Delhi violence: Are restaurants in the capital city not safe anymore for us?
The script of the recent brawl that took place at The Wine Company in Gurgaon seems all too familiar. The customers and restaurant staff get into a fight on a petty issue, in which restaurant’s property is damaged, and both parties end up getting injuries. The next morning, a blame game begins in the virtual world, with everything getting blown out of proportion on social media. Clearly, the culture of hooliganism in the streets of the Capital has found its way into the restaurants, which are supposed to be civilised spaces.
But can Delhi’s culture be blamed for this fiasco? “These incidents certainly would not have happened in cities like Bangalore or Mumbai. It seems something is in Delhi’s air, that these things keep happening,” says chef Sabyasachi Gorai, who is the owner of the restaurant Lavaash. “A restaurant is a place for the civilised to socialise but The Wine Company incident highlights that this is clearly no longer the case. To prevent these situations, call the cops. Blaming the restaurant and the owners and demanding the closure of the restaurant is not the solution.”
Megha Kohli, head chef at Lavaash, also recently got into a tiff with guests. She says, “There was a birthday party going on at the restaurant. The bar was shut. However, the guests kept asking for alcohol and we went out of our way to serve them. But when the restaurant was about to close, the guests got extremely rude and abusive and they didn’t let us close for the night. It’s disappointing that grown men can stoop to such level. The hospitality industry needs to come together and make the customers realise that we serve because we want to. If they think that by paying money, they will make us their slaves, then they are wrong.”
Is the guest always right?
There was a time when the hospitality industry followed the golden rule: ‘The guest is always right.’ But that doesn’t seem to be the case now. “The guest is not always right. But you have to respect and listen to the guest,” says chef Manish Mehrotra, owner of Indian Accent. “If there is a disagreement between the management and the guest, then it needs to be solved in a professional and a polite manner. What happened at The Wine Company was horrible. It’s a frightening situation. It seems even the tiniest bit of misunderstanding triggers a violent response in Delhi. But blaming the restaurant or the owner is not the correct way to go about it. Mostly, the owner is not there to monitor the staff. There are CCTVs to monitor, but in certain situations when things go out of hand, then even CCTV can’t help.”
Multiple incidents like the one that happened in Gurgaon have taken place in the past. And they seem to be increasing in frequency, leaving the hospitality industry on edge. “The number of guests who are rowdy have increased, no doubt. It’s getting difficult to deal with aggressive guests. But, no matter how bad the incident is, we should never end up physically assaulting a customer. We deal with them by either calling the police or showing them the door in a polite manner,” says Sumit Goyal, owner of Gastronomica.
Peaceful resolution required
There are times when people go berserk for petty reasons, resulting in customers and the staff taking out their frustration on each other. “But it should never be allowed to escalate to the point of violence,” feels Goyal.
To counter such volatile situations, where guests go on a rampage, restaurants have been taking precautions. “From CCTVs, hiring verified and educated bouncers, to training the staff on how to resolve conflicts peacefully with guests, we do everything we can to avoid fights,” states Umang Tewari, owner of Junkyard Café and Junction. “But at times, things go out of control and no amount of preventive measures help. So, the hospitality industry is on edge because we are being blamed for the fiasco, rather than the individual who started it.”