January 27, 2023
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Karen’s Diner staff have a unique idea of ​​what customer service should look like.


When I first signed up to check out Karen’s Diner, I had no idea I would be called upon to test my mime skills, let alone stage for the entertainment of the entire restaurant.

However, I was in the middle of my stay at the new pop-up operating out of the old Lemmons building when an exceptionally rude red-haired woman encouraged me to play charades in front of the assembled crowd. The pressure continued—another unwitting client, who was my opponent in an impromptu contest, had just announced without a word that he was Pennywise the Clown, the Big Bad from the Stephen King animated series. itsurprisingly fast. If I was going to stay in the game, I needed to silently convince this crowd that I was in a hurry for Elton John.

“And remember, no talking, bastard,” warned the unkind woman with the microphone.


Suddenly it’s time to go. I took a step forward and pulled out an invisible bench, on which I sat down, awkwardly bending my knees and lower back. I removed the cover from the keys of the imaginary piano in front of me and began tickling the ivory with rapture, shaking my head dramatically back and forth. The immediate response I got was “What the fuck?” from the woman who made me do all this – did not inspire confidence.

But then someone from the crowd threw me a life buoy. “Play the piano!” she called helpfully. Yes, indeed. I then removed the glasses from my face and put them back on, keeping my hands outside the glasses, trying to show that they were bigger than they really were. “Ray Charles!” another woman suggested. Great guess, but not the answer I was looking for. From the moves, I indicated with my hand that she was in the correct approximate square and that she should continue. Luckily, the person next to me finally took what I was writing down and said the correct answer, and the charade was finally over.

Unfortunately, this was only the first round. To make matters worse, it was the round I lost – the speed with which my opponent managed to take “Pennywise the Clown” out of the crowd was nothing short of amazing. That he was able to wordlessly communicate that he was SpongeBob’s neighbor, Squidward, even faster in the second round, was enough to make me think I was being pushed by a pro.


But when I got the second clue, I felt bold. I knew what to do. At the beginning of my turn, I brought my right hand to my mouth and pretended to chew something, and then tapped it with my ring finger, as if lighting a cigar. “Bugs Bunny!” the woman shouted – everything is according to my plan. Triumphantly, I pointed to an imaginary object in my hand. “Carrot!” shouted several people in the crowd. And with that, I got what I wanted, much faster than I even expected. I looked defiantly at the rude woman. She gave me baffled.

“You misheard me,” she said in a condescending tone in her voice. “It definitely wasn’t ‘carrot’, it was ‘Karen’. “Karen” as Karen is the theme, Karen? Karen. Get the hell off my stage.”

Looking back, I definitely should have put it together. But to be honest, I did not come to this restaurant with the hope that I would be invited to speak; I just thought I would enjoy a burger and fries while being yelled at and insulted by his staff, just like the general premise of Karen’s Diner. Originally founded last year in Australia, the chain gained popularity because of the promise of terrible service from its rude employees, and it has since expanded to Indonesia, New Zealand and the UK, with a newly opened store in St. Louis. being the first in the United States.

click to enlarge Fan art adorns Karen's walls.  - DANIEL HILL


Fan art adorns Karen’s walls.

To be honest, I also have this experience. Upon arrival, I was asked if I would dine alone, and I replied that my date was late, but would be here soon. (In fact, this late “date” was a colleague, RFTfood critic Cheryl Baer.)

“That sounds like a lie,” the hostess replied. “If you got up, you can just tell us.

After being shown to my table, I was surprised to see that my younger sister was already one of the patrons of the restaurant. She came up and said hello, then stopped her waitress – by the way, the same red-haired woman who later made me play charades.

Hey, did you know we’re related? my sister asked. – Aren’t we the same?

“Your parents raised ugly children,” was the reply.

Soon my own waitress came over.

– Where is your friend? she asked sternly, tossing the menu on the table in front of me. She needs to hurry.

“They won’t come,” said the woman who had just called my sister and me ugly. “I wouldn’t either.

I spent a few minutes chatting with my sister and soon my waitress returned to take my order, showing off all the charm that has made Karen’s diner an international phenomenon.

“You better know what the fuck you want to drink,” she said. “Why are you talking here? My time is precious.” After I chose a drink from the menu, she warned me that the decision was final. “If you don’t like it, we won’t change a damn thing. This is what you will drink. Now decide what kind of snack you want.” I hastily ordered French fries to protect myself from the barrage of insults.

click to enlarge My server was clearly not happy with me.  - DANIEL HILL


My server was clearly not happy with me.

Meanwhile, the man at the table opposite made the mistake of telling the staff that he was a vegan. An employee with a megaphone loudly announced the man’s dietary restrictions to the entire restaurant, after which the red-haired waitress grabbed the microphone and called everyone to attention.

“Everyone, please raise your middle fingers to the vegan here by three and say, “Fuck you, vegan,” she said, after which the hall full of visitors complied. “Eat some fucking meat, you piece of shit,” she added.

Elsewhere, a man was celebrating a birthday. The restaurant staff encouraged everyone in the restaurant to sing a birthday song for him, very similar to the usual one, only with a lot more “fuck off” than usual. The middle fingers were once again widely displayed by all employees—clearly a key part of Karen’s experience. Shortly thereafter, the game of charades that I had lost came and went.

While I was on stage, my dinner companion Cheryl finally arrived, and as she made her way to our table, she was humiliated and scolded in every possible way. After I was kicked out of the competition, we each ordered a hamburger; when they came out, the person who brought them to us demanded that I give her one of the curds we got on the side as “payment”. At some point, a red-haired woman came up to our table and took my phone, on which she took a selfie in which she tosses a bird.

click to enlarge This is really a key part of the theme of the restaurant.  - DANIEL HILL


This is really a key part of the theme of the restaurant.

Cheryl and I were distracted by the ongoing spectacle and spent some time discussing what we have seen here so far. Unfortunately, this caused us to neglect our food, much to the chagrin of our waitress.

“What is wrong with it?” she asked. Why don’t you eat this?

Curious what would happen, I tried to send mine back, saying it was useless. “No, we don’t do that shit,” she replied. “You order it, you eat it. And you won’t take shit off the bill.” Fair.

Our experience at Karen’s diner ended shortly after our waitress tossed a couple of takeaway boxes and a bill onto our table, neither of which we asked for. “Hurry up,” were her parting words.

Meanwhile, the red-haired woman gathered a new group of victims and forced them onto the stage. I didn’t stick around long enough to see how they’re doing, but hopefully they’ve had more success than me.

As for me, if I go back to this restaurant and they ask me to mime Karen, I won’t make the same mistake. In fact, I have a pair of middle fingers needed to bring gold home.

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