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Why Is Most Restaurant Service So Abhorrent?

Updated on December 30, 2009

When I go out to eat, I'm helpless. Literally. As much as I'd like to seat myself at that table by the window or walk into the kitchen and grab a plate of pasta, I can't. It's not like I'd be a nuisance... I've owned three high end restaurants and trained in a Parisian culinary academy (ya, no kiddin'... lots of secrets in Uncle Hal's "sordid" past) so I know my way around a pass. But since it's not a perfect world, I won't be serving myself anytime soon. And this is where the embattled servants of the public come in.

So often my discomfort starts at the door. As one who never understood the joys of S&M, I can't fathom the cold, more-fabulous-than-thou reception of many restaurant hosts. Aren't I considered a "guest"? Don't you want me here? (And more importantly, doesn't my money help keep your restaurant running?) If I take the time and trouble to make reservations, what is with the wait after I arrive?

It's true that restauranteurs may need to overbook in case of no-shows, but purposefully packing the house and making me kill time in the two-foot space by the bar is downright inhospitable. (Especially after spending an eternity on hold, a virtual prisoner of Enya and Kenny G, when I call to book the meal.) Sometimes it's not the restaurant's fault; the couple at table number three may be dawdlers. But don't leave me hanging. Tell me how long it's really going to be. Or at the very least acknowledge my suffering with the occasional nod (or a complimentary nibble).

The initial feeling of unwelcome is often carried to the table. That flash of hauteur at the door can be mild compared to displays of the I'm-too-cool-for-this-job 'tude exhibited by the waitstaff. I know it's annoying that we, the tedious paying public, interrupt your fascinating chats with your fellow servers, and we can understand how you really want to score with that new blonde hottie server, but how else can we get fed? Let's face it: you have access to the food and we don't. Can't we work something out?

All most of us want is our meal brought to us hot and with a minimum of grief. We don't really want to chat, care whether you have written a screenplay or book manuscript, or take up too much of your time. All we ask is that you notice us: Are we trying to catch your eye, do we need more water, is it time for the next course? That said, please don't ask us how everything is more than once, and certainly not when our mouths are full. And if we're about to kiss our dinner companion, please don't ask us if we're ready for dessert... Clearly, we are.

Also, I know I'm fat. I don't need to be reminded when I order a diet Coke that it is a bit too late for that. And if we want to substitute the rice side dish with steamed veggies, baked potato, or fried chocolate covered eel eyeballs and you have them in the kitchen, we don't need a lecture on your restaurant's policy of no substitutions, shut up and get them!

Continued in Why Is Most Restaurant Service So Abhorrent? Part II

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