scenic coffee markham

Restaurant owner speaks out about staff being verbally abused by customers

Sadly, it's no secret that restaurant staff everywhere get their fair share of verbal abuse from customers, but now one Markham restaurant owner is speaking out about how he's had enough.

The owner of Scenic Coffee, a brunch restaurant, wrote an open letter on Instagram over the weekend beginning "A little rant/story time" addressing some concerns he's been mulling over since reopening after the lifting of restrictions.

"My team and I have been met by so much verbal abuse, and unkind attitude and criticism both in person and online," Scenic owner Leo Wong wrote.

"Some of those words and interactions keep me up at night. I think people forget that behind every plate, every cup, every interaction, there's just people trying to make a living wage and they are just doing their best."

He continued to say that it's heartbreaking for him to see his staff's hard work go unappreciated, because they're making his own personal dreams come true by showing up for work and enduring abuse each day.

"I opened Scenic in 2019 with less than $1,000 in my savings account. I had moved back from Tokyo for the sole reason of opening my own place," reads the post.

"When I opened Scenic, my number one goal was to pay my team a liveable wage, and its been a goal that I'm still chasing three and a half years later."

Wong tells blogTO that the issue with abuse from customers towards staff has definitely gotten much worse since lockdowns lifted, with more incidents than they can actually recall.

"We've had an incident in the past where a mother claimed discrimination because they had not made a reservation, a one-star review because we had moved an umbrella, sexist/misogynistic behaviour against our female staff," Wong tells blogTO.

He was inspired to make the post after receiving a particularly lengthy two-star review.

"The review was written with utter distain but also showed they had no knowledge of our food and were disinterested in learning about our concept," says Wong.

Wong followed up with his staff about it and they recalled the customer being particularly rude, which made him realize that Scenic wasn't the problem (as was so often the case).

"People who are not in the restaurant industry don't realize that their interactions in the restaurant can cause a stress to the people working, and their online criticisms after can affect their livelihood. With food inflation, staff shortages, Toronto rent, and the industry being broken as a whole...for small independent ma and pa shops, the profit margin is razor thin," says Wong.

"Trying to be an ethical business owner by paying my staff a liveable wage, sourcing from local small producers, working with other local smaller businesses is more difficult than ever, but that is a struggle that your average restaurant goer will never know or care to consider."

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