The 3 customer archetypes you meet working the restaurant industry during a pandemic

Published by Emma Kenfield on

The 3 customer archetypes you meet working the restaurant industry during a pandemic

Working in a restaurant is weird right now. Hell, everything is weird right now. The thing about serving during a pandemic, though… You see everybody – those who care too much, too little and those who seem oblivious to it all. 

I’ve served a lot of difficult people since reentering the workforce. It’s understandable. Everything is weird right now. I spend 30 hours a week dealing with customers, and it’s exhausting. How do I stay sane? I make it a game.

I’ve encountered plenty of personalities in my restaurant, but they can usually be placed into three buckets: Karen’s, Bill’s and Jennifer’s. 

1. Karen: the ignorant White suburbia mom.

Yes, I know, the Karen character is overplayed. She’s on social media, she’s in our dialogues, she’s everywhere. There’s a reason we can’t escape her though: She makes herself known — in any situation. 

The first Karen I encountered was, shall I say, “the type” physically – White, older, highlights like nobody’s business, with a larger-than-life pair of Tori Burch sunglasses adorning her face. 

She showed her ignorance first at the host stand, genuinely puzzled as to why a party of 15 went against social distancing guidelines. After bickering and bartering with the hostesses, she eventually gave up. My manager would hear about it later, though. 

I watched her sit in my section as she laid her mask beside her on the table. Not a minute had gone by before she jetted her hand in the air, smiling at me in a way that could only mean she had a “small favor” to ask. 

“Hi! Yes, excuse me for being picky, but we come here all the time.” (I’ve worked here for two years; no, no they do not). “We’d like to sit in that corner booth instead. There’s plenty more space, and the sunlight is hitting my face at this table.” 

The corner booth in question? A lovely option. If only it wasn’t obviously marked with a sign: “This booth is closed due to social distancing standards.”

“That one?” I asked, clarifying what I already knew to be true. She nodded. “Unfortunately, like it says on that sign, we have to leave that booth vacant to keep others six feet apart, as we are only able to seat at 50 percent capacity at the moment.”

What comes next? Oh yes, the dreaded question. “Can I speak to a manager?” Karen said, clearly dissatisfied with my answer. 

He couldn’t bend the rules either, however, and she remained at her original table. She didn’t care for either of us after that. 

Amanda Funger | Avant-Youth

2. Bill: the indignant no-masker.

Bill is different from Karen. He knows the rules, and he’ll try his best to abide by them. He will not, however, do so without smart commentary. 

“It’s crazy, what they’re doing isn’t it?” a certain Mr. Bill asked me. 

While in school, I work in Orange County, North Carolina, where the law says that masks must be worn in any public space, bars must be closed, and restaurants aren’t permitted to open past 10:00 p.m. 

“I mean, I come in here, and I sit at the bar every Wednesday night,” he continued. “Now, I’ve gotta take up one of your tables and feel rushed to leave. And we have to wear these things on our faces, so we can’t even have a proper conversation. It’s all just overkill.” 

I told him, while we are all uncomfortable, things will just have to be crazy for a while. I refrained from saying what I really wanted to, as my tip was on the line. 

But, honestly, I wait dozens of tables during this pandemic. So, Mr. Bill, your mask and mine are appreciated on my end. 

Remarks would follow throughout the meal.

“You’re gonna need to say that again a little louder. These masks are just not working.

“I think we just need to open everything. Rip off the band-aid, spread it, build immunity, and be done with it.

“You don’t keep the salt and pepper on the table? Oh, that’s another one of your COVID things, I guess…” 

It wasn’t until he had a few beers in him that he actually asked me to take off my mask, for he’d like to see what I looked like. He said he had a son who needed a girlfriend, and I seemed like a respectable young lady. I informed Mr. Bill that unfortunately for his son, I have a boyfriend of my own. Besides, I would not remove it anyways because, as we discussed before, it is the law.

He wasn’t so chatty after that. The tip? Underwhelming.

Amanda Funger | Avant-Youth

3. Jennifer: the malfunctioning germaphobe. 

Jennifer is nothing like the last two. In fact, she’s quite the opposite. Jennifer decides to dine out during a pandemic, but finds every reason to complain that we are not careful enough.

Today’s Jennifer dined alone, wearing a face shield over her mask. I appreciated the effort when I approached her table… As a server these days, seeing that your guest respects you enough to abide by the rules is a huge relief. 

It became clear early on that she was protecting herself, however. 

She asked for water, no ice. I brought her water, no ice. So why was she looking at me like I made a mistake? 

“You’re… not wearing gloves?” she asked, pointing hesitantly at my bare hands.

“Yes,” I said. “We realized that servers weren’t changing their gloves enough before, and even still, our supply would run out quickly. It’s actually a lot safer to simply require hand sanitizer at each station and wash our hands upon entry to and exit from the kitchen.”

This answer was obviously insufficient, and I ended up volunteering to wear them while she was dining in with us, being sure to change them as often as I’d wash my hands. No less, her mind wasn’t nearly at ease.

The next request was that her water be put in a to-go cup, as she didn’t trust dishwashers to sanitize our glasses properly.  I went to make her fresh water, no ice, this time in a plastic cup with a lid and straw. 

When I returned, she was holding one of our hand sanitizer bottles, squirting it profusely across the table-top and chair. A stack of paper towels she’d collected from the women’s bathroom sat on the table, some of which she then used to spread her excessive piles of Germ-X. 

“I’d like to place my order now, but be sure the chefs are wearing masks and gloves, and that my food comes out in a to-go box,” she requested.  

Eight pairs of disposable gloves later, it was time to bring her the check. She paid with her card, but the show wasn’t quite over yet. 

“I don’t feel comfortable using this pen, and mine’s out of ink. Would you sign it for me?” she asked. 

This is illegal, that’s important to note [it’s called forgery, lady]. But, mostly just eager to stop worrying about her, I filled out the receipt and signed Jennifer’s name. She left 20 percent (I should know, I wrote it), which I was surprised by. 

I do, however, hope she gets takeout next time. 

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Emma Kenfield

Emma Kenfield is an eager young writer with a taste for the unusual and a passion for the truth. She is currently a junior at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, studying media and journalism. She reads and writes poetry in her free time, collects Elvis Presley memorabilia and describes her aesthetic as “grandma-chic.” After working as a reporter for a few years, Kenfield wants to become a lawyer, practicing media and First Amendment law.


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