Simple Color-Coded System Combats Jerk Customers Who Harass Restaurant Servers

As the restaurant industry begins to reckon with its own wave of harassment allegations, restaurants are seeking systematic ways to make the workplace safer for employees. This means addressing staff behavior toward each other, but also finding ways to protect servers from harassing customers. One California restaurant has found success with a simple, color-coded system. Could it be a model for others?

The San Francisco Chronicle reports Oakland's Homeroom restaurant designed a protocol that allows servers to report customers' bad behavior to managers with a simple "yellow, "orange," or "red" designation. Under this Management Alert Color System, yellow is for less severe incidents like a customer leering at an employee; orange might involve an unwanted sexual comment; red is for physical touching or strong intimidation.

New employees are trained in the system, which gives managers clear direction on how to handle each level of complaint. Responses vary from a manager taking over a table to, in extreme cases, asking a customer to leave. Homeroom managers tell The Chronicle "the system has virtually eliminated serious issues with harassment."

The crux of the system's success seems to stem from two of its major foundations: trusting the intuition of servers—their creep radar, essentially—and codifying responses so that managers don't have to guess at what the appropriate action is. Color-coding behavior as yellow, orange, or red helps eliminate uncertainty, which could improve the chances managers will act to combat the harassing customer. Read more about the Management Color Alert System as well as Homeroom's other efforts toward inclusion and safety at the San Francisco Chronicle.