As I often assert, it takes a distinct calibre of individuals to work in the F&B industry. Behind welcoming smiles and impeccably-tailored uniforms, lie individuals, much like you and me, committed to delivering exceptional service and attending to guests’ needs.
Yet, there are times when interactions with difficult guests do happen. Drawing from my extensive 14-year career in the F&B industry, I have encountered my fair share of ‘unique’ guest requests and incidents.
And with that, I have curated a list revealing 12 absurd guest requests and incidents witnessed at hotel restaurants around Singapore, courtesy of my ex-colleagues and I. This compilation also pays homage to all the hardworking individuals in the F&B industry. Continue reading to uncover the challenges and experiences they encounter.
1. Long or short hair
A lady with long hair visited the hotel cafeteria just before closing and ordered fish and chips. After consuming most of her meal, she found a long strand of hair on her plate and demanded a refund, while making a scene. The restaurant manager brought the dish back to the kitchen and explained to the head chef about the situation.
Subsequently, the head chef summoned his 4 line cooks (1 of whom was my former colleague) to accompany him outside the restaurant to address the guest’s concerns.
The head chef and line cooks removed their chef hats to reveal neat, short hairstyles.
The head chef exclaimed, “Ma’am, if you can find anyone from my team who has such long hair, I’ll gladly give you the dish for free.”
The guest, surprised, admitted it might have been her own hair and apologised. My ex-colleague was grateful for the head chef’s support towards the kitchen team and not granting the refund.
2. Impersonating a hotel guest
Someone who wasn’t an actual hotel guest entered the hotel’s buffet restaurant at lunchtime and told the front counter staff, “I’m from room 801.”
The staff asked, “Mr James Smith?”
“Yes, that’s me,” he replied.
To adhere to protocol, the staff should have initially asked for the room number and then requested the guest’s name for verification.
He proceeded to help himself to the buffet spread. When he was almost done, he ordered a bottle of expensive wine and drank to his heart’s content. He then headed to the dessert counter and enjoyed the sweet treats at his table.
When he was done, he informed the staff of his intention to use the restroom. However, as 10 to 15 minutes passed with no sign of his return, the restaurant manager began to grow suspicious. He entered the restroom but discovered that the man had disappeared without a trace.
Upon reviewing the CCTV footage, it became evident that the guest had emerged from the restroom wearing an entirely different set of clothes, transitioning from a sporty outfit to a casual ensemble. He subsequently hailed a taxi at the hotel’s front lobby and departed.
Consequently, his entire bill had to be settled by the F&B department. To prevent further incidents, the hotel shared the screenshot of the individual with other hotels across Singapore as a warning against this scammer.
A local company had booked a private room for their office gathering dinner. My ex-colleague was assigned to take care of this big group of 10.
As the evening progressed, one of the guests indulged in excessive alcohol consumption. Inappropriately, he resorted to whistling and making animal noises, treating my ex-colleague as if he were a dog, and gesturing for him to come closer.
Despite his efforts to maintain composure, my former colleague’s discomfort did not go unnoticed, catching the attention of the restaurant manager. Upon learning the cause of his distress, the manager approached the intoxicated guest and addressed him firmly, stating, “We kindly request that you treat our staff with the same respect that we extend to you. Mutual respect is essential, and we should treat one another as fellow humans, not as if we are dogs or animals.”
Subsequently, the head of the company dinner party approached my former colleague and his manager to extend a heartfelt apology for the inappropriate behaviour displayed by his staff.
4. It’s just chicken wings
Chefs are well aware that during buffet spreads, certain dishes have a tendency to be exceptionally popular. To prevent any guest dissatisfaction resulting from a dish running out, they proactively prepare additional misc en place, ensuring a consistent supply and minimising the chances of it being unavailable.
During a specific weekend high tea, the Asian buffet counter featured nasi lemak and the chafing dish filled with chicken wings was consistently emptied within seconds.
The chef continued to fry batches of chicken wings to keep up with the rapid rate at which they were being consumed. As a result, some guests started hanging around, waiting for the next batch to be ready.
Upon replacing a freshly-fried batch of chicken wings, the chef observed 2 adult men engaging in a dispute over the last piece. One of them had employed the buffet tongs to claim the chicken wing from the other’s plate, asserting his precedence in the buffet line.
In such instances, it’s advisable for both parties to exercise patience. After all, there were more chicken wings on the way!
5. Mother’s Day runner
A female guest came to a hotel buffet restaurant for Mother’s day lunch, telling the staff that her husband and kid are giving her a treat and then proceeded to give her room number. She then began enjoying the buffet spread.
When she was done, she told the restaurant supervisor that her husband was coming down from the room to foot the bill. The supervisor, sensing something amiss, decided to discreetly follow her to the elevator. To the supervisor’s surprise, the ‘guest’ had entered the elevator with another hotel guest staying on the 7th floor.
However, she did not return to the restaurant, prompting the supervisor to rush to the security department. They promptly reviewed the CCTV footage, which revealed that she had descended to the 2nd floor and lingered there, likely uncertain about her next move since she would still need to pass through the lobby to exit the hotel.
They then spotted her using her scarf to fashion a veil, covering her head.. She had intended to run off in her disguise but was stopped by security at the lobby— good riddance!
6. The guest from hell
At a hotel restaurant, a customer who was an elderly uncle made an unusual request, asking for an excessive amount of tissue paper from the service staff. To the surprise of those present, while consuming his food, he suddenly spat out the food onto the floor.
Remarkably, this behaviour wasn’t a one-time incident but rather repeated itself multiple times. The guest persisted in this disruptive cycle: consuming the food, spitting it onto the ground, then utilising the tissues to wipe his mouth and subsequently discarding them onto the floor as well.
In a matter of minutes, the area around his table was transformed into a chaotic mess. He continued doing so even after multiple warnings from the service crew.
Following the previous disruptive incident, a decision had been made to prohibit this particular guest from entering the restaurant in the future. However, Jane, a restaurant supervisor who had recently returned from an extended leave, was unaware of this. Consequently, when the guest returned to the restaurant, Jane allowed him entry without hesitation.
As expected, the guest made his customary request for tissues and resumed his chaotic habit of spitting out food, recreating a disruptive scene once more.
In the end, it was determined that he would be permanently banned from entering the restaurant or placing any reservations. When he attempted to make a booking, he was informed that the restaurant was fully booked. He even returned to the hotel and lodged a complaint with the front reception, expressing his dissatisfaction with the restaurant’s consistent refusal to accommodate him.
7. The long table
A restaurant received a dinner reservation for a large family of 15 pax who had asked if they could be seated together. To accommodate the request, arrangements were made to combine several tables to create a long dining setup, ensuring they could all eat together.
Once the guests had completed their meal, they began to depart from the restaurant one by one. Due to the establishment being fully occupied that day, none of the staff noticed that the entire table had left without paying their bill.
When the restaurant staff contacted the guest who had made the reservation, the lady shared that she believed her sister would be covering the expenses and, consequently, left the premises.
When they reached out to the sister, she admitted that she mistakenly assumed another sibling would be taking care of the bill. In the end, it became evident that there had been a significant misunderstanding, and they resolved the matter by settling the bill directly with the restaurant. Phew!
8. Small appetite
Lily, an experienced hotel restaurant staff, had encountered a variety of guests, both pleasant and challenging. During one instance, a guest brought her elderly parents to a dinner buffet and inquired, “Can I pay one-third or even half of the buffet price since my parents can’t eat much?”
Lily, taken aback by the request, responded candidly, “I’m sorry, ma’am, but we’re a restaurant, not a movie theatre, so we don’t offer senior citizen discounts.”
The guest wasn’t pleased and asked her parents to return home while she and her husband proceeded to enter the restaurant for their dinner— I feel sorry for her folks.
9. Entitled Karen
A lady brought her family of 5 to a high tea buffet at a hotel’s F&B outlet and expressed her dissatisfaction with the food, citing issues with its taste and freshness. Remarkably, she returned to the same restaurant on 2 additional occasions and reiterated her complaint, indicating ongoing concerns about the food’s quality.
On her second visit, she requested for free macarons and cake to bring home. She also said that she had a birthday celebration going on and asked for the complimentary sliced cake that is typically offered for such occasions.
The free sliced birthday cake was meant for dining-in celebrations, but the lady had asked for it to be taken away which wasn’t allowed. In the end, she demanded that something must be arranged for her since she couldn’t bring it home.
On her third visit, she asserted that during her last dining experience, the kueh dadar had not been fresh, and she found the coconut filling to be spoiled. In light of this, she insisted on having the kueh dadar packaged in takeaway boxes for her family so they could bring some home to enjoy. This request stemmed from their disappointment in not being able to savour it during their previous visit.
10. Freebie wanted
A hotel restaurant encountered a male customer who was trying to be difficult. Upon entering the restaurant, he requested for a change of table more than 3 times, exclaiming that the place had not enough privacy or it was too far away from the buffet line.
Even after letting him sit where he had chosen, he wasn’t happy and complained that some of the service staff and restaurant managers were rude. Even the nicest waiter in the restaurant, Michael, was accused of giving him attitude— are you kidding me?
His discontentment didn’t stop there. He proceeded to the front office counter, insisting on speaking with the duty manager. However, after discussing the matter with the duty manager, his dissatisfaction only intensified.
The restaurant in-charge got his contact details from the guy and passed the contact to the F&B director, Mr Lee. After talking to Mr Lee and not getting what he wanted, he escalated the matter to the hotel’s GM. However, the GM was unable to accede to his request, as it was deemed unreasonable and apparent that the guest’s primary objective was to obtain complimentary items.
11. Sotong ball
A particular hotel buffet restaurant promptly starts its high tea sessions at 3.30pm daily. About 15 minutes before the opening time, a queue would form at the front entrance, with eager guests awaiting entry.
On this specific day, I was stationed at the buffet counter, overseeing the Muslim section, including the curry sotong balls. The usual procedure involved the service crew escorting guests to their seats before granting them access to the buffet line to select their food.