7 Types of Customers You’ll Meet While Working in F&B (and How to Deal with Them)
Written by Jovan Lee
You’ve read about the 9 F&B employees you might come across while traversing the foodie landscape in Singapore. Today, the tables will turn as we talk about the 7 types of customers you would likely have faced if you’ve ever worked in F&B.
Now, if you’ve never had the chance to work in the wondrous world of F&B serving, think about whether you’ve been one of the customers on our list. We all have our quirks and habits when it comes to patronizing a restaurant or food outlet, so don’t shy away from identifying the customer traits that you’re guilty of. And if you’ve had the pleasure of working as an F&B server, this one’s for you.
Once again, don’t take this list too seriously. It’s just for fun. Having worked as an F&B service crew member before, I can relate. Here are the 7 types of customers you’ll meet working in F&B:
1. The Hipster Instagram Foodie
Kicking our list off with a tribute to hipsters across Singapore, we have the Instagram foodie! Their insufferable need to upload picture perfect photos of their food may lead to annoyance from their all-day-breakfast-eating counterparts (see GIF above).
The “Camera Eats First” phenomenon is alive and well in Singapore, with phones being treated to a feast of eggs benedicts, artisan ice creams, and anything served in a mason jar. There are already hipster dishes like Sushi Doughnuts and Avocado Pizzas rising in popularity so who knows what we’ll see next?
But all in all, this act of photographing food before consuming it is actually pretty harmless. In fact, some servers take pride in the fact that their dish is being treated like a celebrity. If you see a photo-happy customer, perhaps you can offer to take their photo for them. These small acts of service can really make your customer’s day.
2. The Awkward First Date Couple
Chances are you’ve been on a first date, and if you don’t possess the romantic panache of James Bond, you’ve probably seen your fair share of first date trainwrecks - I know I have. If it was painful for you, it’s probably even harder to watch as an F&B server.
Your server hears the awkward silence echoing past the many desperate sips from your glass and sees the uncomfortable tussle (or lack of) for the bill. Your server observes silently, taking notes on “do-nots” for their next romantic encounter.
It’s not all bad, watching awkward dates as an F&B server. You’ll get to meet different people and experience many situations you may never get to experience elsewhere. Plus, it can be quite entertaining to watch.
3. The PhD Holder in Menu Studies
Sometimes, you hand a customer a menu and they’ll spend 15 to 20 minutes reading the menu like it’s a George R.R. Martin novel. They’ll read it from cover to cover, studying every description, picture and price, as if they will be tested on it after.
As a server, you might check in every 5 minutes to see if they are ready to order - but they never are. You would think they were ordering their last meal.
Although it does take patience to deal with a menu-reading enthusiast, just be sure to give the customer some time, and wait for them to signal to you that they are ready.
Patience, young padawan.
4. The Strange Request
A worthy adversary for the waiter who remembers everything, this particular type of customer always has bizarre requests that some servers honestly don’t have an answer for. They might have a particular food restriction or preference that is out of the ordinary, and some places find it difficult to cater to such specific needs.
If you’re ever faced with a customer asking for “alphabet soup but I only want G, X, and P”, respond to them respectfully and check if your establishment is capable of adhering to that request. If not, reject the request politely and offer an alternative solution, if any.
5. The Klutz
I’m sure most service crew members don’t enjoy cleaning up messes, I certainly didn’t, but it is part of the job. That being said, don’t go around knocking down drinks and spilling your bolognese on the floor. It’s going to be really tough getting the stain out.
Kudos to service crew members who are on the ball and ready to mop up a spill or clear up a mess at a moment’s notice. But remember, always do your best to pacify the situation if a customer spills their drink or knocks over their plate. It can be embarrassing for the customer when something like that happens, so try to stay calm and let the customer know that everything will be okay.
6. “What do you recommend?”
I would love to say that I’ve tried everything on the menu and can actually make an informed recommendation on the best dish, but sadly, I can’t. The only item I’ve had is the drinking water.
In all seriousness, not all food outlets have their employees taste their food or go through a crash course on recommending dishes. If you’re working in F&B, try to check with a manager on the regular dishes worth mentioning and make your recommendations from there.
Another way you could approach the situation is to ask the customer a question in return such as, “Do you feel like having sweet or savory food today?”, or “do you like spicy food?”. These questions help the customer figure out what they want to have and can greatly assist you in your recommendation.
7. “Can I speak to the manager?”
In a perfect world, all customers in all food establishments are satisfied with the food, service, and ambience. But we don’t live in a perfect world. There may be times in your F&B career where you be faced with an unsatisfied customer who is demanding to “speak to your manager”.
First of all, don’t be afraid of the situation. Be cordial, excuse yourself from the situation and proceed to get your manager. Most customers who complain only do so because they actually care about the business. It could also be constructive criticism to help the establishment improve.
Bonus: The Regular
Everyone has a favourite restaurant or cafe and if you’ve worked at one long enough, you’ll see customers who frequent the establishment. Sometimes, something so small such as a daily coffee pickup can blossom into a full-blown friendship between employee and customer.
No real advice for this one; just enjoy the relationship and keep treating every customer with a smile! Perhaps you could ask a regular customer if they would like to have The Usual, just like in the movies. It certainly makes the regulars feel special (and might make the other customers jealous too).
Working in F&B can be extremely rewarding as you get to make people happy by bringing them their favorite dishes, serving them well, and making them feel important. Growth opportunities are plenty as an F&B employee, and you may be able to work your way to a managerial role if you put in the time and effort. As a customer, remember to be nice to your server and the world will be a better place. If you’re considering a full-time, part-time, or contract job in F&B, download the FastJobs app and search for “F&B” jobs today!