Thursday, May 03, 2007

"...for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap"--Galatians

"If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained, you shall also suffer defeat"--Sun Tzu



What we are talking about here at the apex, the heart, the crux, the marrow...is dinner. Where one is seated and when one is able to make a reservation is not, I repeat NOT on a par with being knighted, winning an Acadamy Award [maybe a Grammy], defeating terrorism, or fusing atoms to release a world full of cheap energy. It is just dinner.

Sure it is a very nice restaurant, a prominent restaurant, and an expensive restaurant--for many we are THE special occasion/celebratory restaurant in our area--we are an independent steakhouse that regularly kicks the crap out of a number of prominent chain steakhouses located in our vicinity. All this accepted and understood, it is still just dinner, and nothing that can happen [or not happen] in this restaurant is worth the grandstanding, histrionics, conniving, lying, plotting, and in some cases even crying that I have witnessed and reluctantly been a part of for the better part of the last decade.

Because the vast majority of our guests are such wonderful people, those that fall short are illuminated in an even harsher light than would otherwise normally be cast upon them. I remember when a woman who recieved an overcooked rack of lamb asked me to meet her away from the table. She proceeded to have some sort of gran mal siezure of ass-wipery culminating in her bursting into tears and sweeping a dozen crystal wine glasses off a nearby service table. Over a rack of lamb that was medium rather than medium-rare.

An elderly gentleman once threatened to fight me over what he perceived to be a short by-the-glass wine pour.

A woman wrote a letter of complaint to the owner of the restaurant because I refused to remove a dinner from the check that her drunken girlfriend had vomited onto [when we refused to serve alcohol to the women because they were drunk on arrival, they simply made trips to their limo and did shots in the car between courses].

One of the greatest examples of this poor behavior, not to mention a massive strategic miscalculation on the part of the guest, started over a simple question and ended up with one witless imbecile losing a $175,000/yr job. A large local development company has hosted countless business meals in the restaurant, usually with the owner of the company [who is a great guy] in charge or at least in attendance. One evening the company had a dinner without this owner at the table. Toward the end of the night, while I was in the room checking on everyone, the company vice-president acting as host asked me, in front of his guests and in a large booming voice, "Can I pay for dinner tonight with a company check?" My response was affirmative and honest--I informed the gentleman that we don't usually accept checks, but were happy to do so for him and for his company as they were such loyal guests. With that statement I asked him to give the check to the server as he would a credit card and we would take care of everything. Two minutes later he was outside the room and in my face--how dare I "talk back" to him in front of his guests and "discuss the check" in front of his guests and "tell him who can pay with what" in front of his guests and he was furious and I had made "a big mistake, mister".

I responded by apologizing for any misunderstanding and informing the gentleman that I responded to HIS question in front of his guests because he HAD ASKED ME IN FRONT OF HIS GUESTS. Apparently that was more "back talk" and he was going to "take care of me". He wrote his check for the exact amount of the check and stiffed the servers.

The next day I had to tell my side of events to my employer and the owner of the development company. Not surprisingly, my version was much different than the hosts'. The owner of the company asked me who else was in the party, and I was able to name a couple of attendees that were familiar to me--once the developer returned to his office, these two people apparently backed my version of things and also added the extra tid-bit that others in the party that evening made merciless fun of the host after I left the room for not having "enough clout" to rate a company credit card.

The next day I received a fed-exed personal letter of apology from the developer along with a huge tip for the servers--apparently the other attendees had also let him know that vice-president douche bag had declined to leave a gratuity. In the letter he mentioned that he was sorry to have doubted me [we had known each other at the time for nearly seven years], and that he was very embarrassed that someone representing him had acted in such a reprehensible fashion. The last paragraph casually mentioned the fact that the gentleman in question had been dismissed for violating the company's printed code of professional conduct.

Be nice, be polite, and you will be treated like a king and have a wonderful time. However, if you decide to be a tool, be damned sure that the person you attack doesn't have more influence than you do.

5 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is this a typical day for you? Sounds intense, but more unusually very, very long.

-Seth

11:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I too am always stunned by how much people are willing to embarrass themselves to get a free meal or better table. Really, do they have no shame? I would never go out to dinner with half the people I see in my restaurant because they're so outrageously "entitled." Sounds like you have the exact same problem, I can't even imagine the stress!

7:26 AM  
Blogger Reserved Stipulation said...

Hello! I've been reading your blog for a little while now, and I have to say that I enjoy it a lot!

I've tagged you on my blog for a fun little meme, if you want to do it. :)

2:13 PM  
Blogger Robert said...

A number of us have enjoyed your blog and discussed a number of your points. Please consider joining us at http://www.wineloverspage.com/forum/village/viewtopic.php?t=8439&highlight=

I do disagree with your ninth point:

"9. You demand a new set of glasses with every successive bottle of the same wine, because "the wine has changed and you can't mix them". Once again, your mouth is way ahead of your tiny little lottery-winner brain. Wine is constantly evolving, whether in the glass, the bottle, or in a decanter. The process of drinking and pouring even one bottle of wine displays nearly incalculable variations of the wine in that bottle--its part of the reason for drinking it in the first place. If you haven't greased the glass up with your grubby paws and there hasn't been any surprise sediment, there is very rarely any reason to have fresh glasses for newly-ordered bottles of the same wine."

At upscale restaurants, I've requested a new set of glasses with each new bottle of wine -- unless the sommelier offers them as a matter of course -- and it's been several months since I've had to ask for fresh glasses. There is always bottle variation, and even if there isn't any, it can be great fun to compare a wine that's been in the glass for 30 to 40 minutes with wine form a newly poured bottle.

You really makes my point yourself: "Wine is constantly evolving, whether in the glass, the bottle, or in a decanter. The process of drinking and pouring even one bottle of wine displays nearly incalculable variations of the wine in that bottle..."

Why would any sommelier who believes that wine is constantly evolving -- as it does -- pour the new wine into a glass containing wine from the previous bottle, or even an empty glass with all of the aromas that remain from the first wine?

Of course, I wouldn't do so when dining at an Italian or French bristo with simple foods and wines. But in an upscale restaurant emphasizing fine wines and great steaks, I certainly would expect a change of glasses with each new bottle of wine.

Regards, Bob

3:45 PM  
Blogger SkippyMom said...

Wow! This is my fav' restaurant post ever...I love reading waiter/restaurant blogs and FINALLY someone was "TOLD" in a great, professional manner...and that developer is a man anyone should want to work for....when you are company business, representing the firm you work for it does not pay to be a jerk to people who are just doing their jobs [you/servers] .....
I don't like to see people lose their jobs but this guy SO deserved it... his boss realized he must treat everyone that poorly.

Gosh I love this story!
Hugs

6:41 AM  

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