December 4, 2023

Sethlui

Professional waiter experts

Life as a waiter at Karen’s Diner Sheffield, where you’re paid to shout, swear and scream at customers

People, at times, can be awful. It is a truth everyone learns at some point, and sooner rather than later if you work in a customer-facing environment.

In recent years, a slang word has even been coined to describe this truly-terrible type of person. And you risk being called a ‘Karen’ if your behaviour makes everyone around you want to pull their hair out.

But at a new Sheffield restaurant, Karen-like behaviour is encouraged. What’s more, you will find the staff joining in.

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Karen’s Diner in Suffolk Road gives hospitality staff their chance for revenge, since they are allowed to shout, swear and scream at customers.

In the short time since its opening, the restaurant has quickly developed a reputation for its staff’s biting words. Eager to find out more, Yorkshire Live sat down with a waiter at the establishment, which promises great food but terrible service on every visit.

Dale Raven, who is Yorkshire born and bred, was delighted to have snagged what many people have described as a dream job; although, I couldn’t have told by looking at him on my trip to the diner.

With a sullen face and large frown, Dale never wavered but kept up his performance as a disinterested waiter the whole time I was sat with him. Keeping in character, he told me: ” We’re not your mum, we’re not your dad, we’re not going to look after you. Don’t be so easily offended, don’t be a snowflake, it kind of comes with the territory.”

When quizzed on how he finds his unusual job, he said: ” We like taking the mick out of you.” Dale added: “I’ve worked in the hospitality trade for ten years. I’ve put up with all manner of your stuff for years; this is my time to give it back to you.”

And the team certainly knows how to give it. During our conversation, another waiter took over the microphone to draw the restaurant’s attention to a diner’s birthday. A young girl, who looked to be no older than ten (under 16s are welcome with an accompanying adult), had chosen to visit to mark her special day.

This news prompted a group singalong for the child, which sounded sweet at first, until the staff joined in, loudly shouting “F*ck you.” Fortunately, the birthday girl found it hilarious – Dale told me in an aside that waiters check with parents before interacting with kids, though he added they won’t tone down their behaviour when interreacting with other guests.

But the staff’s behaviour isn’t always so warmly welcomed. He said it is usually people “who spend far too much time in the gym” or those who try to “act like gangsters” who end up with ruffled feathers. Sometimes he also sees groups fail to tell the whole party what to expect, before sitting back to watch the reactions of their friends who don’t know the staff are supposed to be rude.

So how does he decide how to annoy customers? As well as a series of gags, like the wheel of misfortune (think truth or dare, except you will be mocked), and the birthday song, the waiters get to personalise their approach.

“I will cater my insults to whatever I see that walks through the door,” said Dale. For me, it was my double denim ensemble (I guess Karen’s doesn’t like fashion), and for the table behind me, it was their large Instagram following (I guess Karen’s doesn’t like influencers, either).

Despite promising not to “sugar-coat” anything, some things are off the table. “I’m not going to insult your weight or anything like that because that is taking it too far,” he assured me.

Equally, guests are expected to behave the same. While you are welcome to join in with the fun, and many people find it cathartic, according to Dale, the point is not to be mean-spirited.

Thankfully, so far the interactive experience has gone down a treat. But if you do visit and don’t like the service, you definitely should not ask to see a manager. ” You’ve come here for terrible service, don’t be surprised when you get it,” he jokingly warned.

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