Yesterday, we brought you true stories of restaurant horror, courtesy of you, the grease-stained Gawker readership. Today: ten more tales of skeevy managers, bodily fluids, and stone cold murder.
1. The Hopeless Romantic
When I was 16 I was hired at a local sandwich chain in no-one-knows New Hampshire. my boss was a short, sweaty, balding man who was very clearly confused about how to manage a restaurant. He would lick spoons when mixing the tuna fish and sexually harass any female within eyesight and call her an "icy bitch" when they would grimace and walk away. Inevitably every shift I would have to put up with ass grabbing and questions about my panties all while I was helping customers or doing all of the prep for the next day (all the other employees were just as worthless.) He would even stand next to me and play pocket pool while I cleaned dishes. After a couple months of putting up with this I decided to finally call it quits when I walked into work in the morning to open the store and he was standing in the back in his whitey tighteys smoking a joint. I noticed there was a blow up mattress in the manager.'s office. I turned away quickly as he sauntered into the office and came back in uniform. When I questioned him about what was going on he informed me that his girlfriend had kicked him out and he had been staying at the store because he had no where else to go. He had also been bathing and washing his clothes in the same sinks we would use to wash dishes in, using the dish drying rack to dry his underwear. I told him I was quitting that morning and the only thing he had to say was "at least now we can fuck."
2. The Spoon of Discipline
My friend told me about her experience working as a waitress in a restaurant. She said one of her co-workers had a method of dealing with particularly rude customers. He would go into the back and take a stirring spoon and ... insert it where the sun doesn't shine. He would then wipe it off, and set it down in front of them with a cappucino "on the house." He called it the "spoon of discipline."
I've always been friendly to the most wretched waiter/waitress since then.
Be glad I didn't tell you the Der Wienerschnitzel story. Be very glad.
3. Rats, Rats, Rats
So, I used to work at a very popular Indian restaurant in the East Village of Manhattan.
Like most restos in NYC, there was a rodent problem. The basements to all of these places are essentially riddled with holes; rats can move freely between them. Resto owners are way too cheap to pay to have them re-inforced, so they "control" the problem with glue boards and traps rather than actually invest the money required to "fix" the problem.
The owners had built a very makeshift refrigerated, wooden box in what had been a storage room. It was large enough to walk in and did keep things cool, but needless to say it was a "Mickey Mouse" job. I recall one day in particular when I walked in and saw a large plastic container brimming with chicken that had been marinating overnight - the saran wrap had become loose, there were rodent footprints, feces, and urine along the top of this container full of meat. The rats had gotten in, feasted, and left a mess. Some of the pieces were thrown, the majority were used in orders later that day. I can't tell you the number of times I'd come into work and find, literally, yellow rivers of sticky, dry rodent urine on the white boards used for cutting at the chef's station. Gross.
The ultimate gross-out experience of my life happened here, too. It was not unusual to find petrified rodents in the basement. Dry, papery remnants stuck to the bottom of the floor, under heavy boxes, etc.
One of my jobs was to bring bottles of Indian beer upstairs to the fridge at the end of the night so that they'd be cold the next day. Indian beer comes in glass bottles and are transported in cardboard boxes. Often, bottles would break in transit and the spilled beer would sully the labels of other bottles, which I would rinse off so that they would look acceptable for a customer's table later on. I reached into a box and pulled out a Maharaja and noticed what looked to be a dirty, dried label from some long-since broken bottle of beer stuck to the outside. I casually rotated my wrist to get a closer look at what I was seeing and noticed that the dried, papery thing stuck to the side of the bottle I was holding was actually a dead rat. I took a deep breath, muttered "Oh my GOD!", put the bottle down, walked straight out of the restaurant and screamed because I was so fucking disgusted. At which point the (married) owner of the restaurant, who was walking outside hand-in-hand with the hostess he was having an affair with, saw me. Immediately dropping her hand he asked me what the matter was, at which point I demanded a 15 minute break and went for a walk.
I will say that while I was there I fought tooth-and-nail for them to address issues and up their standards. They also make the best Chicken Tikka Masala I've ever had (as long as you don't confuse onion seeds with rodent poop when you eat there, you'll be fine).
4. Raining Roaches
Ten years ago, when I was in college, I waited tables for a few years at a giant Midtown Manhattan theme restaurant that shall remain nameless, but was/is known for bastardizing a great work of literature with hokey haunted house crap and terrible Frankenstein floor shows. The place was always packed with tourists and families from New Jersey, despite serving food I wouldn't feed to my worst enemy. While I was there I was exposed to some of the most horrendous, vomit-inducing, and unbelievable acts of depravity as well as the shadiest shit you could imagine. Like, a grown man blowing his nose on the food of a ten-year-old, depraved.
But the absolute, hands-down worst thing I ever witnessed was one morning when they'd decided to "exterminate." You see, the restaurant was huge (4 floors with an atrium in the middle) and had a serious vermin problem. But the owner was so cheap that he had gotten rid of the professional exterminator and decided that he could do it himself. So he bought some Raid bug fogger things and set them off in the middle of the night. The staff got there in the morning and was treated to a Rain of Roaches - dead and dying cockroaches falling from the ceiling, crawling out from wherever they were living and landing on the floor, the tables, us, all over the place. We had to stomp the living ones and sweep up all the dead ones into the trash. It was worst in the morning, but throughout the whole day, every once in a while a straggler would come staggering out and fall right in front of a customer, sometimes right onto their plates. Usually when customers caught sight of roaches and rats, we would tell them that they were just "shadow puppets," or "animatronic." "Haha, folks! It's all part of the show!" But that day, we were pretty much at a loss for words.
To this day, my time working at that establishment is the one part of my past that I refuse to discuss with my husband. Mostly because I know that their family ate there when they visited him at school.
5. Porn Narc Coffee Boss
I worked at a coffee shop that also served food, so not a restaurant proper, but the story is horrifying enough to qualify, I believe, as it did scar at least four people for life. It was formerly a franchise coffee shop, but had been bought by an upstanding gentleman, who I'll just call "Boss," who then ran it as an independent neighborhood coffee shop. This guy, in addition to being a coffee shop entrepreneur, was, by day, an undercover narcotics agent for the Chicago Police. This is fantastically funny in itself: during the time I worked there, no less than three of the employees were actually dealing (just weed, but still), at times during work. And there were only seven employees. So, that's a huge percentage of the narc's staff. But on to the real tragedy.
It was a Saturday morning, which are terribly busy at neighborhood coffee shops, but for some reason this particular day was quite slow. There were three of us working, and one customer sitting on our wi-fi. At around 9AM, Boss came into the shop (highly unusual, he worked days) and as he began to make himself a latte and tell us rambling stories about getting kicked out of a casino for getting into a fight with an old woman, it became quite clear to us that he was A) still drunk and B) still out from the night before. He wandered down the back hallway and into his office, and we were glad he was out of our hair.
We had just downloaded the MxPx discography (whatever!) on the office computer and were playing it rather loudly in the shop, happily, when suddenly over the music we all hear a woman moaning and screaming. Our first reaction is to whip around and stare at the woman on her laptop, as it seemed to be coming from her direction, but she was equally as alarmed and was staring back at us. After about 2.5 seconds of this (and a few smacking noises) it was undeniable: PORN SOUNDS. These were the unmistakable sounds of porn. And they were coming through the speakers, right above the customer's head, and they were coming from the office computer, the computer that was playing our music.
My coworker took off running down the back hallway and pounded on the closed and locked office door. He had the following conversation with Boss, shouted through the closed door.
CoWorker: "Hey can you ughhh turn the music down? it's super loud"
Boss: "Turn it up?"
CoWorker: "No turn the volume down! something's wrong with the music."
Boss: "Uh, OK"
The sounds stop and the music is quieter, and coworker comes back up front, where we all four stand staring at each other in wide-eyed disbelief, finding absolutely no words for this shit. We finally get to the point where we start to laugh about it, when, if you can believe it, HE TRIES AGAIN. He didn't figure it out. He knows the music comes from the computer, and while you can't hear anything from the back office, you have to assume that therefore ANY sounds played on the computer can be heard in the shop, right?? He thought it was a silent film? This is the only explanation I can come up with for this second attempt and failure to grasp this concept. Anyway, Coworker dashes back to the office and bangs on the door again, and gets him to just turn the volume off completely, saying something's wrong with the music. We all end up outside furiously smoking cigarettes, trying to un-live the last 10 minutes of our lives.
6. A Burger Dork's Lament
So I worked at a Fast Food Restaurant were the burgers were king (wink) during the mid-late Ninties in High School. I was a dork who took my Fast Food job way too seriously so I always working the closing shift on Saturday evenings when the drive thru finally closed at 2am and we could maybe leave at 3am-3:30am. I was 16 at the time. The King's dining room was open till 10pm and drive thru was open till 2am. To close the Restaurant it took three people. A manager to do the paperwork. A front person to clean the dining room and take drive thru orders. And a back person to do the cooking and start the cleaning of the food items (grill, fryer, etc). We would all do our parts and then do the final clean of the back and could be out at 3am on the dot. Angry and smelling of fries and failure in life, etc.
It was after Midnight and Drive-Thru was very busy and I was filling orders like crazy and trying to clean. The Manager (who was a Student Manager) and 18 and in high school at the time said he would help do the dining area. So he flew thru cleaning what I had not gotten to and tjem said he was going to talk to his Girl Friend who had arrived and was at the Drive Thru Order Box Door. So I go back to taking orders and cleaning the order area and the dishes. Again the drive thru was busy because of the 1am Bar closing rush. As usual we had cranked the music in the dining area to Metal and the lights in the dining room were all off.
Then I begin to wonder were this guy is because we are again backed up on drive thru. That is when I hear as I am taking an order a car full of dudes laughing and saying "Ohh my god he is doing her in (Fast Food Franchise Name) Playroom". I am wondering were he is and so is my co-working doing the burgers because we are behind and he hasn't done any paperwork and we all have to leave together or wait for the person to complete their work so we can leave together. I head to the back of the Restaurant into the PlayRoom area (which has giant glass windows looking out at the line of cars ordering from the Drive thru Box) and turn on the lights and see the Student Manager plowing his Girlfriend in the BallPit...you know were little kids play and leave behind their uneaten food and soil themselves.
I go into a huge Nerd Rage and begin yelling at him and his lady that we are "Goddamn Backed Up and I want to go home" (and it wasn't at all because I was still a virgin and pissed that he could get laid in a nasty kids playarea in a fast food joint). I then turned around and went back to filling orders as my co-worker asked what just happened. I informed him. He was unable to make food for the 10 straight minutes he was laughing. I was such a dork that I took orders and made food. And then handed it to the remaining customers laughing as they pulled up to the window.
Needless to say the closing went quickly and the Manager was fired the next day as I heard. Also I heard that the Owner had the morning crew put all the playpit balls into plastic trash bags and put them into the bed of a small pick-up truck that one of the Managers had. The Manager then was instructed to go to one of those Automatic Car Washes. He gave it the full package, including Wax, to get the stank of them off. The morning crew scrubbed the hell out of the ball pit while it was empty.
7. Hello From Curacao
I'm writing you from Curacao. An Island in the Caribbean. We're about 15 minutes from Aruba which I'm sure you've heard of. Attached is a picture that was printed in our newspaper today taken in the freezer of a restaurant the health department shut down. This is not the first time it's been shut down, and trust me it won't be the last time. It's run by Chinese and sells greasy nasty Chinese food as well as local cuisine. There was also a cat found frozen in that same freezer, but I wasn't able to get a picture of that.
8. Ho Ass Bitch
In order to make a few dollars in between finishing college and joining the Peace Corps I worked at a not-inexpensive steak house in my hometown. During the five or so months I was there we went through three general managers. The first stopped ordering food her last week on the job, so we were literally out of 75 percent of our menu items. The second decided to take the contents of the liquor storage locker home with him gratis. The third was just a run-of-the-mill tool, who refused to do anything about the family of mice that would run across the dining room nightly because "There was construction going on next door." The following incident occurred under his watch:
I arrived for my Saturday night shift (i.e. the busiest night of the week) to find that sewage seeping out of a floor drain and slowly spreading all over the kitchen floor. By the time the dinner rush started the entire kitchen was covered in at least an inch of sewer water (a clear health code violation, but there was no way the owners were going to miss out on a night's revenue). The other servers, cooks and I continued to go about our business as if nothing was going on and somehow the managers and owners kept the sewerage and accompanying stench out of the dining room.
This was perhaps the busiest Saturday shift of my entire tenure there, so I was running through the dining room and sloshing through the sewage like crazy to keep up. Midway through dinner I was in the midst of serving a table of six their filet mignons and prime ribs when I (and the rest of the dining room) heard a loud smack accompanied by one of the hostesses yelling at the other "DON'T YOU EVER FUCKING PUSH ME AGAIN YOU HO ASS BITCH!"
Apparently, hostess number one had become upset when hostess number two had brushed by her after arriving thirty minutes late, so she punched her in the face. The entire dining room fell silent and I quickly apologized to my customers before wading back through the sewage-filled kitchen to get another order.
Unfortunately, I was with a table when hostess number one returned to the kitchen (both had run off crying) yelling that her drug dealer boyfriend was going to "Kill that fucking bitch," which from what I understood about the boyfriend was a credible threat. I, however, did have the pleasure of getting called away from the six or so tables I was waiting on to give an eyewitness report to the police who showed up about a half hour later.
9. Making a Point With Poop, And Racism
About 10 years ago, I used to be a host in a then very popular and very disgusting italian eatery (rhymes with smacka-roni skillz). That father's day, we were running at what was close to a two hour wait time, which i of course knew, yet management instructed me that I was never to quote longer than 90 minutes. Pretty standard policy. So basically we had the usual upset guests who would beg, scream and send their 3 year olds up to the host stand to tell us how "hungry" they were, in the hopes that in a moment of cuteness-palsy we would bump them up on the list (that one always made me feel dirty). my job was to make people feel stupid for acting like babies so they will sit down, shut up and wait like everybody else.
as many people in the restaurant industry could tell you fathers are a notoriously cantankerous bunch, especially when they are feeling hungry, not drunk or entitled. we found all three in one man that day. After being quoted close to a two hour wait time, and waiting for about an hour, this guy decides he's not going to wait any longer. he demands we seat him and his family immediately. i calmly tell him no in so many diplomatic words before he hurls a fun lil' string of obscenities at me and walks away.
a few moments later, one of the other hostesses turns to me and says, "you remember that asshole from a few minutes ago? he just came up to me and was all like 'you can tell that ni**er fa**ot host he can eat shit,' and stormed off." Not more than five seconds later did another gentleman walk out of the bathroom, go directly to the host stand and without an ounce of color in his face says, "uhhh, pardon me? you should probably get someone to clean up the bathroom. somebody just took a shit on the floor."
to this day i still feel awful i made a busser clean it up.
10. Restaurants Kill
So in the early 1990s I worked for a mid-level family chain restaurant in the "second poorest mid-size city in the South." Kind of like a Friendly's in Albany, but Southern-fried. That location had once been owned by a local doctor of some means and his wife. It was his wife's project. She ran the show, and then she ran off with one of the line cooks.
The doctor never forgave her.
So when I started working there he was dating a maybe 20 year old waitress. She was hot in that southern cheerleader way: bleached blond hair, perky. He was not hot. Middle aged, balding Indian, but to her I assume he seemed loaded and he was shelling out for whatever she wanted. (When his older Indian parents would come into eat, she had to pretend she wasn't dating him. This wasn't the healthiest relationship.
And then it got weird.
Apparently the doctor had enough of his former wife shacking up in their McMansion with her new lover on his dime, so he asked his girlfriend to find someone to kill them. He would offer $10k to kill them both. So she asked one of her loser friends and all of them, smartly, said no. Until she got to one of my coworkers, a nice enough kid who went to a well-known Southern engineering school and lived near my parents. Actually all of these people did all in the same subdivision. If you scripted this, it would seem unbelievable.)
His parents had a typical country-looking southern house and their doorbell, I kid you not, played Dixie. His dad was into putting ground effects lighting on all the family cars and trucks.
So the kid, who couldn't have been more than 18 or 19 actually around my age at the time but he seemed younger, took the money and a gun and entered the house of the ex-wife and her line-cook lover. and shot them both in their bed, gruesomely but successfully, killing them both.
The kid then ran off to ski in Vermont with the payoff. Of course it didn't take long for the police to unravel this, the girlfriend had asked every sketchy character in town and so the trail was easy to follow.
The police trailed the kid to Vermont and then once he came back across the state line they arrested him.
The kid, doctor and possible girlfriend are all in jail now. The doctor's kids with his ex-wife, oh I forgot to mention them, moved in with the doctor's Indian parents.
My sincere thanks to all the poets-at-heart who sent in stories. Perhaps we will have one more installment? If you have a true restaurant story to share, email me.
Previously: Kitchen Nightmares: Fried Rats and ‘Beef Stroking Off'