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Fancy a roasting with your dinner? Restaurant brings ‘Karen’ diner event to Elgin

156 diner in Elgin is hosting a 'Karen diner' event
156 Bar and Grill will host a 'Karen' dining concept this Friday night. Pictured are Keri MacKenzie, Kiaha Meldrum and general manager Lynnie Craige who is leading the event. All pictures by Jason Hedges.

“We were hoping you wouldn’t be coming.” That’s just one remark from staff that diners at 156 Bar and Grill in Elgin can expect to hear this Friday.

It’s not because the team don’t want their business, they do, but they have to be rude for the night as that is what hundreds of diners have signed up for.

Running their own “Karen diner” for the night, the concept, which first came to the UK in Manchester and Sheffield, has become a social media sensation that venues up and down the country are tapping into.

Some of the team who will be working on the night. Keri MacKenzie, Simon Strathdee and Kiaha Meldrum are looking forward to the event which will be quite a different way of working for them.

The idea is that customers book into a restaurant knowing fine well that staff will be rude to them from the instant they step into the building to the moment they leave.

The idea was first launched in Australia and has now made its way to Elgin which is the first place in the north to run anything like it.

When Lynnie Craig posted information about the event on the American-themed diner’s social media it sold out almost immediately.

Posted by 156 Bar & Grill on Thursday, 6 January 2022

Why a Karen diner?

But why would someone want to be shouted at, called names or poked fun at while enjoying their dinner?

Lynnie reckons it is because it is something different and “a bit of fun”.

The general manager, who joined the team at the restaurant three months ago, is one of the reasons the concept has made it in Elgin.

Waiting staff will be rude to customers attending the event. Keri MacKenzie with general manager Lynnie Craig and Kiaha Meldrum are going to give as good as they get on the night.

“It is happening in other places and one of the funny things is, my daughter sometimes calls me a Karen just by doing mum things. If I tell my daughter to do anything or speak to her in the wrong way she’ll say ‘stop being a Karen’.

“I thought to myself, ‘I’m going to become a real Karen for the night’ which I’m finding quite funny.

“One of the owners, Paul Davies, also mentioned the concept to me. He asked if I had seen it and I’d been thinking about it but wasn’t sure if they would go for it. He gave me the go-ahead and I ran with it.”

Posted by 156 Bar & Grill on Saturday, 23 July 2022

Karen diner theme a sell-out success

And run with it she did. Lynnie admits it will be the diner’s biggest and busiest night since opening in December 2020.

With 251 diners booked in waves of three sittings from 4pm, she and the team of nine front of house staff have a packed night ahead.

But this is a marathon, not a sprint, and the chefs will continue to serve up the quality food they are known for within the five-and-a-half hour window.

Posted by 156 Bar & Grill on Friday, 6 May 2022

Each table has a 90-minute slot before being kicked off their table.

“The diner has never done this before but I think there’s 251 diners booked in between 4pm and 9.30pm. It is going to be the busiest it has ever been.

“We’ve started doing some more live entertainment, but we’ve done nothing of this scale. If it goes well we’ll do an over 18s version as this one is family-friendly.”

Real Karens get a free drink

Customers aren’t being asked to pay for any additional extras for the experience. All they have to pay for is the food and drink consumed.

The venue has footed the bill for the additional extras like hats, branded staff T-shirts with ‘Don’t ask me I don’t care’ on the back and other items.

Staff will be sticking their tongues out and being cheeky to customers from the moment they arrive to the moment they leave. This week’s event is family-friendly.

“We’ve got the perfect venue – the diner. With the staff and customers having a bit of fun, I’m hoping we’re in for a really good night.”

If your name is Karen, however, be sure to bring along your identification as you’ll be able to bag yourself a free drink.

There’s a 156 cocktail or a mocktail for Karen’s to choose from when visiting.

Staff going against what they know

And although being mean to customers goes against all of their training, the team are looking forward to an evening of acting.

“They were all excited. We give the best customer service and so it is going to be quite different for the staff,” said Lynnie.

“It goes against everything we do with the public.

“I have told them that all the training they have been given, they need to do the opposite.

“I think it will be difficult for them, they are acting and they aren’t actors so there’s a lot on them this weekend. They are just hoping the public will give them some banter and have fun.

“Don’t ask me! I don’t care” is printed on some of the staff T-shirts.

“We’ll be sticking out our tongues to kids and things like that.”

Lynnie is encouraging customers to be rude back and, while this event is family-friendly, an over 18s version is in the pipeline.

“It would obviously be different. We’d be using different language and hand gestures.”

What to order if you go?

Lynnie is well versed in the menu offering and says the stacks of ribs are a must try.

She also recommends the slider boards which have three mini burgers on them and the chicken strips which have been a firm favourite since opening. They come with different sauces.

Nachos are also a hit and while the menu is extensive, she reckons there’s something on it for everyone, including little ones.

The wings and mac and cheese also get a mention, but you can’t go wrong with any of the classics she says.

Posted by 156 Bar & Grill on Sunday, 10 July 2022