Hospitality Is Dead

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The other night I met up with a group of girls at a finer restaurant to celebrate the birthday of a dear friend. I was invited by another of her friends (don’t worry if you aren’t keeping this all straight; it’s really quite unimportant) and we all gathered between 7:30 and 8:00 at the gigantic table that was set aside especially for us.

Seeing that the event was scheduled for 7:30, I was not sure if it was a dinner party or a dessert party or a drinks and appetizers party or all of the above. And because I live the life of an old person and there are nights when I’m in bed at the time this party started, I decided to go ahead and enjoy dinner with my family before I left. (Really, the truth is, they were having cheesesteaks and I cannot turn down a cheesesteak because I have no self control, and I am a glutton, and have I mentioned that my clothes don’t fit very well at the moment? Perhaps this is why.) But anywho.

So we all gathered and ordered drinks as we waited for the latecomers to grace us with their presence, and then the waiter began going around the table taking orders.

Oh! I meant to tell you—the restaurant was practically empty. There were as many empty tables as there were full ones. Keep that in mind; we will come back to that.

So. When it was my turn to order, I ordered a salad. I figured after clogging my arteries and my pores with a greasy cheesesteak, and because the waistband of my pants was already being tested for durability due to my expanding girth, a salad was probably a better choice than the chocolate lava cake that was calling to me from within the pages of the menu.

A few of the other women joined the ranks of “The Housewife” and ordered a salad, and some split a small entree. Some ordered nothing but a drink. We chatted and cackled like a group of women just released from the bonds of small, nagging children and soon our food came.

The waiter was attentive and polite, and all was going along just swimmingly when the manager came over to the table. He stood right at the head of the table (near where I was unfortunately sitting) and started to explain in an overly polite way that he was more than happy to serve us this evening and get us anything we may want, but we should know, “in the future” (ha! that is presumptuous, Mr. High-And-Mighty-Manager) that if we make reservations to be seated in the dining room, we are required to order entrees. He reiterated about thirty times that he was more than happy to accommodate us this evening, but for the future, we should know that we are not welcome to sit in the dining room without purchasing individual entrees.

Those of us who could hear him smiled icily and nodded, eager to get back to our conversation and illegal salads, while the rest of the table chattered on in blissful oblivion. Then the birthday girl, herself, who is never at a loss for words (a skill that I covet) looked up and said playfully, “Awww, come on! It’s my birthday!”

The manager, looking like he might be regretting his decision to explain his precious entree policy, eagerly assured her for the third or thirtieth time that he would be more than happy to take care of us tonight.

To which the birthday girl stated in a tone that meant business, “I should hope so.”

Oh how I envy the ability to think on my feet like that.

At that, conversation around the table resumed as the manager skulked off, and his ill-timed speech became the object of our discussion, as we looked around at the empty tables and assessed the situation.

I do understand that this is not an unusual policy, but it seems to me that if a restaurant is going to uphold such a policy, they would let people know when they make their reservations and not wait until they are all seated and enjoying their food and conversation and then interrupt it to make such a pronouncement. And also. How would a person planning a party even know what everyone else is going to order? There were ten or twelve of us present; how can you force ten or twelve people to order an entree when you invite them out for a birthday party!?

We were steamed. The whole thing, in my opinion, was handled very poorly. At the very least, he could has made his pronouncement after we were done eating and on our way out the door. Or how about this? How about he just let a few girls enjoy a night out without putting a damper on their evening?

The good news is—that lava cake? Wasn’t nearly as enticing after that little spiel. My waistband is thanking him.


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