The National Restaurant Association and ServSafe have teamed up to produce a series of free training seminars to help the hospitality industry tackle the four biggest challenges presented by COVID-19: reopening procedures, delivery precautions, takeout precautions, and dealing with belligerent jerks who give zero hoots about anyone but themselves. I wish I could say I can’t believe that this is necessary, but as a person who spent the majority of her adult life in food service, literally none of this is surprising. If you have a chef, server, barista, or busboy in your life, shoot them a text to see if they’re doing okay, and then maybe point them to this ten-minute class to get some ideas on how to react when some unmasked buffoon decides to throw a public tantrum in the name of “freedom.”
Though the conflict deescalation seminar is meant for people in hospitality, the ideas it presents can be helpful to people in all sorts of professions, like retail workers or debate moderators. It points out that the easiest way to resolve a tough situation is to prevent it from arising in the first place, and it offers ideas for how to communicate to customers the fact that there’s a deadly pandemic going on, such as signage and social media posts. Another suggestion: keep an eye on body language. If a customer presents “clenched fists or jaws, a puffed-out chest, increased physical motion or animation, a red face, or increased sweating,” it’s a good sign that they—much like a starving bear or rabid raccoon—are going to attack.
When confronted with such a customer it’s important to remain calm, maintain eye contact, and resist arguing, as this can provoke them to do something much more dangerous than leaving a bad Yelp review. Speak in calm tones and try to find a compromise: if the customer doesn’t want to wear a mask, perhaps they can use the drive-thru, or eat their food in a place where they aren’t endangering the lives of others, like the curb, or the alley out back.
If you’d prefer not to sit through the 10-minute seminar, a full transcript can be found here, which is a quick and easy read. We’re crossing our fingers that you never need to use it.