates the opportunity for patron and staff to develop respectful behaviors that are solutions to avoiding patron misconduct.”

Uh oh!

Sometimes upsetting a patron is not the fault of the server.  Emotions running high, the team isn’t winning, or someone wants to go home early can be pivotal moments in your establishment.  If you’ve done your best to calm the situation, but nothing is working, you should enact your company’s house policies on resolving the situation.

Communication and Kindness

When communication between the server and patron becomes necessary, the most important thing you should remember is kindness. Kindness shows that you mean no harm, helps to bring irritated patrons down to a reasonable level of emotion and shows everyone who is witnessing the situation that the server is calm.  Turning to hostility can cause discomfort and panic, which can quickly escalate a simple situation.

Body Language

Body language is a great way to tell if a patron is successfully or unsuccessfully receiving the message you or your staff is delivering. It’s important to remember that some of these signs may be hard to determine if the patron is close to intoxication. From the top down: 

  • Blinking rapidly is a sign of distress
  • Biting, twisting, or tightening the mouth could mean they’re anxious, stressed or don’t trust you
  • Clenched fists usually indicate repressed anger
  • Arms crossed over the body is a sign of defensiveness and hands on the hips can be an open a sign of aggression
  • Closed posture or a body that is inwardly turned signifies a level of discomfort

Why Carding Helps

Carding is the key to moving misbehaving patrons and establishing control of the situation. Have the server or security ask for the control of his or her identification as a condition of entry and your house policies. The problem patron will usually follow you to the manager or front door to gain the return of their identification. If he or she refuses, then you ask them to leave the premises. Remember, when telling the patron, "NO," to always be smiling. The problem patron will have a harder time getting mad at you when you are smiling.

For more tips and tricks on implementing a professional house policy at your establishment, please consider enrolling in one of our courses at