Zero Tolerance: Addressing Violence In Your Restaurant

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QUESTION From: Anonymous

“I could use some advice. Confidentially please. I’m dealing with something I’ve not yet ever dealt with before. Saw my male executive chef physically assault my female GM on camera this evening. They are best friends. She’s hasn’t said anything but saw it happen. So many things going through my head. 1. Of course we can’t have someone this violent in the building. 2. How do we get him out safely without issue and protect ourselves. 3. He’s a HUGE part of our business. Famous chef, best in the area. What impact it will have on our business and how will we recover or even prepare to recover. 4. How long can you wait to take action...Id feel immediately but there’s these answers I’m looking for. Ugh. I’m lost right now. Any help...it just happened 2hrs ago.....they’ve been very close for over 10 yrs and by her reaction I have to wonder if it’s not the first time.

I just want to handle the process safely and appropriately. I don’t want to look back and say “crap I wish I did that first”. “



HH ANSWER:

Call the police.

That person committed a crime in your place of business which (AS YOUR PRIVATE PROPERTY) puts you, your staff, your guests and possibly even your Lease (if you have one) in jeopardy.

Gone unchecked, violence usually escalates (and I’d bet this isn’t an isolated incident and that there have been other episodes and/or issues).

Either you have a zero tolerance policy regarding violence in the workplace or you condone it.

You should never want or tolerate a culture of drama and/or violence like this so, in most cases, I would immediately suspend both parties pending an investigation, and ultimately I may very well term all parties involved.

A fellow moderator in an online hospitality group Ryan Ransom says: “When it comes to [drama like this] we just have so much to already worry about, I just don't have time to play with drama. I cut fast and hard and send a message: ‘this is not the place for your personal drama.”.

Either way, all of the other details are only distractions from the real issue at hand: someone was just attacked and you need to get that person out of the building while not risking injury to yourself or anyone else.

At this very moment, nothing else matters.

Inaction is not an option. I can think of a million reasons why who he is and his relationship with the victim doesn’t matter i.e., not doing anything because someone is famous or important to your revenue stream is the same thing as telling every single member of your staff, every guest and everyone in the community that you care more about money than the safety of other individuals - especially the ones who work for you and the ones that support your business.

Not saying that this is what you’re contemplating or doing – just highlighting the importance of swift yet prudent action for anyone else who might read this particular column.

For those who are (justifiably) concerned about retaliation: Trust me when I tell you that it’ll be far worse if you do nothing. Incredible chef or not. One man or woman can’t run an entire back of house and quite honestly… If I was a dishwasher, prep or line cook or serving in any other position (FOH or BOH) in that restaurant and I saw... or even suspected this happened without repercussions I would probably walk out on you.

These are the kind of moments that let your staff and your community know what you’re made of. It’s an opportunity to draw a deep and lasting line in the sand - and if you don’t have a policy in place already I’d draft one tonight and be sure to have every single member of staff sign it tomorrow.

The best employees are ones who will add to a positive culture and if you have that positive culture it won’t be too difficult to bring more ppl on board ... you might even be surprised to see how many people stand up and pitchin to fill a hole created by you doing the right thing to make sure they are safe at work.

“Safety First”

Speaking of safety, be sure to document everything. If you don’t have an Incident Report Form on file- make one now. Be sure to include the following information:

Date
Time of Incident
Location of Incident
Slip?
Fall?
Slip & Fall?
Broken Glass?
Chemical Spill/Spray?
Fire?
Foreign Object In Food?
Allergic Reaction?
Medical Emergency / Condition?
Intoxicated?
Animal Involved?
Violent Act?
Crime Committed?
Visible Injury?
If Fall, from what height?
Name of Person Filing Report
Name(s) of Party(ies) Involved
Contact Info of Party(ies) Involved
Summary of Incident
Summary of Response
Precautions taken to prevent:
Name(s) of Witnesses
Contact Info of Witnesses
Video Footage?
Video Footage Downloaded?
Policy or Procedure Violated
Emergency Response?
911 contacted?
Response Time:
Was Person Taken To Hospital
If so, by whom:
Direct Superior Contacted?
Method and Time of Contact:
If Guest(s), Attach Guest Check(s)
Insurance Provider
Insurance Provider Email / Phone / Fax


Your worries and concerns are legitimate… It’s normal to worry about money, staffing and how you’re going to open up shop tomorrow. I know it’s not easy but the right thing to do isn’t always the easy thing to do.

And the fact that you reached out to me and/or anyone else tells me you really want to do the right thing. I honestly believe that when you do the right thing, you’ll have more support and sleep better at night then if you didn’t.

Pressing charges would be up to the person who is the victim of the crime not you. That being said, I would call the police, ask that they be discrete and let them know that you have to suspend or terminate someone on the spot and fear for your safety (due to the fact that they just assaulted and battered another female member of staff). I wouldn’t want to have that conversation alone - and considering he just acted out in violence against another woman, the fact that you are a woman only reinforces that in my mind.

Download any security footage that captured the incident and get locks changed tonight as well as any alarm codes of course.

Social media is going to be a pain in the ass as well. If you share access - change the login & passwords now.

I would also contact my insurance company to see if they need any sort of incident report filed/on – hand.

As far as the rest of the staff goes: I’m sure there were witnesses but regardless; I would consider anyone’s behavior/misbehavior including any corrective actions taken (up to and including termination) as a personal matter and try to deflect as much as possible. If anyone presses, take the high road and let them know that you don’t air anyone’s dirty laundry and would respect their privacy as well.
They’ll prob put 2 and 2 together though.

Sorry you have to deal with this - I know most of us in the industry are no stranger to violence and/or addiction in the workplace and I know, 1st hand, that it’s beyond a tough spot to be in. My own worst experience ever was a similar one. Wishing you the best.

The line can be a hot, stressful and nasty place at times - add to that the fact that the restaurant and entertainment industries have glorified “bad ass” / “misfit” behavior for years... but there’s a huge delta between overconfidence, insensitivity and attitude tinged with recreational drug use and assault & battery and/or serious addiction.

I took it upon myself to handle an out of control employee at one restaurant years ago and it got ugly. I swore then and there that I would NEVER put myself, my staff or my guests in that kind of danger ever again. It was scary and made me realize that terming someone, calling the police and/or sending them to rehab offered them a hell of a lot more help than I could ever give them.

Sometimes it’s impossible to even imagine being so much better off but giant leaps forward never occur when it’s business as usual / status quo.

Look around at the team you created and evaluate how many have grown and stepped up when short-staffed due to a rush or big event or someone out sick and then finish the week off like he’s on vacation. Then next week hit the “reset button”.

Spent time catching your lead line or sous up on: scheduling, budgeting, inventory, ordering guides, contacts, etc... and give them two weeks to show you what they’ve got. It’s always better to promote from within if possible.

You may be able to work everyone up through the ranks and higher another body or two for prep. This would actually be the silver lining. Just make sure everyone knows you have their back, you appreciate them having yours and that the number one priority is being better today than you were yesterday.

Onward & Upward!
Josh