Being a server in a restaurant is an incredibly stressful job.
It’s a job that requires being on your feet for hours, the likely possibility of dealing with unpleasant customers and making sure your tables are enjoying themselves.
But an often overlooked element of being a server is ensuring all dishes served meet the dietary restrictions of the customers.
While it seems easy enough to assume customers will read the menu and be aware of what they’re about to be served, it’s always a good idea for a server to ask their table if there are any dietary restrictions or allergies prior to placing their order.
Something a colleague of Redditor Rudy_Nowhere neglected to do, but which the original poster (OP) thankfully caught before the table ate any food.
But after being called “racist” for rectifying their colleague’s mistake, the OP took to the subReddit “Am I the. A**Hole (AITA), where they asked fellow Redditors:
“AITA: Coworker did not warn Muslim clients about pork in our recipe because she didn’t want to ‘racially profile’ them. The implication is that I’m a racist a**hole because I do give warnings.”
The OP recognized a table at their restaurant all practiced a religion with dietary requirements and wondered if they realized what they were ordering, as English didn’t appear to be their first language.
“I am a server.”
“A coworker had a table of 6 Muslim women, all in hijabs, all lovely women but not fluent in English.”
“One of the women ordered for the table and picked menu items made with pork, listed in the ingredients, but not obviously used in the item. E.g. a Western omelette and a Canadian benedict, with peameal and cheddar.”
“My coworker took the order.”
“The kitchen prepared it.”
“When we ran the food to the table, I set a couple of the plates down.”
“I took one look at the women and became a bit concerned for them.”
I asked them ‘did your server mention that these items have pork?'”
“They conferred, my question was translated, and the one woman said ‘I ordered but I didn’t know. These have pork?'”
“We had to return the food to the kitchen.”
“Not ‘had to’ had to, but they weren’t going to eat the meals and the server started over with the ordering process.”
When the OP confronted their colleague as to why they didn’t check with the customers before placing the order, they found themselves somewhat surprised by their response.
“Later, I asked my coworker why she didn’t give the women a heads-up.”
“Personally, this has happened frequently.”
“If someone isn’t fluent in English and doesn’t recognize the dozens of names we have for pork products, it’s easy for them to miss it.”
“When it’s obvious the guests are Muslims, and hijabs is an obvious clue, imho. I usually just come out and say ‘this has pork in the recipe; is that ok, or do you prefer for us to leave it out?'”
“Zero times has it been ‘ok’.”
“My coworker said she’d feel racist and like she was racially profiling her tables if she adopted my strategy.”
“I countered with ‘you could always say “are there any food allergies or restrictions?”’ but my coworker still felt that would be racist because she would only be asking that because of the hijab.”
“Honestly, I’m in customer service.”
“It is my job to read a table and calibrate my efforts to provide maximum enjoyment.”
“I honestly don’t think interpreting a hijab as a Muslim identifier and then advising Muslim customers about pork in our menu items is being racist.”
“I think it’s being aware, culturally sensitive, and professional/good at my job.”
“What thinkest thou?”
“Am I the a**hole?”
Fellow Redditors weighed in on where they believed the OP fell in this particular situation by declaring:
- NTA – Not the A**hole
- YTA – You’re the A**hole
- NAH – No A**holes Here
- ESH – Everybody Sucks Here
The Reddit community was in agreement that the OP was not the a**hole by double checking about their table’s dietary requirements.
Just about everyone agreed that the OP was doing their job, while their colleague was neglecting their duties.
“Because you hit the nail on the head.”
“Your coworker is perhaps well-intentioned, but it might benefit her to try to put herself in the customers’ shoes rather than, I don’t know, thinking of people as abstractions rather than people.”-Kufat
“As a Muslim, thank you!”
“Most Muslims would appreciate exactly what you are doing.”
“Your suggestions of asking if customers have dietary restrictions/allergies is perfect.”
“How is it any different than someone who can’t have gluten or has a peanut allergy.”- ch3ss3-cak3
“I have planned large corporate events and when we serve food, pork and beef are expressly excluded from the menu because we don’t need to offend Hindu, Jewish, Muslim and others who don’t eat those.”
“As well as ensuring that we don’t contaminate foods like salad or soups with cheese or gluten.”
“In a small setting where I can customize orders for attendees individually, your question about dietary restrictions is exactly how we handle it.”
“I ask that for my personal parties too.”
“Its not impolite to assume a Muslim woman wearing a hijab would like to be warned about pork in food.”
“I visited a burger place once that had a premium patty that was 25% bacon so the staff mentions that to everyone.”- wildferalfun
“NTA the only time I’ve gotten annoyed with someone doing what you described, warning me about food content, was when a cashier tried to stop me from buying something that obviously had meat in it.”
“Like I would have had to be blind to miss it and illiterate because it had ‘chicken’ on the label with visible meat chunks, because he assumed all brown people are vegetarian.”
“What you are suggesting is much more passive and lets them self report any restrictions or just decline.”
“I will say that I advise my parents to be careful with ordering vs telling the server proactively that they don’t eat pork for religious reasons because restaurants where they live have messed with their food in the past, added bacon to otherwise veggie dishes, so if your colleague is expecting guests to say that without prompting, well not all of us will.”- Nyankh
“Your coworker is acting the idiot here, you’re right to ask.”- College_advice12
“If she’s worried about profiling she could just start asking every table if there’s any food allergies or restrictions, which, frankly, would just be a good practice in general.”
“It’s not always obvious from a menu what the whole recipe is.”
“Like, I’m mildly allergic to nutmeg and sometimes it shows up in desserts where I wasn’t expecting it, including ‘vanilla’ ice cream at one restaurant.”
“It just makes my mouth & throat itchy so I cough a little, & my face & chest flush, and my tongue gets a little numb.”
“It’s not fatal or even that inconvenient!”
“But if it was a severe allergy, I’d have to ask before I order dessert, because it’s honestly surprising where it shows up, and it’s never explicitly listed on the menu!”
“Moreover, while I’m not Muslim so I can’t speak to their experience.”
“I do think wearing a hijab, or any religious head covering, is a pretty good indicator that someone might have a food restriction.”
“Muslim people, Jewish people, Sikh people, and probably a lot of other religions that I just don’t know about, all have specific head coverings and specific food restrictions, depending on how closely they adhere to the religion, but I think wearing the head covering is a decent indicator that they might adhere to the food restrictions too.”
“Like, if it’s a Friday during lent and I see someone wearing a cross or crucifix, and they’ve ordered something with meat in it that might not be obvious, I’d warn them that there’s meat in it, just in case they’re doing the no-meat-on-fridays thing that some Christian people do.”
“I wouldn’t say ‘hey I noticed your crucifix, you know there’s meat in this, right?’, Because I’m not gonna shame them into doing lent cause I don’t do it either, but a simple ‘I just want to let you know, this is made with [insert meat here], is that okay?’”- possiblethrowaway369
“Asking them this question is to serve them better, not to oppress them.”
“Its a relevant question, like you see a child, its not parent-ist/age-ist/size-ist, to offer a booster seat or ask if they would like the child’s menu or crayons and drawing paper, its better service.”-caw81
While one should avoid making assumptions about others based on their appearance, The OP’s assumption was clearly out of concern.
It’s hard not to feel that the OP was yelling at the OP because they were well aware that they made a mistake and the OP called them out on it.
And the OP’s colleague is lucky that this was just a dietary restriction, and not an allergy, otherwise, they would likely be looking for another job.