Monday, September 28, 2009

In Which I Take On Restaurants, Bad Footwear, Hyper-Casualism, And, Just On Principle, republicans. Because I Must.

Certainly our current Administration in Washington D.C. has plenty to do, what with The Economy, Health Care, Iran playing Hide-n-Seek with nukes, and the republicans trying to...well, Do Whatever Nasty Thing They Can Find To Do. But this is no time to forget the fine cement of Nicety that should hold our country together. Once again, I volunteer to step in, make the Dept. of Nance a bona fide department, and do what I can to whittle away at the insidious incivilities that threaten to weaken what is left of Our Gracious Society.

Our topic today, dear readers: Restaurants. (Let me immediately say that I have a personal stake in this subject and that it was inspired by a recent dining experience at a franchise restaurant which shall remain nameless. Rick, not feeling particularly sociable on Friday, called the restaurant (one of the few to still take reservations for a party less than eleventy thousand) to make reservations for the two of us on Saturday. We decided to dine early, at six. This is plenty of background. I press on.) Restaurants have become a Behemoth Of Bad Behaviour in our Society as of late. Not owning or operating one myself, perhaps I am simply naive or ignorant, and a restaurateur can set me straight. Otherwise, I will remain convinced that the following points need to be remedied immediately. It simply cannot be that hard.

1. Reservations: Firstly, take them. Regardless of party size. Second, honor them. I do not want to arrive on time and have to wait twenty minutes (as was the case Saturday). Listen, I made a plan to dine at your establishment. I can understand there being some unexpectedness involved. But twenty minutes? Ridiculous. I'd like to paraphrase Jerry Seinfeld when I say, "Anyone can take a reservation. It's holding the reservation; that's the most important part."

2. Seating: Do not insult me and take me, a person who made a plan to dine at your establishment over 24 hours ago, to the lousiest table in your restaurant. Those horrific cafeteria-like two-tops along a banquette. I do not wish to share my dinner and my dinner conversation with strangers. As a matter of fact, restaurateurs everywhere, STOP PUTTING THOSE GODAWFUL SEATS IN YOUR RESTAURANTS, PERIOD. THEY ARE TERRIBLE. If you must have them, save them for the walk-ins who decided at the last minute to patronize your establishment. When I am escorted to one by a clueless hostess, I politely insist that I be moved. Questions follow, managers inevitably insinuate themselves, and the dinner check ends up being comped. I don't try to get a free meal. I just want a nice dinner. I'm happy to pay for it, really.

3. Acoustics: Why do you have "ambient music?" Most restaurants are too damned loud anyway. The music/Muzak does not help. Especially annoying is "theme" music, i.e. Italian music at Italian restaurants. If I had a restaurant, I'd plaster that place with acoustical tiles so that it sucked in every single noise. You wouldn't hear an ice cube clink. In other words, you'd be able to hear the person across the table from you talk. Without shouting.

4. Appropriate Dress: Flip-flops. I see really no difference between these and being barefoot. Really. Can you imagine all the crud being flipped and flopped into the dining atmosphere from these people's feet? Ugh. And, is there really a difference between an Abercrombie & Fitch hooded sweatshirt and a plain old hooded sweatshirt? I want there to be some restaurants where I can go and not see a baseball hat. Where there won't be a woman in tennis shoes and sweatpants. But I don't have to pay fifty bucks for my pasta. You know?

The Dept. of Nance stands ready to restore Gentility to Dining Out. Short of opening its own restaurant, it will do its utmost to assist diners everywhere in their Quest For A Sophisticated And Civil Dining Experience. But first, both parties must accept their share of the blame.

Restaurateurs, anxious to make a go of their ventures, are increasingly lax regarding their standard of clientele. They're just happy to get bodies in the door. If they are running a casual, family restaurant, that's fine. But do draw the line someplace. Is it beach shoes? Is it bikini tops? Is it children running amok and disturbing other diners? Train your staff, and make sure they are capable. Tossing a few free meals here and there will eventually add up, and pretty soon, you'll be shuttering your business.

American Public, have some class. You are out to dinner. Not standing in front of your Frigidaire after having closed up your garage sale. Other people are around. True, you do not know them, but have some Personal Dignity. Are your children disturbing others? Apply a standard other than "Are they killing someone/each other/me?" for their Public Behavior. Finally, wear Real Shoes. It will be Okay. It's only an hour or two and then you can go home and take them off.


  1. You remind me of a few years ago, when we celebrated our wedding anniversary by taking our tween-aged daughter with us into San Francisco, to a tiny (TINY) French restaurant we used to frequently frequent when we lived there, on the side of Nob Hill. She wanted to wear jeans. No, I said, No jeans. This is a nice French restaurant. We wear dresses. We argued, she resentfully complied, and of course, every other table in the restaurant had patrons in jeans.

    Sigh. That was, sadly, the day I gave up. Now that she's a bit older, she is more conscious of such things, so maybe she learned something before I gave up.

  2. I could not POSSIBLY agree more. I have no problem with casual but my definition of casual apparently conflicts with everyone else's definiton of casual. And it's not just restaurants - the movie theatre! The mall! Did these people just get out of bed and throw on the clothes lying on the floor beside the bed??

    And on a completely different restaurant topic - is it just me or are there a whole lot LARGE people eating out lately? I freely admit that I could use a few pounds but we are talking LARGE. Just me? Or not?

  3. Nance, I am sorry to report that there are no such dining establisments around here that meet all of your required needs other than a small french place that your husband doesn't like. So...I think you should consider opening a place once you retire. :)

    And isn't it funny how people think that they are dressed nicer than average if their clothes/shoes were purchased from a place classier than wal-mart?! That always makes me giggle!

  4. Nina--How sad is all of that? And I would never open a restaurant. Too worky. You know how, deep at heart, I am slothful.

    Jan Ross--It's clear to me that Most People simply have given up. Period. The day that pajamas became Public Wear was basically the beginning of Civilization Armageddon in this country. That, and the day that people began wearing flip-flops to places other than the beach. And let's not even get started on Crocs.

    J.@jj--I wish you hadn't given up although I understand completely. As a tween parent, you have to pick your battles. I just hope that the next time you go to that restaurant, she chooses to wear a pretty dress on her own. Wouldn't that be incredible? As for me, I have decided that,at the age of 50, I cannot give up any more. I have given up enough and look what has happened in my country. THOSE PEOPLE HAVE WON! From now on, every decision I make, I repeat this mantra: Am I part of The Solution, or am I part of The Problem? Then I act accordingly. Or at least I try.

  5. I simply refuse to go to a restuarant where the music/noise factor is too great. I go to eat AND to talk/listen. I don't want to shout and I don't want to keep saying, "What???". Am I asking too much?

  6. Mr. Fairway & I go out On the Town occasionally. But we just HATE trying popular spots. They're always so LOUD! Do you think it's because we're older, or because we just don't go to Happy Hour anymore? Well, we're not THAT old, but the HH crowds & their silly patter really crimps my style. I'm thinking, though, it might all be a republican conspiracy. More slop at the trough for Rush, ya know...

  7. Melissa B--I never do HH, ever. I'd rather stay home. Quieter, cheaper, and I can be in my jammies. LOL.

    apathy lounge--what we do for a Living makes us crave the silence. just wait--the next casualty will be your Ipod. prediction.

  8. We used to love the food at Macaroni Grill. But every time we went, we could not hear our friends and family speaking. Well, heck, if we'd stayed home and made pasta instead, we could have had an enjoyable evening with each other. There's a very popular restaurant in our town center that has been overrun by 20- and 30-something professional singles who congregate at the bar and get louder as they drink into the night. We tried meeting some new friends there and I feel I never got to know anything about them because the place was so loud we couldn't hear across the booth.

  9. sputnik--macaroni grill was on my Approved List, primarily because they take reservations. HOWEVER, you are so right: the noise level there is ridiculous at all times, and their seating borders on cafeteria-esque. but some of their food is lovely for a chain restaurant, that's true.

  10. I totally agree, Nance. I can't understand why on earth people are willing to wait forever to get a table at a mediocre restaurant. Being handed the vibrator/pager thingie is not a sign that it's a restaurant I should be visiting. And, yes, there are some very poor excuses for tables out there. Mr. GFE refuses to sit at most two-seaters. Being a tall guy with long arms, he has a very good excuse, but like you said, they usually are pitiful tables anyway. There are exceptions. We did eat at a two-seater on Saturday and, luckily, it was spacious enough to work.


  11. I avoid chain restaurants like the plague. I hate them. All of them. Even if I like the food, I hate eating in those big box places with parking lots the size of a small Wal-Mart.

    I like small, one-of-a-kind places. Nothing with a theme. Nothing with a children's menu. Nothing with individual portions large enough to feed an entire family.

  12. V-grrrl--You're lucky that you have them around you. Here in my little town in not-so-cosmopolitan Ohio, we are pretty much stuck with chains.

    Shirley--welcome back. i detest waiting. and let me tell you, i refuse to wait unless it's a good restaurant, and then I'll only wait about 15 minutes. at that point, i can go home and toss together a really nice pasta dish on my own for that amount of time and likely, it will be better than whatever i would order.


Oh, thank you for joining the fray!

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