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A friend of mine, who works as a cook, recently had an experience with a difficult customer. She made an order for pizza, then sent it back for not-being gluten free, then she sent it back because it wasn't vegetarian, then she sent it back for not being vegan pizza. She didn't specify any of these criterion before making any of the orders or adjustments.

Then she revealed she owns a competing restaurant and would like to hire my friend as a sous-chef for my friend's excellent hospitality.

I told him that the above sounded completely unprofessional and is quite frankly the most ludicrous poaching attempt I'd ever heard of.

I'm curious if this is common behavior in the service industry and what potential red flags might be associated with a boss who recruits like this?

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People who play games with others will play games with you

This woman seems like she is looking for someone relatively subservient who is not going to challenge her. She might call that disciplined, professional, or hospitable, but remaking it time and again is well beyond professional and more into doormat territory.

Whether this is a suitable opportunity depends on the personality of the friend.

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    Not to mention: if the pizza chef does that at this lady’s restaurant, the lady will probably flip out at the wasted food cost. – Damila Jan 29 at 3:01
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    The header is the main point here. This person is deceitful and thinks wasting other people's time and money is fun and games. Run, don't walk, away from that. – Tim Grant Jan 29 at 17:02
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    @Damila I believe the whole point is that she wasted a competitor's food, maybe it was just her goal all along. – Pierre Arlaud Jan 29 at 19:36
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Moot question.

This lady does not own a competing restaurant, she's just a nut stringing it along as long as she can.

How to respond to odd recruitment attempt while on job?

Ignore it, don't feed the fish

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    This. This was the first thing I thought off, too. She said that just to look "less bad" for forcing someone to redo their work time and time again. She is a nutcase. – T. Sar Jan 29 at 11:41
  • I thought this as well, but since I was offering my opinion on the matter, I wanted to go the route of "even if she's telling the truth, here are the red-flags of a boss like this" – DeepDeadpool Jan 30 at 16:34
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There's really not enough information here to understand what enticed her to do that other than, like you mentioned, she wanted to test your friend's patience and dedication towards the customer. I certainly wouldn't work for her.

She wasted his restaurant's time, money, and resources, which is very unprofessional and shows behavior of a bad manager. Not to mention, it would be awkward to work around her because all your friend will think about is what he had to go through to get this job at this competing restaurant.

If she happens to walk in again asking your friend to work for her, I would say, "I'm not interested. Thank you for the offer." You never know if she might also have an alternative motive of trying to defame your friend's restaurant if he slips up and says something rude.

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    She's a "rock collector" at best. inc.com/brian-de-haaff/… This is apparently her style of management and will end up with the people under her not know what she wants, ever. It's a really bad way to work, let alone run a company. – computercarguy Jan 29 at 17:58
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Gordon Ramsay had a food critic do the same test to a restaurant he was evaluating for a competition. That's probably where she got the general idea from.

That being said, the secret customer sent by Ramsay wasn't there to poach staff, and although she was indeed very picky and demanding, she was nowhere as unreasonable and as extreme as the pizza customer. The pizza customer literally behaved as she was psychotic by completely lying about what she had originally ordered, not once, but twice. She not only did this at the financial expense of someone else's restaurant but also at the gaslighting expense of the staff member actually taking the orders.

Second, some liars are just pathological. They will lie about anything and everything. Now it's possible she owns an actual restaurant, but it's just as possible that she makes job offers the same way she likes to order pizza.

There is also something wrong with the "customer is always right" way of running a restaurant (thanks to Daniel R Collins for suggesting that great article). I understand the need for good customer service, but some employers just take it way too far and abandon all common sense - often times at the expense of their own employees. And I feel this is what happened in this case, the pizzeria employee knew its employer would side with the customer no matter what, so he behaved accordingly. That's the way he was trained.

So to me at least, the potential new employer is really entitled, selfish, immature, and potentially pathological, but the current employer doesn't sound very good either if he forces his employees to acquiesce to such people in the first place.

In my opinion, the entire US hospitality industry is sociopathic (barring a few rare exceptions) since it cares so little about the employees that work for it (not to mention the larger service industry). And my advice would be to choose an entirely different field to work in and to just keep cooking as a hobby on the side.

That being said, if cooking in a restaurant is his passion, or if he's really enticed or excited by the new opportunity, or if he already knows all the negatives about his industry, and on some level, he most likely already does, I'm not sure I would even say any of those things to him.

Some people really do enjoy the camaraderie of working in a kitchen, the fast pace, the hierarchy, the very long hours, and the obsession of doing a perfect job day in and day out. And if such a person was my friend, I wouldn't want to be the one to rain on his parade, unless he complained about it to me first.

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    We are taught something similar in our workplace. It is that Business and Customer are coming in a kind of professional friendship. We respect customer wishes until it is professionally not hurting us but after a point, we have to say NO. – Pankaj Jha Jan 29 at 11:08
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    The US hospitality industry belives they are a bear market. There's always more bodies willing to submit to that BS so they submit them to the BS. Round and round goes the employment wheel, those that don't take the BS don't take the cash back home. And it is not only the hospitality industry. The whole service industry is like that. Walmart closed entire branches to prevent an Union. – Mindwin Jan 29 at 14:56
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    @DanielR.Collins, Thanks for the awesome article. I've added the link to my answer. And Mindwin, I agree with you as well. Thanks. – Stephan Branczyk Jan 29 at 19:25
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    I'd argue that the "Gordon Ramsay" approach is a made for reality TV trope used to manufacture drama purely for the entertainment of the audience. So anyone attempting to actually use such an approach in real life has no clue what they are actually doing (but we have already established that this woman is probably a sandwich short of a picnic) – Peter M Jan 29 at 20:52
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Personally, if she behaves like that I would not work for her.

If that is how she treeats people then as an employee where the employee has to suck that stuff up to keep the job - then the job is not worth it.

  • Dear Lady .. thats 3 kinds of pizza you ordered and received .. so pay us 3 x pizza ;-) – eagle275 Jan 30 at 9:12
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It seems that she is looking for someone who will be subservient to difficult dining patrons, not someone who will be obsequious to the boss. Remember, he did not have any idea that she was a prospective employer at the time she abused him.

Nevertheless. Her unorthodox and flamboyant method for testing his temperament may be suitable for the cooking-adventure TV shows, but it is a completely unsuitable approach to establishing the serious professional relationship necessary between the restaurant owner and the chefs.

From the text of the question, we really don't know what the offered sous-chef position would be like, but it would probably be exciting, entertaining, and quite a wild ride. So the question would be, does your friend want his main source of livelihood to be a wild ride?

Personally, I have a family to support and a reputation to consider, so I seek the dull ride for my day job. YMMV.

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Personally I would have brought it up with my boss that someone is attempting to recruit me after correcting several orders.

I also question exactly what she is testing here? Not saying what you want to order then asking to redo the order doesn't really show anything. Being patient? I don't think so because it may be company policy to revise the order until customer is satisfied. What about subservient to the boss? I don't think so because again simply following orders could mean that the chef just doesn't care and just keep making pizzas until it's time to clock out.

Overall it's a weak test and my initial thought is I would have told my boss that someone is attempting to recruit me on company property. I never heard of recruiting like this and would seriously question if this individual is even who they say they are.

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