"Excuse me, is your bread vegetarian?"
That was an actual question asked to a co-worker at a seafood restaurant where I worked. He came into the back looking shell-shocked, because he had no idea how to even handle being asked that. Note that the customer did not ask "vegan," which I am given to understand is a real thing (somehow) — they asked specifically "vegetarian."
The phrase may run "the customer is always right," but the corollary, well-known to anyone who has ever worked in the business, is "and sometimes, the customer is really fucking stupid/has no grip on reality." On this installment of Behind Closed Ovens, we take a look at some of the best and stupidest questions those working in the food industry have ever received.
The one that always mystified me (apart from the above, obviously) comes from a brewpub where I worked for almost two years. Multiple customers asked it, and to this day, my deepest regret from this job is that I never worked up the courage to question them as to what they were even asking.
"Are your potato chips, potato chips?"
They weren't asking if they were french fries. I'm positive of this. These were not British customers, nor were we a restaurant with any connection to anything even tenuously British. Besides which, in order to find "potato chips" on our menu, you had to read right past "french fries" — there was literally no way to know we served them unless you've just read "french fries" two seconds prior.
The weirdest part, though, is that when I'd authoritatively answer "yes, absolutely," they'd look at me with a "go on" expression. What...I don't...I give up on this species.
As always, these are actual submissions from actual people, many of whom are using their Kinja names (and one of whom is using his actual name — see if you can figure out which one).
Kinja user floreat:
"I worked as a fishmonger for my father. I once had a lady pick out a filet of cod, and after I weighed it, she asked me if I could 'take all the bones and guts out'.
'It... it's a fillet, madam,' I responded.
'Yes. Could you clean and debone it for me?'
'All the bones and guts are already out! Don't worry, just pop it in the oven and it's ready.'
'Your dad always takes all the nasty bits out for me. Are you sure you know what you're doing?'
In the end I took it out the back for a minute and came back in saying 'all done!' and she was happy."
Kinja user Everything is Shiny:
"At my father's coffee shop, where I also worked, a customer came in, looked at our breakfast sandwich menu, and asked someone I worked with 'um...is 'bacon' chicken or beef?' I have never forgotten the look on my co-worker's face."
Kinja user HoneySmacks:
"I think my favorite dumb customer questions were when I worked at the diner in town and we answered the phone with, "Hi, thank you for calling ____ ____. We're open 24 hours and our soups tonight are _____ and _____."
The two most popular responses to that?
'How late are you open?' and 'What's the soup tonight?'"
Kinja user Suhhhhh:
"My boyfriend texted me the other day from the health food store where he works. Apparently a lady came in and asked what the difference was between cage-free and free-roaming eggs, and wouldn't accept the explanation that there was no difference. She finally left in a huff after he had no idea what to tell her."
Kinja user Fluterdale:
"Overheard at a Mexican restaurant: 'are the steak fajitas vegetarian?'"
"I had a customer ask, 'can I get water with no ice but like...cold like if it did have ice in it?'"
"'Can I get my steak well-done, but tender and not burnt?'"
Well, yes, if you order it medium-well. And if you have a magical fairy wand that runs on dreams and starlight.
Kinja user Sailor Jupiter:
"I worked at a movie theater. My favorite dumb question was 'What comes in the large popcorn, large drink combo?' I would say 'Let me go check,' go to the kitchen and laugh my ass off. When I got back I'd say 'large popcorn, large drink,' and they'd thank me.
People moving the 'Sorry, We're Closed' sign (which blocked the door) to ask if we were open was also pretty rich."
"Overheard at a Wendy's once: 'do your milkshakes have dairy in them?'"
Kinja user quagmire:
"Customer: What is the difference between the 6 oz. and 9 oz. Sirloin steaks?
Server: About 3 ounces."
Kinja user rawrglicious:
"*guy gets olives on his sandwich*
Girlfriend: WAIT?! What are those?! Everyone calls those black olives but then what are anchovies?"
Also, this lady called in asking if we had chicken nuggets, mac and cheese, or peanut butter and jelly. When she thought I couldn't hear her because the phone messed up, she starting screaming to her friends about "what kind of Subway doesn't have peanut butter and jelly?!"
"'Is the Rockfish a fish?'
Also, this entire exchange:
Customer: I see you don't have spaghetti on your menu.
Me: No, we do not. We're a French restaurant.
Customer: How much would it cost to get a nice spaghetti dinner?
Me: We don't serve spaghetti.
Customer (GENUINELY SURPRISED): You don't?!
Me: No, sir. We only serve what's on the menu. Spaghetti is not on the menu because it is Italian food, and we're a FRENCH restaurant.
Customer (with the douchiest, "You're clearly new to this job and don't understand that I can order spaghetti at any restaurant I so choose" smile): Oh, okay, never mind."
"'Does your maryland crab soup really have crab in it? Can you remove the crab so I can eat it? What do you mean that's not safe?'
'Can I get grilled chicken with no grill lines? Oh, and no grease, either. And a belgian waffle topped with strawberry topping, but strain the juice out of the strawberries and wash them and then dry them before you put them on the waffle. Oh, and strain the cole slaw, too. Oh, and there's too much coffee in my coffee, can you dilute it half and half with hot water?'"
Note: I can confirm Greg's second entry personally; he's a former co-worker and I have waited on these people before (I forgot about it when I was writing this, but I'm not going to take credit for it now that Greg has reminded me). Not one word of this is an exaggeration, and this is all ONE order.
Kinja user Bingo, Carlos:
"A woman asked me if I would hand-remove potatoes from her soup for her and then re-heat it so it was as hot as it would be if the potatoes were in it. To this day, I have no idea what that even means."
"'There is too much blue cheese in my blue cheese dressing.'
'Does the pate have meat in it?'"
Kinja user RedWriter:
"Grown woman asks me 'What is a filet mignon?'
'It's steak.' I explain what type of steak.
'So it's not pork?'
'...no, it's beef.'
'Are you sure?'"
"As they're splitting their steak and can't decide on a temp: 'can you cook our steak half medium and half well done?'"
"After trying to use an expired coupon and being told no: 'so, what am I getting for free?'
Another customer, watching me make a vodka and soda: 'what's that?'
'Just a vodka with club soda.'
'What's in it?'"
Have an absurd/hilarious restaurant or food-industry story you'd like to see appear on Behind Closed Ovens? E-mail us at WilyUbertrout@gmail.com. We're always taking submissions.
Image via Petr Jilek/Shutterstock.