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Today we are going to look at how to prevent condescension in several different restaurant situations. Condescending attitudes from employees, managers, or even customers causes negativity throughout the restaurant. This behavior affects morale, organizational health, and can keep customers from returning. We’ll take a look at several situations that may occur in your restaurant and how to best handle them.

Employee to employee

When one employee is condescending to another employee, you need to discover

the underlying reason for the condescension. Further, you’ll need to discipline the harassing employee.

Common underlying reasons for the condescension may include frequent mistakes made by the ‘lower’ employee, veteran bias, differences in generational philosophies, or even just ignorance.These issues should be addressed before they build and start entering into harassment territory.

Many times the employee may not realize they are being condescending. Oftentimes, this occurs in training situations. When a trainer is trying to train new methods, they may do it in a way that can be borderline offensive to the trainee, when the trainer thinks they are just being detailed and thorough. Ensure an open line of communication between parties to minimize issues while also allowing for feedback and observation to minimize issues.

If you have cultural issues, you may want to try a few different methods to start building better organizational health overall which will minimize employee to employee disputes.

Manager to Employee

Some managers have a hard time handling authority and it comes off as condescension. Good managers should be building up and supporting their staff not talking down to them and ordering them around.

Managers that feel the need to always assert their authority in order to get respect, will never have any. Employees may feign respect and obey while the manager is present, but as soon as they aren’t being watched they will begin to slack and may become vengeful against the company. Instead managers should gain respect through their actions and should not be afraid to get in the trenches and get dirty. Work harder than those you manage.

The employees of your restaurant are the individuals that have the most contact with your customers. Do you think you will have better results treating employees as equals or by destroying their morale through condescension?

Employee to Customer

This is another form of condescension that is hopefully unintentional performed by an employee that is unaware they are doing it.

A server or bartender may be condescending to a customer that doesn’t know your products or your ordering processes. Or, when a customer is picky or otherwise difficult, an employee may talk down to them or say offensive things about them.

You need to stop this behavior immediately as it will not only likely loses the customer, but also fosters favoritism. This will build on itself and start shifting from one customer to the the next and then towards other employees. Your organizational health will diminish quickly.

The customer is the reason everyone is employed. Not every customer is going to behave and order just they way you want them to. If employees continue to treat customers like they are better than them, your (former) customers will put you out of business.

Manager to Customer

If this is happening, your manager is terrible. Set and hold the standard. Discipline the manager and get rid of them if this is a continuing problem.

Customer to Employee

This is the hardest type of ‘talking down’ to deal with. You don’t want to offend the customer, but you also don’t want your staff to be treated poorly.

To start with, determine if harassment is occurring. A customer can be difficult and a jerk without actually harassing an employee.

If the behavior is determined to be harassment, you need to address it with the customer. Let them know they if they wish to continue dining at your restaurant they need to cease all harassment. The customer may get offended and leave, but you likely don’t want this type of customer anyway. By backing up your staff in this way, it will go a long way into building respect and improving morale.

If the behavior is not harassment but is condescending, you can handle it in a few different ways.

First, a server can try to joke with the table and give a bit of attitude back to the table if they think the customer may respond favorably.

Second the server can shoe or make mention of their experience and that they know what they are doing.

Third, they could trade the table to a different server that may end up being treated more favorably.

Or, as a last option, you can address the issue with the table if you feel the behavior is bad enough to warrant it.

This is always an awkward conversation at first, but I have had a number of them work out favorably. You could try to be nice and address the issue indirectly at first. Talk about the servers experience and knowledge and talk about how she is trusted with the best of guests. Bring out her great qualities to try to help them see her in a different light and hopefully be less condescending.

If that doesn’t work and the behavior continues, you have to go back and address the poor behavior in order to back up your employee. You may lose the customer, but again, do want to make a regular out of someone who is consistently condescending to your employees?


Hopefully, you will look for and recognize condescension more frequently in your restaurant and have a little bit of strategy as to how to prevent and reduce it. No employee, manager, or customer is better than any other person at the restaurant. Treat everyone fairly and with respect and encourage others to do the same. Your happier employees will carry that respect and enthusiasm into their service and workmanship.