Saw this on huffington Post this morning, and it got me thinking about something that happens in restaurants so often that I shudder to think about it…..
It was posed to me this way, in a job interview a couple of years ago. “It’s nine o’clock on a Friday night, and the owner’s brother just walked in the door. He will only sit at table 38, and there is a couple sitting there. You have to move them. What do you do?”
“Does he have a reservation?”
“Does the owner’s brother do this often?“
My two interviewers exchange a knowing glance.
“Oh yeah. At least once a week.”
“What course is the couple on?”
“I’d tell the owner’s brother to sit at the bar and wait for the table. Or he’s welcome to have a different one.”
“You can’t do that.”
“I’d tell him that I’ll hold that table for him every night until 8pm, but if I don’t see him or hear from him by 8pm, I’m seating another guest there.”
“That would never work.”
This restaurant is the sort of chic place that most diners can only afford to patronize once a year. That the owner’s brother comes in once a week, and insists on throwing his weight around makes me want to accommodate him less.
The three of us sat at a plush table, staring one another down for the next three minutes. I know how they want me to answer, and they know that I am not happy with that answer. The answer they are looking for is– I would move the couple to a private dining room or another table for their dessert course, and for their trouble post a hefty comp on their bill. Possibly even comp their entire check.
I had never even considered this practice until I started managing restaurants on Los Angeles. No other city I had ever worked in would so eagerly cow-tow to the whims and peccadilloes of one abusive guest. It’s something that can be so commonplace in Los Angeles that the other night, an inebriated patron waiting for a specific table shrieked at me that “she knows how this works, you buy those people a drink and make them move!” She proceeded to tell me that I am “beyond an idiot if I think she is going to sit at that other table” that I had offered her twenty minutes before and she didn’t like.
I guess I am beyond an idiot. Because I thought we were talking about a table, not debating abortion law or whether the moon landing was staged.
As that banshee-woman was bugging her eyes out at me, I had to grit my teeth. I have a loud laugh that carries like a foghorn, and a well-dressed middle-aged lady throwing a tantrum in public about a table is just too ridiculous for me to take seriously. Luckily, her husband shepherded her back to the bar and the guests sitting in the booth the banshee wanted cleared the table shortly after.
But here’s my policy, and here’s what I said in that interview two years ago:
I don’t move people. Once they’re seated, they’re seated. If that makes someone want to fire me, then so be it.
So, good on you, anonymous Nobu manager for insisting on some basic level of human decency and civil behavior. And thanks Huffington Post for spreading the word.