Naperville Business Lawyer Discusses the Customers Who Pitched in to Help at Waffle House
If you own a business, you probably spend long hours and untold amounts of stress to keep your business profitable. While making money is important, however, it might not be your primary motivation. Many—if not most—business owners are driven by their desire to serve their customers and to keep their clients coming back year after year.
With that said, it is common for customers to express their gratitude or satisfaction by continuing to do business with a particular company or, depending on the nature of the business, leaving a large tip or a favorable review. It is decidedly less common for customers to show their appreciation by standing up and helping the business when a difficult situation arises. However, that is exactly what happened at a Waffle House restaurant in Alabama earlier this month.
Miscommunication Leads to Understaffing
Late on a November Saturday night, a worker named Ben found himself all alone to run the night shift at the Waffle House in Birmingham, AL. At least two other employees had been scheduled to work with him, but they never showed up, leaving Ben on his own to face the late-night rush of customers—many of whom had been drinking.
One particular customer walked in to find about two dozen people in the restaurant, along with a harried but dedicated employee doing his best to keep the place running. The new customer also saw another man washing dishes, but he did not appear to be an employee. The new customer asked Ben what was going on, and Ben said the man was a paying customer who had finished his meal, then asked for an apron and went to work on the dishes.
As the new patron patiently waited for Ben to prepare his food, he saw another customer—this time a woman in a party dress and heels—stand up and start making coffee. She also served a few orders and bussed a few tables. When she came to the new customer’s table, she said that she had been out with friends. A third customer stood up to help as well. Everyone seemed to be happy, despite the unusual situation. The new patron was so surprised about what he was seeing that took a few pictures and shared them with various news outlets.
Waffle House Issues Response
When the news of the story spread, officials for Waffle House issued a statement thanking the customers. Pat Warner, the director of public relations for the chain, told news outlets that staffing problem was due to miscommunication. He also said that the company appreciated the customers’ help but recognized that it was not an ideal situation. “Our concept works best when we serve the customer, not the other way around,” he said.
While Warner did not expressly say it, there are many potential issues that could arise from customers standing up to help, and most of them are related to liability. Employees—even quick-service restaurant employees—are trained to do their jobs in a certain way. Despite the good intentions of customers willing to help, doing things in a different way could create unforeseen dangers. There is also the possibility of injury. For example, the man doing dishes could have cut himself on a broken plate, leaving the company potentially liable for his injuries. Workers’ compensation laws protect employees and employers, while customer volunteers have no such protections.
Contact a DuPage County Business Lawyer
At the Gierach Law Firm, our experienced Naperville business law attorneys handle a full range of business, corporate, and employment matters, including highly unusual or strange situations. If you are dealing with such a concern, contact our office today by calling 630-756-1160. We will provide the guidance you need.