Row over ‘no gravy customer’ led to unfair dismissal of chef

Workplace Relations Commission orders hotel to pay €31,200 to chef

A row over a “no gravy customer” at a family-run hotel contributed to the dismissal of a chef at the hotel.

The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) has ordered that the hotel pay €31,200 to the chef after finding that she was unfairly dismissed.

One of the flash-points between the chef and members of the family that operated the hotel concerned a customer being repeatedly served his dinner with gravy, despite always asking for it without gravy.

A family member, Mr B, had ordered the dish for the customer and had specified “no gravy”, a point which had been overlooked by the kitchen.


Mr B asked that “somebody please” – either chef on duty – speak with the customer, who was a hotel handyman, and apologise for “four weeks of mistakes”.

According to the hotel, the chef – who was unfairly dismissed – advised the customer in a barbed fashion that “we always put gravy on it” and returned to the kitchen. Neither an apology, nor an acknowledgement of error, was offered to the customer.

The hotel states that at the end of her shift on September 10th last, the chef visited a manager’s office where she “unleashed a verbal tirade of abuse” concerning the gravy incident.

According to the hotel’s version of events, the chef declared she had no intention of apologising to the “no gravy customer” and treated the request as a personal insult to be asked to apologise to someone she appeared to consider “inferior”.

The hotel was closed temporarily for a few days in September 2016 by the Food and Safety Authority (FSA) on foot of a closure order and the chef said she got the impression that the owners were blaming her for the closure in circumstances where she had insufficient assistance to run the kitchen.

The complainant’s case also included a flash-point where a male director of the hotel firm spoke to her in an aggressive manner in front of witnesses, embarrassing her in January 2015.

The chef said a number of family members were involved in the running of the hotel and this caused difficulties as there was no one person in charge.

On October 11th, 2016, the chef wrote a letter of resignation and stated that at no stage did her manager try to reassure her that she would receive the necessary support or management structure to assist her work in the kitchen.

The chef subsequently sued for unfair dismissal.

WRC Adjudication Officer, Shay Henry stated that “it is clear that the management style of the hotel impacted negatively on the complainant regarding her capability to carry out her functions and contributed to her stress on an ongoing basis”.

Mr Henry found that the chef was unfair dismissed and awarded her €31,200 – one year’s salary – in compensation.

Gordon Deegan

Gordon Deegan

Gordon Deegan is a contributor to The Irish Times