Prom season is upon us once again and this year, tomorrow in fact, will be my daughter's first prom experience. This is a letter to her.
We love prom kids. I know it's hard to believe, but there we were, your mother and I, thirty years ago all spiffed up and ready to show everyone that we were in charge of the world. We love seeing you all dressed up and knowing that you have a bright future ahead of you. We love thinking back on our high school days and how much fun it was before the real world messed everything up!
But in the restaurant business, we also hate prom kids. We shouldn't hate; it's all wrong, I know. But still, we do. Part of what we love about you, your naïveté, causes us to hate you because you and your friends have a lot to learn about how to conduct yourselves in a restaurant.
You are in a unique position. You have worked in a restaurant and you have seen how hard the work is and you know how miserable it is to be faced with an ill-mannered table. You have the chance to educate your peers and you have the chance to make us restaurateurs love, if not all prom kids, at least your table.
Here are some pointers that I would appreciate if you would share with your friends.
1. If you make a reservation, show up. You know what no-shows do to a restaurant; they're killer. If Mom made that reservation for you and then gave you the money for dinner, show up and spend the money on dinner. No skipping dinner and spending the money on beer and weed.
2. And the corollary: show up with the number of people that you reserve for. I know you know how financially difficult it is for us to sacrifice three 4-tops to seat a party of ten when only four show up and we are out the revenue for the other 8 seats. Restaurateurs get really grumpy when this happens. And no, it's not OK to bring two more couples along without calling us first to find out if we have room to seat them.
3. Know how much dinner is going to cost before you go to the restaurant and plan accordingly. In this day and age, Google will find you the answer. Of course, you can put that cell phone that I pay for to good use as well to find out what dinner will cost. After you show up is not the time to decide it’s too expensive and only order appetizers. You, of all people, should know that to survive, restaurants depend on weekend tables ordering full meals.
4. If one of the cool young gentlemen you're with decides that the best way to attract the attention of the females in the party is by throwing food at one of the other guys, could you and all the other young ladies just smack him?
5. When you see your friends across the dining room and you just have to say what's up to them, could you refrain from yelling?
6. If one of the super coolsters in your limo decides that because I'm not serving alcohol to anyone dressed for prom, that he'll try to sneak it into my restaurant, let him know that this is a really bad idea. Not only is he going to have to deal with me, but by the time the cops and his parents get done with him, it will be a night he'll never forget. And it won't be because he has the prom pictures to prove it.
7. Payment is not optional. Just ask the young man who still goes to your high school who tried skating two years ago by making a big show of placing a $10 bill in the bill presenter, instead of what he really owed. He found it necessary to leave prom mid-way through to come correct his math before the police escorted him back to the restaurant. He also found it in his heart to leave a very large tip for his server; it was the least he could do to keep his father, a good friend of mine, ignorant of his son's feeble math skills.
8. Now that you have worked for tips, do you think tipping is optional? You keep an eye on your bill and you make certain that your group leaves a minimum of 20% for your server.
9. Remember Barney and his silly songs? "Please and thank you, they're the magic words!" Barney was right. Please treat your servers with respect and they will return the favor; they might even faint because it will be so unusual!
10. And finally, do I let you bring your cell phone to the dinner table? Enough said.
So, please go have a wonderful evening and look gorgeous and remind us all that we were in high school once too. But, if you could just do me a favor and share this letter with your friends, I would be grateful.