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One kid screaming while the parents look around smiling. Totally oblivious that their kid is ruining multiple dinners.

Ruining all the tables in the immediate and not so immediate area. Most customers try to be patient but struggle when it continues and not being able to enjoy their meal because of a screaming, out-of-control child.

Does this sound familiar? Of course, it does.

I always hated two situations: intoxicated guests and screaming kids. They always seemed to lead to lose-lose. Angry parents, angry customers, and a depressed, sometimes beaten down manager.

These situations would totally ruin my shift every single time. They ruined my shifts because I had to deal with it and I did.

I had to deal with it because I was the manager.

But not all managers do deal with it. Some just ignore it. Their servers know the managers who ignore problems too, but the servers are the ones who must listen to their customers’ complaints.

My wife and I were in a restaurant just last week. Screaming kid, oblivious parents who just smiled.

I looked for a manager. None around. Probably thought it was a good time to check the kitchen, the cooks, the dishwasher, and the walk-in. I mean, if you don’t see the problem, you don’t have to deal with the problem. I finally saw one and talked with her. She acknowledged the screaming kid, but just said, “yes, it was a problem”, but then just rolled her eyes and shrugged. She was not going to deal with it. Period.

Here’s what I don’t understand. These managers are willing to basically sacrifice 10 tables of irritated customers for the one table who is in the wrong, just because they don’t want to deal with the problem. 10 to 1. Amazing.

The answer for these type situations is to have clear guidelines from either the owner or from upper management. The manager MUST know what the manager can and should do. The more specific, the better. When procedures are in place, the manager will know that the owner or upper management has the manager’s back and won’t get reprimanded (or fired) when they get a complaint from the child’s parents about how they were treated.

One chain that I know handles it this way. When a manager knows a child is causing a disturbance, the manager goes to the table and addresses the issue. The manager asks the parents to quiet the child because the child is disturbing other guests.

If the same table continues to be a problem, if the child continues to scream (crawl around, run around, or other such thing), then a second manager will stop by. This manager will be firmer and say, politely, that the child is still disturbing guests and that if this continues, they will be asked to leave.

If this continues, they are asked to leave. This is difficult and it is always tough. Ruins your shift. But it is the right thing to do.

Making one table mad but making 10 other tables relieved is good management. Ignoring problems is bad management. But the key is to have a set procedure to help the manager take care of business. This will give the manager confidence that following procedure is the correct path. Otherwise, I don’t blame any manager for not risking his or her career. Another side of this is that managers who are too timid to follow procedure to address problem customers need to have further development. Ignoring problems is not an option. Often having set procedures helps the manager tremendously in this type of situation.

And don’t forget that customers have plenty of choices. Why go to a restaurant where management will not step in to solve a problem?