There's no middle ground, really. When a restaurant's policies are described as "going viral," it's either because they're being praised for doing something wonderful—like the Montreal spot that gives free meals to anyone who needs them—or because they're being criticized for their poor or absurd behavior.
Saigon Bistro has found itself on that side of the internet's spectrum, all because of a bizarre now-mandatory contract that it wants its employees to sign.
On December 31, a Reddit user with the clever name 00generic posted a picture of the contract under the heading "My cousin's job just asked her to sign this and fired an employee who refused." The contract, which begins with an enthusiastic, bold-typed "Agreements!," lists four infractions that employees could be fined for: using a cell phone during work hours, failing to get "side work" checked by a co-worker, failing to say hello or goodbye to a customer, and, weirdly, giving a straw to male customers. The fines range from a quarter (for a first-time Straw Offender) to $20 for repeated side work infractions.
This has not gone over well with armchair wait-staffers, forcing Saigon Bistro owner Kim Huynh to defend herself, and her contract. She told The Ledger that she had been away from the restaurant for the past year to spend time with her son, who has terminal brain cancer. When she wasn't in-house, she saw that her employees' standards were slipping and wrote the contract in an effort to curb those behaviors, including forgetting to say "Hi" or giving plastic straws away to everyone, like they were, um, plastic straws or something.
Although one employee, Kristina Russell, refused to sign the contract—and was either fired or quit, depending on who you ask—the other Saigon staff members didn't have a problem with it. (Russell is considering legal action against Huynh and the restaurant, the Ledger reports).
"There are rules here, just like at any other job," Abigail Seitz, a member of the Saigon waitstaff, told MUNCHIES. "[Huynh] got to this point because she wasn't at the restaurant a lot, the girls weren't following the rules and they weren't doing what she expected. I understood that. She has every right to do that."
Seitz said that those same rules had been in place since she started working at the restaurant five years ago; the only difference is that now they're written on paper. No one has been fined yet, but even if they were, she thinks Huynh would end up spending the cash on ice cream or other treats for the staff.
"The way she treats employees is like a family," she said. "She does so much for them. If they're short with money, she would pay your rent out of her pocket." Seitz was also quick to praise Huynh's charity and her willingness to frequently cook meals for the homeless.
But what about that straw thing? "That I really don't understand," she said. "I like to use a straw. I don't want to use somebody else's glass."