Incidents – Accidents


The procedure

We have already mentioned that the social skills of the food and beverage service team are most important in their dealings with the guest, that is customer contact. It is the way each and every member of the team copes with the day to day incidents which may arise and for which there is really no stereotyped answer, each incident being settled in a way best suited to the situation. The staff, if they are carrying out their job correctly, are there to and meet satisfy the demands of the customer. When an unforeseen incident arises it must be coped with promptly and efficiently without causing any more disturbance than is necessary to any of the other guests. Quick action will very often soothe the irate customer and ensure a return visit to your establishment. It is worth remembering at this stage that in case of complain, whatever their nature, they should be referred immediately to the head waiter or someone in a responsible position. Delay can only cause confusion and very often the wrong interpretation may be put on a situation if left to be dealt with later. In the case of accidents, whether of a minor nature or serious, a report of the incident must be kept and signed by those involved.

Listed below are a few of those incidents which might occur and the suggested steps that should be taken in order to put right any fault.

It is possible that during the service of a course a few drops of sauce or roast gravy may have fallen on the tablecloth

  • Check immediately that none has fallen on the guest being served. Apologise to the guest.
  • If some has fallen on the guest’s clothing allow the guest to rub over the dirtied area with a clean damp cloth. This will remove the worst of the spillage.
  • If it is necessary for the guest to retire to the cloakroom to remove the spillage then the meal should be placed in the hotplate until his or her return.
  • Depending on the nature of the spillage the establishment may offer to have the garment concerned cleaned.
  • If the spillage has gone on the tablecloth then the waiter/ress should first of all remove any items of equipment that may be dirtied or in the way.
  • Then he or she will mop or scrape up the spillage with either a clean damp cloth or a knife.
  • An old menu card will then be placed on top of the table but under the tablecloth over the damaged area.
  • A second menu will be placed on the tablecloth over the damaged area.
  • A clean rolled serviette is then brought to the table and rolled completely over the damaged area. The menu will prevent any damp from soaking into the clean serviette.
  • Any items of equipment removed should be returned to their correct position on the table top.
  • Any meals taken to the hotplate should be returned and fresh covers put down where necessary.
  • Again apologise to guests for any inconvenience caused

A glass of water knocked over accidentally by a guest

  • Ensure none has gone on the guest.
  • If some of the water has fallen on the guest’s clothing then follow A 2 and 3.
  • Where possible, as this form of accident usually involves changing the tablecloth, the party of guests should be seated at another tale and allowed to continue their meal without delay.
  • If they cannot be moved to another table then they should be seated slightly back from the table so that the waiter/ress can carry out the necessary procedure to rectify the fault speedily and efficiently.
  • The guests’ meals should be placed in the hotplate to keep warm.
  • All dirty items should be removed on a tray to the waiters’ sideboard ready to go to the wash-up area.
  • All clean items should be removed and kept on the waiters’ sideboard for relaying.
  • The table cloth should be moped with a clean absorbent cloth to remove as much of the liquid as is possible.
  • A number of cold menus should be placed on the table top underneath the tablecloth.
  • A clean tablecloth of the correct size should be brought to the table. It will be opened out and held in the correct manner as if one were laying a tablecloth during the pre-service preparation period. The table will then be clothed up in the usual manner except that when the clean cloth is being drawn across the table towards the waiter he is at the same time taking off the soiled tablecloth. The soiled tablecloth is removed at the same tie as the clean tablecloth is being laid so that none of the tabletop can be seen by the guest at any time. The old menus will prevent any dampness penetrating to the clean tablecloth.
  • When the table has its clean tablecloth on then it must be relayed as quickly as possible.
  • The guest re-seated at the table and the meals returned to them from the hotplate.

A guest suggests that the fish dish served is “off”.

  • Apologise to guest
  • Remove dish to sideboard to be returned to aboyeur at hotplate.
    Offer the menu to guest and ask if he or she would like another portion of the same dish or choose something else as an alternative.
  • Write out a special check for the new order. This shows the dish being returned and what the guest is having instead.
  • Lay fresh cover
  • Collect the new dish as soon as possible from the hotplate.
  • Serve to guest
  • Apologise for any inconvenience caused
  • The waiter/ress must ensure that the aboyeur receives the dish being returned and checks it immediately, because it may mean that the particular dish concerned has to be taken of the menu to prevent the chance of any food poisoning.
  • The policy of the establishment would dictate whether or not the guest is to be charged for the alternative dish

A waiter/ress finds a wallet under a chair, recently vacated by one of
the clients

  • Check immediately whether the guest has left the service area. If he/she is still in the area the wallet may be returned to him/her.
  • If he/she has left the service area the waiter/ress should hand the wallet to the head waiter or supervisor in charge.
  • The supervisor or head waiter can check with reception and hall-porter to see if the guest has left the building.
  • If the guest concerned was a resident, then reception may ring his/her room, stating the wallet has been found and can be collected at a convenient time.
  • If the guest was a regular customer then it is possible that the waiter or head porter may know where to contact him/her to call for the wallet.
  • If the guest is a regular customer but cannot be contacted then the wallet will be kept in the lost property office until the customer’s next visit.
  • If the owner has not been found or contacted immediately then the head waiter or supervisor must list the items contained in the wallet with the waiter/ress who found the wallet. This list will be signed by both the head waiter or supervisor and the finder (waiter/ress). The list must be dated and also show where the article was found, and the time.
  • A copy of this list goes with the wallet to the Lost Property Office where the contents of the wallet are checked against the list before accepting it. The details of the find are then entered in a Lost Property Register.
  • Another copy of the list goes to the hall porter in case any inquiries are received concerning a wallet. Anyone claiming Lost Property Office.
  • Before the Lost Property Office hand over any lost property they should ask for a description of the article concerned and is contents to ensure as far as possible that it is being returned to the genuine owner. The Office should also see proof of identity of the person claiming ownership.
  • In the case of lost property the above mentioned steps should be carried out as quickly as possible as this is the best interests of the establishment ad causes the guest minimum inconvenience. On receipt of lost property the guest should be asked to sign for the article concerned, also giving his or her address.
  • Any lost property unclaimed after a specific amount of time may become the property of the finder who would claim it through the head waiter or supervisor.

A guest following falls ill in your establishment.

  • As soon as it is noticed that a guest is feeling unwell while in your dining room or restaurant a person in authority should be immediately called to the spot.
  • The person in authority must enquire if the guest needs assistance. At the same time he/she must try to judge whether the illness is of a serious nature or not.
  • It is often advisable in cases such as this to take the guest to another room to see if they are able to recover in a few minutes.
  • If this happens their meal will be placed in the hotplate until their return.
  • If the illness appears to be of a serious nature, a doctor, nurse or someone qualified in fist-aid should be immediately called for.
  • The guest should be moved until after a doctor has examined the guest
  • If necessary screen off the area.
  • Although this a difficult situation to deal with in front of the general public the minimum fuss should be made, and service to the rest of the guests carried on normally.
  • It will be realised now why it is best, if at all possible, to have the guest who has fallen ill immediately moved to another room where he or she may rest out to the heat of the eating area. This causes minimum fuss in the restaurant or dining room itself.
  • The doctor should advise whether an ambulance should be called.
  • If the guest falling ill is a woman then a female member of staff should attend her.
  • The guest may have had a sudden stomach upset and wish to leave without finishing their meal. Then a taxi should be called to take the guest home.
  • It would be left to the good judgement of the staff concerned whether the guest should be accompanied or not.
  • Payment for that part of the meal consumed, and the taxi fare would be according to the policy of the establishment.
  • It is most important that for all accidents, minor or serious that all details should be recorded in an accident book. This is in case of a claim against the establishment at a later date.
  • If after a short period of time the guest returns and continues with their meal, then a fresh cover will be laid and the meal returned from the hotplate.

If a guest is suspected of having too much to drink the following steps
should be taken

  • If a prospective client asks for a table and the staff believe the client is possibly under the influence of drin they may refuse a table, even though there may be one available.
  • It is not always possible however, to recognise a guest who may prove objectionable later on.
  • If difficulty is found in handling this type of person the assistance in removing the person from the eating area may come from the members of staff or the hall porter.
  • If a guest is suspected of being drunk this must first of all be ascertained by the head waiter or supervisor.
  • The guest will then be asked to leave rather than let them become objectionable to other guests later on.
  • If the guest has already consumed part of the meal but is not being objectionable then the remainder of the meal will be served in the normal fashion, but the head waiter or supervisor must ensure no more alcoholic beverage is offered.
  • On finishing the guest will leave and should be watched until he or she has left the premises.
  • It is always advisable to make out a report of all such incidents, and they should be brought to the immediate attention of the restaurant manager in case of any claim at a later date concerning a particular incident.

A customer’s appearance in not satisfactory

  • If a guest’s appearance is likely to give offence to others then they may be asked to leave the establishment.
  • If a guest’s braces are showing, or he has no coat or tie on, then he will be requested by the head waiter or supervisor that he correct is dress as appropriate.
  • He may go to the cloakroom with the request then he should be asked to leave. If he has partly consumed a meal then whether he will be charged or not depends on the policy of the house and the discretion of the head waiter and supervisor.
  • A report of this incident must be made and signed by the people concerned.

It is advisable…

… that when any incident occurs a report is made out immediately. The basic information that should be found in the report is as following:

1 Place
2 Date
3 Time
4 Nature of incident
5 Individual reports from those concerned and signed
6 Action taken
7 Name, address and phone number of the guest involved, and also of the staff involved


All reports will be kept in case similar incidents occur at a later date.