James Corden’s Balthazar ban shows that it’s OK to 86 the “customer is always right” mindset

In less than 24 hours, James Corden has been unbanned from Balthazar, the swanky Michelen-starred restaurant based in New York City, after he “apologized profusely” to the restaurant’s owner, Keith McNally.

On Tuesday, McNally took to Instagram to post a blurry photo of the comedian alongside a lengthy caption explaining the apology and his own sudden change of heart:

“James Corden just called me and apologized profusely. Having f**ked up myself more than most people, I strongly believe in second chances,” wrote McNally, who once came under fire for his posts on Ghislaine Maxwell following the convicted sex offender’s arrest. “So if James Corden lets me host his ‘Late Late Show’ for nine months, I’ll immediately rescind his ban from Balthazar. No, of course not. But….anyone magnanimous enough to apologize to a deadbeat layabout like me (and my staff) doesn’t deserve to be banned from anywhere. Especially Balthazar. So Come Back to the 5 & Dime, Jimmy Corden, Jimmy Corden. All is Forgiven.”

Just hours prior to the post, McNally publicly slammed Corden, specifically criticizing his brash behavior towards Balthazar’s staff and thus, banning him from the restaurant. In an equally lengthy caption, McNally wrote, “James Corden is a hugely gifted comedian, but a tiny cretin of a man. And the most abusive customer to my Balthazar servers since the restaurant opened 25 years ago.”

“I don’t often 86 a customer, [today] I 86’d Corden,” he continued. “It did not make me laugh.”

McNally then described two instances of Corden’s nasty behavior. The first took place in June and involved Corden berating the restaurant’s manager after he found a hair in his main course. The second took place more recently, on Oct. 9, and concerned a mixup with his wife’s order of an “egg yolk omelette.” The omelette allegedly contained “a bit of egg white mixed with the egg yolk” and was sent back to the kitchen to be remade. Once ready, however, the omelette was served alongside home fries instead of the salad that Corden’s wife had originally asked for. 

“That’s when James Corden began yelling like crazy to the server: ‘You can’t do your job! You can’t do your job! Maybe I should go into the kitchen and cook the omelette myself!'” McNally said.

The latest hoopla succeeds an ongoing — and honestly long overdue — trend of prominent restaurants banishing high-profile customers due to poor behavior, disorderly conduct or other conflicts of interest.

Many of these bans have been leveled at politicians. In June 2018, Former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was kicked out of Lexington, Virginia’s Red Hen restaurant because the owner said that “many members of her LGBT staff were uncomfortable serving Sanders.” Almost a year after the incident, Red Hen’s owner, Stephanie Wilkinson, disclosed that the decision was ultimately for the best as it helped boost the restaurant’s business.

“When we opened after a 10-day hiatus, our dining room was full. In the following weeks, people who had never been to the Shenandoah Valley traveled out of their way to eat with us,” Wilkinson wrote in an editorial for the Washington Post. “Hundreds of orders for our Red Hen spice blend poured in. And the love spread far beyond our door, as supporters sent thousands of dollars in donations in our honor to our local food pantry, our domestic violence shelter and first responders.”

“After nearly a year, I’m happy to say that business is still good,” she said. “Better than good, actually. And besides the boost to our area charities, our town’s hospitality and sales revenue have gone up, too.”

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Within Hollywood, other celebrities who have been 86’d include Ruby Rose (who was asked to leave Rebellion Bar and Urban Kitchen in New Orleans per the owner’s request), Stewart Rahr (who was banned from Nobu for life) and Jamie Kennedy (who was asked to leave The Yard House).

The mindset that “the customer is always right” has long held precedence within the food service industry and stressed the importance of customer satisfaction over worker safety and well-being. In an era of self-righteous a**holes, from sanctimonious celebrities to anti-maskers and retail Karens, de-escalation training has arisen as a necessary tool amongst staff to “better equip them for more civil interactions with customers,” as Salon’s Ashlie D. Stevens wrote

But recent instances, namely the Corden disaster, prove that it’s time to abandon the mindset, especially when abusive and rowdy customers gain an unfair advantage. Simply put, some customers are nasty and in the wrong. Their bad behavior should not be excused or forgiven — it should just be penalized.

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