October 26

Industry Horror Stories, On the Clock


Poached Industry Workers share their most horrifying shift stories, more wild than your worst work nightmare.

It’s the spookiest time of the year, and there’s nothing more terrifying than work nightmares that literally wake you up in pools of sweat and stress — except for when it’s not a dream, and the nightmare is your reality. We asked our community of hospitality professionals to share their truest and most horrific shift experiences. Here are some of our favorites.

“I was working at a pizzeria here in Portland, OR. I walk into work and was told that our newest owner had walked just that morning. Wow. Then, both my 2nd bartender and pizza cook called out that morning. Let me walk you through the next 4.5 hours of my shift (and it was an 8-hour shift). They had someone coming in to fill in for BOH and he immediately cut himself. Hour One: A customer had to be escorted out because he popped some pills at the bar and I refused service to him. Hour Two: We are a full house and It’s just me working. Hour Three: One of the owners comes in to help. Hour Four: There are children running around and one dumps cheese EVERYWHERE and then my co-worker says we are about to run out of pizza dough. 10 minutes later: We run out of pizza dough. We have to then close 4 hours early because we could not meet the minimum requirement of menu items without dough. And I still managed to walk out with $200 in tips. 🤘”

“It was a standard Friday evening for us in an all open kitchen, when my buddy walks in late (15 min. Into service) and hungover (big surprise there) he hops on his station without a care in the world. Sure enough, we get busy, mind you, it’s an open kitchen and we’re not allowed to swear. My buddy starts cooking, next thing you know, he set his apron on fire! So being the good friend that I am I say, “You’re on fire bud!” He smiles and continues on, not until I come back around with a fire extinguisher does he realize he’s literally on fire!”

“The absolute very 1st shift out of training behind my first bar. There’s a double date finished with dinner, and moving on to more drinks. One of the ladies asks me to make a round of shots. I make’m. She tells me that those are the worst shots she’s ever had…that’s fair. 30 minutes later, they pull me over and the girl asks me how old she looks. I tell her bc she she said my shots sucked, she looks about 45(she was not close to it). She tells me she must look pretty good if she’s 45. I hold up a bottle of Jameson and say “Maybe after a few of these.” I turn to walk and bask in the “oooh’s” of her friends but when I turn to face her again, she flicks her cigarette 10 ft. across the bar and right into my mouth. Cherry first.”

“That time I worked at a distillery in downtown Denver and an FBI agent did a backflip on the dance floor. Unbeknown to us, he had his gun on him! The firearm falls out of his pants onto the ground and discharges a round into another patron’s leg. That was fun…”

“Some time ago St. Paddy’s Day in a Seafood Restaurant we were so busy and packed. Someone stole a lobster out of the tank and returned it, but not before painting it green and dressing him up like an undersea leprechaun. Not condoning painting animals, but it was a wild day and that was one of the craziest highlights.”

“So, 6 months into a new job, this one Friday night at an unnamed restaurant I was the night manager at, I had my host deliver her premature baby in the bathroom. If it wasn’t for a nurse that happened to fly in from Florida to happen and stop in our restaurant and go in the bathroom right behind her to use the restroom the baby wouldn’t have been saved, as it had its umbilical cord wrapped around his neck and body. It was a full restaurant at 10 PM on a Friday Night. Thankfully for my GM was there to help in the bathroom while I maintained the restaurant. Until the paramedics arrived nobody other than by the restroom noticed. The baby was happy, healthy, and adorable! That was crazier than the fire 3 months before that we had to evacuate the restaurant at 4 AM after a 14-hour shift turned into a 16-hour shift. Grease fire from the exhaust of the deep fryer. Watching cooks throw salt at it and smack it with towels as it crawled up the wall was terrifying! Everyone got out safe and with the support of the community it reopened within 3 days. Craziest time of my life!”

“was working at a coffee shop and we were open on Halloween…2 guys came in, one dressed as a hot dog and one dressed as a baby (diaper) and they went into the bathroom and did the deed! 😳😳😂 it was yikes”

“Working at a very high-end hotel here in Austin (got the job through Poached!) we would have a high profile client come in at least once a week. She was always extremely awful to everyone in the hotel. One day she came in and asked me to sit at her table with her in the hotel restaurant. It was very awkward as I was still working and trying to be polite. She finished her meal and stood up to leave and as she walked out the door her adult diaper fell through her pant legs and all I could do was stare at in horror as she walked out of the restaurant. Sunday brunch, packed house… and we went into immediate panic because we didn’t want anyone to see the diaper in the middle of the dining room. The head of housekeeping rushed in with a broom and bucket to sweep it into very diligently. It was like Mission Impossible… too crazy! 😂”

“When I was a manager at Dairy Queen, we had a drive-by paintball shooting on Halloween, windows covered in orange and pink paint!!”

“Got picked up by an older woman who was dining solo at a lunch only Italian restaurant in Seattle. We met up that night she turned out to be a professional dominatrix on a ‘work trip.’”


About the author

Poached is the nation's leading hospitality employment platform helping a network of over 1M hospitality professionals and 70K businesses connect over meaningful employment opportunities.

About the author

Poached is the nation's leading hospitality employment platform helping a network of over 1M hospitality professionals and 70K businesses connect over meaningful employment opportunities.