After more than a year away from dining in restaurants, it’s possible that some of us may have improved them in our minds. We may have imagined that every restaurant meal is perfect, that the drinks are strong, that the service is impeccable and anticipates our every need before it even occurs to us.
The truth is, even in the best of times, meals cooked and served by professionals are not completely flawless. There will be hiccups, especially because many restaurants are dealing with labor and supply chain issues that lead to understaffed shifts and overpriced or insufficient ingredients. This is not an excuse to abuse restaurant staff to the point of making them cry.
But this is what happened last week at Apt Cape Cod, a farm-to-table restaurant in Brewster, Massachusetts, on (yes!) Cape Cod. “As many of our guests and patrons treat us with kindness and understanding, there have been an astronomical influx daily of those that do not, swearing at us, threatening to sue, arguing and yelling at my staff, making team members cry,” owner Brandi Felt Castellano wrote on Facebook last Thursday. The straw that broke the camel’s back, Felt Castellano later told The New York Times, was a customer who screamed at an employee who told him they couldn’t take his breakfast order because the restaurant hadn’t opened yet.
“This is an unacceptable way to treat any human,” Felt Castellano continued in the Facebook post. “So Chef Regina [Felt Castellano, her co-owner and spouse] and I have decided to take the day and give the staff time to deep clean the restaurant, train, and treat my staff to a day of kindness.” Felt Castellano added that many of her employees were young, working their first job and trying to earn money for college, and that they were dealing with problems beyond their control.
(Can you imagine how bad things must be if a “day of kindness” involves time spent deep cleaning?)
The Facebook response to Felt Castellano’s post was overwhelmingly supportive. Some users reported that they, themselves, had seen Apt Cape Cod employees deal gracefully with rude customers. Others added that it wasn’t just at Apt Cape Cod or in Brewster: they’d seen rude assholes everywhere on the Cape this summer. Felt Castellano herself told the Times that this was the worst behavior she’d seen in her 20 years in the restaurant business. “I would say that it is its own epidemic,” she said. (This also reminds me of the grocery store manager who shut her store down last year when customers got violent after being asked to wear masks.)
Apt Cape Cod reopened for dinner service on Thursday evening. Here’s hoping customers behaved themselves.