And now for something a little different. Today I have my first guest blogger: my faithful event assistant, Bailly Roesh, who also digs deep in the trenches of NYC restaurant world where many of us event planners have toiled. You will see why we get along so well … take it away Bailly!
In today’s popular culture, chefs are rock stars. The have fan sites, television shows, write books (which are not just filled with recipes), have product lines, and get paid tens of thousands of dollars (if not more) for appearances and sponsorships. We have accepted the concept of the “Celebrity Chef” as a part of our cultural zeitgeist, and yet restaurants – the theaters and stadiums for these celebrities – are still wrought with poor and downright rude behavior. Somehow, the supposed vehicle for these stars (though we all know it’s actually the TV appearances which catapult them into stardom) remains replete with entitled prima donnas and drunken Neanderthals. It occurs to me that, perhaps, the restaurant going public simply does not know how to behave. So, allow me to enlighten you:
Make a Reservation and Be On Time. And, if you do not make a reservation, be prepared to wait and do not be obnoxious about it. Now, this one comes with a couple of caveats, the first of which is that, during peak hours and at particularly trendy spots, even having made a reservation does not mean that you will not have to wait. The way that reservations are sorted out is one part past precedent and about nine parts good luck. Basically, most restaurants allocate one and a half hours for a party of two and add about fifteen minutes per additional guest. That means that the restaurant is predicting that a party of five will order, eat, and pay for their meal in about two hours and fifteen minutes. Now, here is where the good luck comes in: If the party in question decides to order their complete meal initially, drinks at a reasonable speed, and actually leaves when the bill is paid, then you have good luck and your table will be ready on time. However, if said party orders their meal piecemeal, lingers over those last sips of wine, and holds the table hostage after they have paid their bill, then bad luck has made an appearance and you will have to wait for your table.
The second caveat to this rule is that there is a growing number of restaurants not accepting reservations. I have heard many people gripe about how inconvenient this is and that it is pretentious on the part of the restaurant. Ladies and gentlemen, this is your fault. This is the fault of all of you who show up fifteen minutes late for your reservation, order one dish at a time, take an hour to drink one glass of wine, and sit at the table kibitzing for an hour after you’ve paid the bill. You have done the crime and now you have to face the consequences. If people all behaved in predictable ways, were punctual, and left when they were meant to, then reservations would be a breeze. However, saying that I have a table for two at 8:30 on a random Thursday evening when I have no idea how Susan van Fluffnpuff will behave when she arrives for her 7:00 pm reservation on the same table is just like saying that I will one day be married: I have no idea. It’s just a guess. Yes, it is a guess based on experience and past trends but still, it is just a guess. It makes far more sense for you to come to the restaurant, give me your name, and, based on the behavior of the tables that evening, I will give you an estimate as to how long your wait will be. This lack of reservations is also the fault of all of you who make a reservation and then do not show up for them, or cancel at the very last minute. Restaurants make money by putting people in seats. If I have held a table for you and then you just fail to show up for your reservation, you have just cost my restaurant money. And I hate you.
Finally, just because you have made a reservation does not mean that the table is yours for the entire night. As I mentioned before, you have about an hour and a half if you are a table of two. After that, my staff will do everything that they can do to get you up and out of your seats because they know that the only way that they and the restaurant can possibly make money is to turn tables. If you are continuing to order then, fine, you can keep the table. But, as soon as you have stopped ordering, the check is going to be dropped and, if the restaurant is completely booked for the evening, you may be asked to finish your drinks at the bar. Do not get offended by this. Be gracious and accommodating. We have just done everything that we could to ensure that you have had a good evening. Now, it is someone else’s turn. How would you like it if you were the party waiting to sit at that table? Remember what your mother taught you: consider how your actions affect others.
Clean Up After Yourself. No, I do not mean that you should do your own dishes. I do mean, however, that when you go to the restroom, throw your towel in the garbage and not on the floor. You would not believe the disgusting bathroom scenes which I have walked into on a busy night at a restaurant. If you are the sort of person who throws your used hand towels onto the floor instead of in a refuse bin then I do not want to know you. Period. Furthermore, I do not want you in my restaurant, or at any restaurant which I go to. That behavior is rude, crude, and socially unacceptable.
Cleaning up after yourself also extends to cleaning up after your children, for those of you inclined to bring your children out to eat. First of all, keep in mind that there are appropriate and inappropriate times to bring your offspring with you to a restaurant. It is generally acceptable to bring children with you during the day, so long as it is not a fine dining establishment, and you are not carting them around in a stroller bigger than many NYC apartments. It is not acceptable to bring your child with you out at night unless it is a very, very casual restaurant, and/or your child is asleep for the duration. (One scream out of the little thing, however, and you must get the bill and leave immediately. No exceptions.) When you do bring children out with you, please, please clean up after them. The last thing that a restaurant worker wants to do is clean up the Cheerios which your little prince or princess has flung across the restaurant much to your squeals of delight. (If you do not agree with my stance on this, I am happy to come to your place of work, dump half eaten fare all over your desk, and let you clean it up.)
Order from the Menu. Are you a chef? Do you spend hours, days, even weeks tweaking recipes until they are just right? No? Then stop bastardizing the dishes of someone who does! Chefs spend a great deal of time perfecting the dishes which they serve to the public. There are numerous variations on a single dish before it is perfected and put on the menu. Seasoning is adjusted until it is just right. Sauces are added, changed, taken away, and then added again. When you come in and ask for the sauce from that dish, the sides from this dish, and the protein from the other dish to all be combined you are basically giving the finger to the kitchen. You are telling the chef that you do not care about the time and love which he/she has put into the dish because you know better. Once again, you are being rude. There are very few alterations to dishes which I will accept. Some considerations will be made for allergies, but only if they do not drastically affect the dish as a whole. If what you really want is a grilled piece of fish, “no oil”, and steamed vegetables on the side, I suggest you go home and learn how to cook for yourself, because, seriously, what is the point of going to a restaurant and ordering that?
(I should point out that I feel rather the same way about people who substitute different base spirits in craft cocktails. The cocktails are specifically designed to be balanced and when you swap out rye for vodka, you’ve really messed it all up.)
Tip Appropriately. In general, in New York City, servers are paid $4.50 an hour. The rest of their pay is made up in tips. Now, I am not advocating tipping a server for poor service. If your service is really so bad that you cannot leave an appropriate tip then, at some point, you should have spoken with the manager about the situation. If, however, you are simply unwilling or unable to tip the appropriate amount, then you really should not be dining out in the first place. What is the appropriate amount? Somewhere between 18% and 20% of the total bill. This may seem like a huge amount for some, but if you consider that that server then has to tip out the back waiters, the food runners, and sometimes the hosts, not to mention the amount that is taken for taxes, they really do not walk away with all that much. And to all of our “out of town” guests – the jig is up. We know that you know how to tip. Stop giving your countrymen a bad name and embrace the cultural practices of the land which you are visiting (i.e. tip).
Be Nice. This seems incredibly simple and yet you would be shocked at how rude people frequently are to restaurant employees. We are people too! And you have come to our place of work, where we spend ten to twelve hours a day on our feet trying to create a perfect experience for you. The very least that you could do is say “please” and “thank you”.
You may have read this and thought, “Well, obviously”. You would think so, right? Unfortunately, the number of people who still treat restaurant workers as though they are somehow below them is staggering. I have had people tell me how they are paying for my livelihood by coming to my restaurant so they should be able to have whatever it is that they want. I have been called names simply for not having the table which they reserved ready, even though they have arrived a half an hour early for said reservation. Not to mention the boorish advances and handsy frat boys which many in this industry have to deal with nightly. To be successful in restaurants, you do have to love people. However, working in restaurants can easily make you hate people. It can be incredibly disillusioning to see the extreme lack of manners and absence of common courtesy exhibited by the restaurant going public.
I hope that I have provided a bit of clarification for how one should behave at restaurants. Certainly, there are many other things which should be considered but I thought that I would start with the basics. As with all things in life, the Golden Rule applies to going to restaurants: treat us the way that you would like to be treated.
One last thing, it is the job of the restaurant worker to be hospitable and nice to you. It is literally a part of their job. Please, disavow yourself of the idea that somehow, because they are nice to you, they want to sleep with you. This is very rarely the case. Remember that we are at work; we are not out on the prowl the way that you might be.
9 months ago - read more... | Comments