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.
2 years ago - read more... | Comments
Nothing, absolutely nothing. I blame their parents.
A couple of weeks ago, during a classically beautiful wedding reception in Manhattan, I posted a photo to Facebook of three baby strollers lined up outside the Lake Room at The Boathouse in New York’s Central Park. Of course, I had a few choice words to add to the photo in support of my client – the bride did not want children at her wedding reception. Out of 46 comments, there was only one dissenting opinion that children do not belong at an evening, black-tie, wedding reception. This popular opinion has nothing to do with disliking children – over 95% of the commenters were parents. And believe it or not, I was actually a child for a fleeting moment (verification pending). The only thing that’s important here is whether or not the bride and groom had invited kids to their wedding and reception, or were bullied into doing so by family and friends. More about that later.
Child-rearing methods these days seem to be an exercise in vanity. The vanity of the parents: “Look at my child; he’s the most intelligent, most creative, most charitable, most sensitive, most friendly, most gracious, most talented, most beautiful, most … blah, blah, blah.” Give me a break; the kid is four years old! I am forty-seven years old and I can tell you for a fact that very few parents felt this way when I was growing up. These days many parents jump to the defense of their children without question and deny misbehavior, even when provided with overwhelming evidence of the infraction: “My child would never lie!” Again, give me a break! All kids do is lie. They might not do it consciously and at such a tender age they likely don’t understand the ramifications, but lying is definitely one of their top-three daily rituals. My mother ruled with an iron fist and if another adult brought to her attention that I had done something wrong, her first question to the adult would have been, “What has he done, now?” not “Oh, not my little angel, Joey!” My off-the-charts adorablility factor had absolutely no effect on my mother.
I have never understood why parents would want to tote their kids to an evening wedding reception. Does the couple not enjoy each other’s company? Are they using their kid as a crutch to prop up their weakened relationship? Can they not bear to be separated from their child even for a few hours? Are they so vain and insecure that they want to upstage the bride and walk around harvesting compliments about their “charming” kids? Do they not trust anyone to babysit their golden offspring? Do they intentionally want to destroy the bride and groom’s wedding reception? One or more of these things must be true. I can assure you that after an appropriate amount of 24-hour parenting and no sleep for months, my parents couldn’t wait to have a night out with their friends. Isn’t this a healthy expectation? My mother always said that daytime is kid time and nighttime belongs to adults. But now many little kids stay up as late as they want so that Mommy and Daddy can have “quality time” with them? Kids need to sleep a lot so they can grow, like puppies. I remember being in Las Vegas a few years ago and seeing dozens and dozens of parents with baby strollers and toddlers hanging around the fountains at the Bellagio hotel for the midnight show. Really? How unfair to these poor kids. My brothers and I were in bed by 8:30 p.m. at the very latest until we were twelve, even when on vacation. Until the age of thirteen, we were only let out of the root cellar a few times a week for sun exposure so we didn’t become so pale that our teachers and neighbors would get suspicious.
I’m sure this blog post will be controversial and I will, as usual, get a lot of shocked and indignant responses but someone has to say it: The plethora of indulged children is a major contributing factor to the downward spiral of American culture. It’s so bad now that I can’t imagine what will happen in the next generation. Discuss amongst yourselves and don’t send me any letters.
Now for the inevitable and very simple etiquette lesson. Unless your invitation specifically contains the words “and family” or the names of your children are listed on the inner envelope (or outer envelope, as is more common these days), YOUR KIDS ARE NOT INVITED.
Do not call the bride or groom and ask if you can bring your kids, do not assume that because you are family members you can just bring them along, do not under any circumstances attempt to circumvent the bride and groom’s wishes on this subject by bullying them into “inviting” your kids. This is the height of rudeness and self-centered behavior. You are a GUEST and you have NO RIGHT to force your kids on the other adult guests. The hosts have a RIGHT to entertain THEIR guests in an environment of THEIR choosing. If you are so appalled by this concept then stay home and spend the evening eating chicken fingers and building Lego parking garages with your progeny. Since you haven’t spoken to an adult in months or possibly years, you might have to look up the word “progeny.”
A dear friend and mother of four who helps edit these posts recommended addressing the excuse of “the babysitter canceled.” She recommends having a back-up plan since there is plenty of advance notice for a wedding date. This may or may not be feasible but if the babysitter cancels and you have no alternative, DO NOT BRING YOUR KID(S) ALONG. Stay home instead. Obviously, you must call your hosts immediately to let them know. Nothing wreaks havoc on a fine-tuned seating plan more than unexpected guests or no-show guests. And no, you can’t just squeeze the little buggers in at your table! In addition, kids require special meals and those arrangements that will not be available if you surprise attack the bride and groom with your uninvited children. In the rare case of nursing mothers who want to attend, there are a few options: Use a breast pump and hire a babysitter, plan to attend just the ceremony and cocktail hour, or ask if a separate lounge will be available for the infant and babysitter so you can make nursing runs as necessary while enjoying the evening to the fullest.
Even if your hosts have graciously invited your kids, there is no law that says you must bring them. Your kids probably like their babysitter better than you, relish what they can get away with in your absence, and can’t get you out of the house fast enough. Why not put on a dinner jacket or evening dress and enjoy some adult conversation, libation, and dance-floor gyration? Can you think of anything worse than looking forward to a fabulous, black-tie evening out and then being seated next to a screaming infant in a stroller, toddler in a high chair, squawking pre-teen, or disinterested fifteen-year-old? The entire dynamic at the table changes: The adults have to censure their conversations and all attention is focused on the kid(s). Think about it.
The compromise for the bride and groom is to have close-family kids invited to the ceremony (hope for minimal crying and screaming during the ceremony) and then have the little cherubs make an appearance at the cocktail reception for the oohs and aahs their attention-seeking parents desperately need. When guests are called to dinner, then the kids can be whisked away to a hotel suite or local home for supervision and entertainment by one or more vetted babysitters. This is how it works, people!!
Remember that wedding receptions (like restaurants and construction sites) can be very dangerous places for kids, especially ambulatory toddlers. There are drunken adults wandering around double-fisted with glassware, waiters ferrying heavy trays of china and pots of hot coffee, and other hazards aplenty. I have had to threaten many parents with expulsion because they are creating a liability for the venue. Guess who is going to be the first in line with a lawsuit if a toddler trips a waiter and hot coffee burns his or her child. In America, no one is to blame for anything bad that happens, right? Everything is someone else’s fault. Not.
Now for the flip side. If the bride and groom decide that kids of all ages are to be an integral part of their wedding day, including the reception, they have the responsibility to create an environment that’s appropriate and fun for everyone. A late-afternoon/early evening outdoor wedding is always a great choice. Girls in sweet dresses and boys in little suits are indeed adorable! Watching them buzz around the lawn enjoying all the excitement is delightful, and this energy creates a magical backdrop for the festivities. Make sure kids are part of the ceremony, make sure there is kid-friendly food and drink, make sure the entertainment and music is appropriate, make sure there is some extra, non-parental supervision, and make sure guests know their broods are invited from the start. And give them some bubbles … who doesn’t love bubbles?
2 years ago - read more... | Comments
When I read my best friend’s Facebook post on Tuesday evening I was in a mood to agree, having had a particularly trying day at the office. Wedding planning is not the non-stop, glamorous, fun-fest you’d think it would be. But then I thought, “Wait, I am a wedding planner; I’m supposed to care about this stuff!” Even though I didn’t rise at 4:00 am, bake scones, and brew tea this morning, I did flip on BBC America at 7:00 and catch the recessional and the recap. Of course, my heart was softened and I was delighted for the couple who are obviously happily in love and the best of friends. But when I saw the tiny bridesmaid, Grace Van Custem, I just had to laugh at myself for feeling so curmudgeonly about the whole spectacle.
My favorite part, aside from little Grace’s pout, was the inclusion of the stands of gorgeous, tall, green trees inside Westminster Abbey. OK, the second kiss on the balcony was a bonus and that’s when I got a little choked up. What’s not to love?
I promise to put aside my cynicism, be a good wedding planner, and report back on the new bridal trends the The Royal Wedding has created. It’s a whole new world out there!
3 years ago - read more... | Comments
Who wants worms, anyway? Few things are more discombobulating to a host than having guests arrive early. By now, you might have guessed thatI am not one to count spontaneity as a virtue; everything is planned down to the last moment and the last detail. I realize that to my enduringly-patient partner, loving family, and tolerant friends, this quality renders me an often-annoying, antiquated, rigid, foolish, and somewhat-amusing stick-in-the-mud. But I can’t help it if other people are wrong. If you don’t understand why the toilet paper (excuse me, “bathroom tissue”) must be dispensed over the top of the roll, we should part ways now and cut our losses. And yes, canned goods must have their labels facing outward in the cupboards. How the hell else are you going to know what’s on hand? Even Andy Warhol understood this basic principle.
Nearly all adult parties are separated into two distinct varieties: cocktail and dinner. True cocktail parties, or “drinks parties,” are typically from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. with the ending time stated, allowing guests to make individual dinner plans immediately afterward. Be a good guest and arrive by 7:15 p.m. at the latest and don’t linger past the prescribed time. Dinner parties often proffer a 7:00 p.m. invitation (with dinner being served 30 to 45 minutes later) and go on for about three hours … or indefinitely, depending on the day of the week and level of debauchery among your friends. Don’t arrive more than twenty minutes late for a dinner party, period. This is the limit of what’s known as being “fashionably late”; anything more is just rude. We love dinner parties, especially now that we’re getting a smidge older, because the entire environment has been tailored for our pleasure by the gracious hosts.
We’re always hearing “it’s never too early for this, never too early for that.” Well I am here to tell you that being early to a party of any sort is the most ghastly of crimes, right up there with grand larceny and manslaughter. Only arrive early if you are asked to do so by the host. Being early could end in murder – your murder. Think about it: your host has likely spent at least two days making lists, shopping, contemplating floral selections and lighting plans, cleaning, rearranging furniture, getting the glassware and the spouse up to snuff, loading up the iPod, and more. All these tasks culminate in the most magical of moments when the first guests arrive and the host and/or hostess knows it’s all under control. Everything is glowing and the promise of Shangri-La is at hand! If that appointed time is 7:00 p.m. and you ring the bell at 6:52 p.m., all is lost. The fantasy that the party was tossed together with carefree ease is dashed. Unless the hosts have hired some help (an excellent idea, by the way) or have a coterie of live-in servants, the hostess will be forced to answer the door in a flop sweat with just one smokey eye finished and her hair still half-frizzed.
You see, she needs those final eight minutes to pull it off. All the dinner party chores were finished (barely!) by 6:22 p.m. and she allotted those last minutes to ready herself. Now do you get it? Arriving early steals away her glamour and puts her on edge, a situation that could take 45 minutes and two glasses of wine to overcome. Even if her mate is ready-to-roll a little early and answers the door, she still knows you’re out there lurking in her living room! Ugh. Citified apartment living provides a built-in barrier to your felonious friends. Just don’t answer the buzzer, or direct the doorman to invite the eager beavers to cool their heels in the lobby. I confess to using the former method to ward off the well-intentioned, wine-toting primates.
So do yourself, your host, and the world a favor: arrive at 7:08 p.m. and you’ll be met with warmth, joy, and a lovely libation. Any earlier and you could find yourself on the slab. Well, at our house anyway…
3 years ago - read more... | Comments