Restaurant Etiquette…

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Okay, I’ve been working on a long post that means a lot to me, but in the meantime I’ve thought of something that gets my blood up in classic unsavedlovedones fashion…….with the holidays here, the aggressive frenetic crowds are hitting stores and restaurants like a flood, and pretty much exhibiting the exact opposite spirit that this time of year should embody.  I love to cook and I love to eat in restaurants…something I can thank my parents for, because even though we never had any money to speak of we managed to eat out quite a bit when I was growing up.  So I learned how to act, how to tip, how to show respect to the staff, and most of all, how to appreciate the fact that I’ve been lucky enough at this point in my life to have eaten at some of the very best restaurants in the United States.  I’m sure my advancing age doesn’t help with my intolerance of complete idiots in restaurants, but what I view as an overblown sense of entitlement has become more and more pervasive in the past few years.  I don’t know where it comes from….more people are eating out more often due to the competition and marketing in the industry, plus the modern lifestyle leaves less room to cook, so there’s just a higher density of douchebags?  Much like the invention of the VCR has completely ruined the moviegoing experience because people sit and yack like they think they are still at home; the proliferation of fast food chains leads Joe Consumer to believe that skilled waitstaff in a high end restaurant are no different than the teenager working the drive-thru at Taco Bell?  Not to mention the fast food “customer is always right” law of the land may lead people to think the squeaky wheel should always get their meal for free….

Anyway, it’s the holidays and the wife and I are getting ready to head out to dinner on a Saturday night…..on the Plaza….during the holidays.  I honestly don’t dread it, she’s new to the area and the Plaza lights are truly impressive, we’re newlyweds, and now that I’m sober this sort of thing doesn’t make me flinch like it would before.  We’ll have a great time, but as anyone from the KC area knows….the Plaza has the highest number of knuckleheads and their motard children in all the land, especially during the holidays.   Now, you’ll never find me down at The Cheesecake Factory, Bennigan’s, Applebee’s or Chili’s during this time of year (and as far as The Cheesecake Trough, NO time of year), because they can be painful enough on a Wednesday in March.  I do feel for the staff in those places, because the turn and burn attitude the corporate world has for its patrons AND its employees makes those restaurants complete madhouses of stress, anger, inefficiency and apathy.  If you’re a veteran server at one of the major “good food fast” chains, you deserve a medal. And not just because you are constantly bombarded with non-tipping Christians.

I don’t want to sound classist, like I think those places cannot exist in this world and their servers don’t matter as much as the ones at my favorite restaurants.  I’m all about greasy spoons and one of my favorite restaurants will ALWAYS be Red Lobster.  It’s just that in the past few years since surgery I make my dining dollar count by eating mostly at mid-range to high-end local restaurants when I want a nice evening out on the town.  And the shit that I witness and hear from friends who are chefs, managers and servers just blows my mind.  Oh the humanity.  So I’ll make this post briefer than usual and just list out a few pet peeves….I’ll add to them as they come to mind……

#1- Tipping:  It’s not a fucking contest to see how many things you can notice wrong with the restaurant or the server, so that you can drop the tip down to fifteen percent or less (and if twenty percent isn’t the low-end norm for you when you get good, efficient and friendly service, then go fuck yourself. I cannot stress that point enough.  There is fucking in this corner and yourself in the opposite corner. It’s time for the two of you to meet.)….if you are one of those miserable people who doesn’t know how to just enjoy yourself and have a good time at dinner, then stay home.  YES I KNOW THERE IS BAD SERVICE OUT THERE…..but before you castrate the server, make sure it’s actually a problem with the server and not one of the million things that can derail service in the weeds.  And take things into consideration like the time of year, how busy the restaurant is…is it eight pm on a weekend night and it’s taking longer than normal for you to get a table or your meal?  Well, that’s normal.  No, none of those things are YOUR  problem, but if you’re the type of prick to say “neither of those things is my problem”, stay the fuck home.  Also, if you’re using a gift certificate, then tip on the original amount. Not rocket science, but there are enough idiots out there who don’t do it to make me squeamish when I hand my server a gift certificate and have to assure them that I know the deal.  And do I even have to mention the flaming douchenozzles who go to the trouble of subtracting alcohol and tax from the total bill before calculating the tip?  If not, I will anyway.  It boggles the mind to try and think of the appropriate punishment for you, but I’m sure it involves some kind of poisoning.  Tipping is how a server makes their living.  They are bringing you food, and if a few bucks is really that big of a walletbreaker for you, then chances are good it’s time for you to re-evaluate your dining habits.  Learn how to cook, dumbass.  Oh, and if you’re that soldier in the Facebook group discussion about tipping waitstaff who said “Why should I give anything extra to someone for doing their job?  Where’s my tip for doing MY job to make it safe for idiots like you to complain on the internet?”……well, I seriously just wish you hadn’t made it home.  In all seriousness, your family should be smaller by one.

#2- Children: Hoo boy, will try to keep this one brief.  Granted, I don’t like kids, so I’m biased.  But what I like even less than a kid is the parent of an unruly kid in a nice restaurant.  It’s not the child’s fault, it’s the mouth-breather parent who thinks everyone believes their little one is as precious as they do….especially when they are tripping servers, throwing shit everywhere, screaming, and god knows what else.  I realize that a parent has to develop a coping mechanism to block out the higher frequencies of their child’s shriek in order to keep their sanity and do things like get a good night’s sleep, but the rest of us can hear the little fucker just fine.  And I’m not talking about Chili’s or CiCi’s Pizza here….I’m talking about primetime Saturday night in small high-end dining rooms where the noise bounces around the room, or Sunday brunch in what would normally be a very calm and inviting space, ruined by a spastic midget.  When I’m at Applebee’s, I know I’m rolling the dice, but just because you can afford to pay a premium to feed your brood in a top-tier establishment doesn’t entitle you to ruin it for the rest of us.  And if you’re one of those yuppie dipshits who says “oh, not MY child”, YES!  It is YOUR fucking child!  You are EXACTLY the person I’m talking about!  You’re clueless to it, and you need to deal with reality!  If your child is screaming, you forfeit your right to a hot meal.  Take the kid outside and when they shut up come and enjoy some tepid grub.  And when they start up again, I don’t give a shit if it feels like you’re doing calesthenics with all the up and down….get the hell back out of the room.  It’s people like you who make me militantly pro-choice.  YES, I am aware that the only way a child is going to learn how to dine out properly is to do it, I thank my parents for going to the trouble to allow me that experience.  But at the same time, the unwritten rule was that if I fucked up I wouldn’t have to worry about having any goddamn teeth to eat with the next time.  So there’s a good Plan B for you.  Throttle the little shits.  If you do it where I can see it, dessert is on me.

#3- Groups:  Point of sale/service  technology has come a long way in the past decade, but not far enough to wait until the last second in a packed house for you and the rest of your Red Hat whore buddies to decide to split a check eleven different ways, and leave it to the server to figure out which of you transferred your bar tab over (a dick move to begin with….pay your bartender and tip them, dumbass) and which of you were going halfsies on the desserts you shoveled into your gaping maws.  Yes, technology makes it easier to split tickets, but have the decency to let your server know in advance.  And the “one check for parties of 6-8 or more” rules exist for a reason….and it goes back to point #1, don’t take it out on your server, they aren’t doing it just to get one over on you.  Part of the reason you feel like leaving a shitty tip because your server is too slow is probably because there is ANOTHER dick across from you making them split the bill fifteen different ways….think about it.  Generally, I try not to dine in big groups. For many reasons, chief of which is that I don’t have that many people in my life whom I trust not to be a dipshit in a restaurant.  If you go out in groups of friends or co-workers, you know what I’m talking about.  There is always one asshole who makes the whole group look like pariahs.  They have no concept of the fact that they are the only one pissing, moaning, running a server ragged, and finding reasons to fuck them on the tip.  I used to work with a guy who would act like he was being cool by putting everyone on one check and taking cash from all of us, and then paying with his credit card.  He wasn’t cool. At all.  He was eating his lunches for free by leaving about two bucks as a tip for a group of ten, after we had all kicked in for our meals and tips.  Some people you just have to cut loose. If you have one person in your group who sticks out, cut them loose.  Your life will be happier, because if they are too self absorbed, egocentric and self-serving to go with the flow of the group, they are just a shitty, unhappy person anyway. 

#4- Rewriting the Menu:  This one is pretty self explanatory, but important enough for me not to just roll it into one of the other topics.  When you see “substitutions not allowed”, don’t look at it as a way to test the archaic and bullshit rule that “the customer is always right”.  That’s usually on the menu for a reason….it allows things to come out of the kitchen quicker, and it helps control the costs of some dishes.  Beyond that, most places are pretty reasonable when it comes to requests to leave something off, or get salad instead of fries, etc.  Chefs, owners and servers generally want to make you happy, and they don’t mind some substitutions.  What I’m talking about here is literally rewriting the menu or recreating dishes.  Dressing on the side or no croutons is a normal request…..asking for a fresh batch of Caesar dressing that does not contain anchovy is completely insane.  No sauce or a different vegetable is normal…..pulling single aspects from seven different menu items so that your dish is completely customized with a different cooking technique and preparation, is again, completely insane.  And I say this because if you do this shit, you are the kind of asshole who does it during the height of the dinner rush, you get pissy when it doesn’t arrive to your exacting standards, AND, wait for it……you probably have the balls to argue over the cost if it’s even twenty five cents more expensive than the original version that you bastardized.  Oh, but no big deal, you can just subtract that quarter from the tip, right?  Right!  You should be dead….stone cold fucking dead. Sooner than later.

#5- Church Folk:  If it’s a Sunday afternoon, Sunday night or Wednesday night, and you and your friends just got out of an AWESOME church service where the spirit moved mightily, and you are all hopped up on the outpouring of the latter rain, ready to spread the message and spirit to a lost world, and you are hungry and ready to descend en masse upon an unsuspecting restaurant waitstaff  because you just aren’t ready to go home yet………. go home.  I can say with 99.999% certainty that what you view as friendship, hope and zeal is interpreted by the sane world as you being a total dick.  Not a good witness.  Nobody tips worse than a church group.  Nobody.  And as cool as it is that you figured out a way to save a buck by ordering ice water and a ton of lemon slices with extra Splenda packets with which to concoct a penitentiary version of lemonade…….again, to the rest of the sane world, you’re just being a total dick.

So that’s about it.  As much as I like to find holes in my own logic….I really can’t find any here.  Totally airtight.  And it’s good to be back in the swing…..I can be clean and sober AND an angsty bastard! 

Happy Holidays to you all, I seriously hope you have a great time with family and friends.  Just don’t forget to tip your servers and bartenders a little extra during their two weeks of holiday hell.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Restaurant Etiquette…

  1. Anonymous

    oh. my. god. a topic near and dear to my heart. as a person who spent all of her teens and early twenties working in resatuarants, i give you a standing ovation. especially regarding the crappy sunday shift that would totally make me even more agnostic than i already was…

    i have recently (absolutely) refused to go out to dinner with my in-laws EVER AGAIN. they are the most offensive humans i have ever seen in a restaurant. i used to tip the servers BEFORE the meal for what they were about to endure serving my in-laws. i finally told my dear husband i wouldn’t be a party to his family’s outrageously rude behavior ANYMORE. we have actually gotten up and left the restaurant before orders were even complete.

    i want to casually leave a copy of this blog entry somewhere they would find it– especailly this part: (and if twenty percent isn’t the low-end norm for you when you get good, efficient and friendly service, then go fuck yourself. I cannot stress that point enough. There is fucking in this corner and yourself in the opposite corner. It’s time for the two of you to meet.)….if you are one of those miserable people who doesn’t know how to just enjoy yourself and have a good time at dinner, then stay home. ”

    i am not normally a say “amen” person, but holy shit, you nailed that so perfectly! so, amen.

    looking forward to your upcoming “long” entry.

    hey, have a peaceful holiday. thanks for all the good reading you have provided me with this year.

    -leslie

    • zeemanb

      Oh man, we were at a restaurant last weekend and there was a lady sitting across from us who sent her steak back…….after eating half of it. Then she ate the entire second steak while complaining to her husband before every bite that it wasn’t cooked right (but kept telling the server it was great), THEN when the bill came they sat there bargaining with the server to decide what the “right price” would be for their meal. Of course, management buckled immediately and the lady got 1 1/2 steaks for half price. How are people that shameless? I just don’t get it.

      Thankfully, I’m not stuck with anyone in my family like you describe. How do they not get the hint that they are making EVERYONE at the table uncomfortable? My theory is, the bigger an ass you in restaurants are the more capable you are of taking constant verbal abuse for your behavior. My dad can get cranky if it’s not the restaurant he chose, but it’s generally just some passive aggressive shit, nothing really abusive. But back in the church days….man, I wasn’t even “enlightened” back then like I am now, and the behavior of many individuals (in church leadership roles, I might add) was mortifying. I guess on the 7th day, God gave Adam an incredible sense of entitlement.

      Anyway, I’ll try to get something new out soon, I’ve been working on one post for a bit, but now that I don’t have ready-made writing “fuel” to rely upon, I’m having to get used to attacking it from a different perspective. Glad you’ve enjoyed the rambling, and I might add….any of my derelict friends who keep stopping by here to read- feel free to add to the conversation. I know you’re there, I can see you on my stats page you bastards.

      Hope your Christmas was great, and that you have a happy and safe NYE. We’re heading to an AA party at a friend’s house….talk about different than LAST YEAR……

      Take care,
      Jerry

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