Tuesday, September 12, 2006

"A spoonful of honey will catch more flies than a gallon of vinegar"--Benjamin Franklin

I never cease to be amazed at the number of guests that seek to achieve their goal, whatever that may be, through intimidation. Leave out the fact that we are talking about dinner here--not tickets to the Superbowl, not a sheet of paper with the cure for cancer written on it, not the map to the Templar Treasure--just dinner. Prime beef, fresh fish, great wine, and an elegant atmosphere--valuable yes, but hardly worth descending into the realm of absolute cocksuckery over.

Maybe these people are used to abusing the $18,000/yr assistant managers at Friday's, fresh out of hotel school and addicted to the "situation response" pamphlet tucked into the back pocket of their Dockers. Maybe they spend all of their time in dead slow restaurants where the staff has to take their shit just to make a little money. Maybe, or most likely, they are just poorly formed social rejects who are only able to define themselves through petty oneupsmanship.

Almost nothing in the world is more important to me than common courtesy. I will use every tool and power at my disposal to serve a guest who behaves properly and politely. We ask alot of our guests--it is very hard to gain access to our restaurant without a reservation, we ask guests to dress a certain way and will not admit them otherwise, our prices are high, and as with most successful steakhouses, our offerings are simple and straightforward, meaning we will not appeal to everyone. We have been in business for a long time, much longer than most restaurants, and I suppose that with our measure of success has come a certain level of security that allows us to tell the worst segment of humanity to go fuck themselves--nicely of course.

I am not talking about demanding guests, challenging guests, particular guests, or guests who find themselves out of their element or overwhelmed by a restaurant that brings in more in revenue in one busy evening than the average American household makes in a year. I am talking about the following:

1. One cannot be admitted to our restaurant wearing shorts--long pants only and preferably not jeans. One evening as I am standing at the front doors looking out and wishing I was elsewhere, an H2 [bad sign] pulls up at the valet and out hop two little muscle-heads, both guys about 5'6" with 50" chests and 18" biceps. Little Ferrigno is in a Sergio Tacchini warm-up suit [purple], and Little Arnold is in Hooter's shorts and one of those underarmour bodices that looks more like a wetsuit than an article of clothing. I watch the valet manager walk over and nicely let them know that Little A can't be seated in shorts, to which Little A responds by flipping him the bird and telling him to go fuck himself. As they approach the front doors I tell my maitre d' to get ready, and I take up my "disinterested nameless guy" pose about five feet behind the front desk. In come "A" and "F"--"A" quickly announces their reservation name and demands to be seated immediately, even though their reservation is for 4 people. While maitre d' begins his apologetic spiel about not being able to seat anyone in shorts, a hostess brings up the reservation on our computer--in the notes the reservationist has gone to the unusual step of remarking that these guests were informed of the dress policy and were argumentative about it on the phone--following the note is the computer abbreviation used to indicate a dickhead.

"A" doesn't want to deal with maitre d', but after having his demands of "forget your policy" and "just seat me and him before I get pissed" ignored, he demands a summit meeting--"you're an idiot, there's no way you run this place, gimme your boss".

Now, maitre d' is small and out of shape--he gets picked on all the time. I on the other hand am not small, and while not in the best of shape make what a female friend of mine calls "an imposing impression". I also enjoy violence, and can bring a look to my eyes and a particular smile to my face that almost all men instinctively recognize as dangerous. Ignoring "A", I speak only to the heretofore silent "F", apologizing for the situation and re-iterating our policy all the while staying behind the desk, the maitre d', and the hostesses. "F" asks what they need to do to get seated, because they have friends on the way--I tell him that "A" needs long pants. At this point "A" interrupts with the always tactful "how about a twenty to change the policy for tonight", to which I reply apologetically that I cannot unfortunately change the policy. Still being professional, I do not tell him that even though it is barely 6:30pm and the evening is just starting, I already have $300 in my pocket and would not use his $20 to wipe my ass. Like few people in my industry, I long ago conquered my greed--mainly by making myself rich.

Here is where the situation, still on life support, goes flatline. "A" asks me, pointing to "F" in all his S. Tacchini glory, "what about him, is he ok?" To which I reply, nicely, "warm-up suits aren't really what we are looking for, but it is long pants and in this situation it is fine." Well, apparently my insolence is the last straw, and "A" loses control, "who the fuck are you to tell us what to wear [growl/flex], some fucking mook in a diner [growl/flex] hourly employee fucking manager piece of shit [growl/flex]..." Yes, "A" during his tirade was, probably unconsciously, growling at me like a dog and flexing his mutated upper torso while spitting his outrage. While he was letting his faculties slip, I very quickly moved up in front of my staff and next to the desk, directly in front of him. As "A" continued to sputter and growl, "F" took note of the fact that I was as wide through the shoulders as they were, six inches taller, and unbenownst to me now had eight waiters standing behind me. "F" looked right at me, said "sorry about him, its the juice" and then grabbed "A" and pulled him out of the restaurant--then "F" stuck his head back in the door and said "not for nothin', but this warm-up goes for $200..."

Some things you should not do:

1. If you are told that you cannot wear something, or cannot be admitted somewhere because of what you are wearing, DO NOT proceed to announce how much the offending item costs--ex.-- "Sir, I am afraid I cannot seat you wearing shorts". response--"But these shorts cost $500.00". If we do not put a dollar value into our statement, it means dollar value is of no consequence--all you have done is tell us that you are 1. an idiot for spending $500 on shorts or more likely 2. a liar, and a bad one at that [note: for some reason, the amount in this case is always $500--$500 hat, $500 shorts, $500 sandals, except of course for the $200 Tacchini.

2. Your purported wealth does not matter. The magic words to solve your steakhouse dilemma are not, "Do you know how much money I am worth?" No I do not know how much money you are worth, and no I do not care. We regularly serve many of the richest people in the world [according to Forbes magazine] and they are almost invariably the nicest, most polite and considerate guests we welcome. Their personal staffs are usually arrogant and toolish beyond measure, but the principals themselves are delightful. When the contents of my four nicest booths add up to over $30 billion in combined wealth, I am pretty sure I am not bending the rules for Mr. Mystery Rude Might Be Rich Guy.

3. Do not ask ME if I am in the restaurant, as in "I can't waste my time with you, is ME here tonight? ME and I play golf [I do not play golf] all the time and he'll straighten this out." I swear to God, at least once a month someone gives me the dismissive sneer and asks to speak to me. Do some frigging homework, my picture is right on the website.

4. Your vehicle is not a magic wand. "I'm sorry sir but without a reservation I wouldn't be able to seat your party for nearly two hours." The answer to this quandary is not "But that's my Ferrari outside." Congratulations Magnum, grab TC and head on over to the Club and have dinner there. See if Higgins wants to join you.

5. Don't try to convince me that YOU are the one on charge. "And what's your name? How come I haven't seen you here before? I eat here in shorts all the time! Where's [insert name of my employer"s former business partner who has never even stepped foot in this restaurant and has nothing to do with it]. Are you new? You must be new, because you don't recognize me! Keep on going like this and you won't be here for long. When did you start here? Where is [name of original maitre d' who left the restaurant in 1998] tonight?"

6. Don't just drop ANY name. Invariably, most idiots who start to realize they are spinning their wheels will cast back in the memory banks for an "in", someone they know who has "pull" with me--what they don't realize is that the name they invoke is usually far less influential than even their own--good guys usually hang with good guys and tools usually find themselves in a box full of other tools--its the way of the world.

DO make a reservation, DO tell us about any special requests ahead of time, DO listen to us tell you our dress policy, DO show up on time or call to tell us you are running late, and if you want to tip the manager/maitre d' DO make it a thank you and not a bribe, delivered respectfully rather than handed over like a bone to a dog.

Here ended the lesson...for now

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