Manager's head slashed in food-rage attack

2014-02-25 09:47
Nelson Mhlanga shows the scars on his head after being attacked by an angry customer. (The Witness)

Nelson Mhlanga shows the scars on his head after being attacked by an angry customer. (The Witness)

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Rowan Philp, The Witness

Durban - It wasn’t enough for a Durban customer that a fast food restaurant offered to replace the bread rolls he’d bought, and deliver them to his home. It wasn’t even enough that he was offered more expensive garlic rolls, on the house.

Instead, the 25-year-old man loudly demanded a whole cooked chicken from Barcelos in Phoenix as “compensation” for the four rolls he wasn’t satisfied with.

And when manager Nelson Mhlanga, 45, declined the demand, the customer slapped Mhlanga, retrieved a machete from his car, and slashed the manager in the head.

The bizarre food-rage incident played out in front of stunned customers - and CCTV cameras - at the peak dinner hour at the Gem City eatery on Sunday night.

Arrest

On Monday, Prem Balram, head of Reaction Unit South Africa, said the customer fled the scene in his car, but was later arrested and detained at the Phoenix police station. He was charged with assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm.

“Bizarre behaviour, but believe it or not, this is not the first violent attack over food in this area in the past month,” said Balram, referring to an incident in Verulam in which a man stabbed and killed his brother over a portion of food.

Balram declined to name the restaurant, but a flurry of social media comments - such as local resident Matthew Mudaly saying “Ridiculous! Fresh buns or you die” - quickly identified the popular Barcelos outlet as the scene.

Magesh Moodley, owner of the restaurant, confirmed that the customer became violent when the manager declined to replace the four bread rolls bought earlier in the day with a full chicken.

“Nothing like this has ever happened before; watching the [CCTV] footage was chilling,” said Moodley. “Unfortunately, it seemed to be a case of one agitated individual utterly losing control, and endangering the life of a man who was doing his best to serve him.”

13 stitches

Moodley said that, after “clouting” Mhlanga in the face, the customer stormed out to his car as the manager “calmly” followed him to the door. There, two female friends of the customer then also confronted the manager, yelling abuse. Moodley said the customer then emerged from the car with “a long shiny object” and struck Mhlanga on the top of his head - creating a long, clean gash that required 13 stitches.

“Nelson had invited the customer to come in for a free replacement, no questions asked, and even offered to upgrade to garlic rolls,” said Moodley.

“We are not one of those operations where you have to phone a call centre to complain and wait 48 hours; we will replace a customer’s meal where they are dissatisfied right there and then, but we are not about to feed your eight friends as well. But obviously this man’s behaviour was outrageous and shocking to everyone.”

He said that Mhlanga offered to return to work immediately upon leaving hospital, “but we feel he definitely deserves a day off!”

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