The snow in the forecast this week got me thinking back about January night four or five years ago, about a particularly obnoxious table of four people. This table is indelibly etched in my mind and is the kind of table that makes everyone in the restaurant business ask, "Why do we put up with this?"
It was a pitch black, snowy January weeknight when not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. [Cut me some slack. I was going to start out "It was a dark and stormy night...."] Our boredom was broken by the chime of the front door and in walked two couples, late 30s to early 40s, nice looking and seemingly well educated, all very happy. One of the women announced that they were starving and were looking forward to a good dinner. We exchanged pleasantries with the two couples as they were being shown to their table.
Soon after they got to the table, however, the same woman announced to the server "Oh, we're just having appetizers and drinks," which generally means that our prices are higher than the table expected. OK, we do hear that from time to time and we deal with it. We all have budgets and we've all been to restaurants whose prices were higher than we could afford. Those of us who work in this business do not have unlimited means.
Right after this, the griping and snide comments started. In response to the bowl of olives that we bring to each table at the beginning of dinner, "You better eat the pits too so you get your money's worth." When we brought their single order of prosciutto-wrapped scallops, an appetizer for one person consisting of two 2-ounce scallops, "Is that all there is?" and "Where's the rest of it?" When one of them needed to use the restroom, "You better hold it, they probably charge you to use the restroom here."
Because of the snow, the restaurant was deadly quiet and we could hear every one of these comments all the way across the restaurant. Of course, they were trying to make sure that we heard.
When we brought the bill, we also heard, "I can't believe they charge $8 for a Margarita." Yeah, well, believe it. You squeeze four limes for each Margarita and figure the costs for the limes, labor, and really good tequila and see if $8 isn't a bargain.
On their way out, they were so childish as to erase the "0" from the "$10" price on the special board for the scallop appetizer such that it read "$1." Like we weren't watching them do this.
Of course, such upstanding citizens can always be expected to tip really well. They left $5 on a $55 check, a fitting ending to their bravura performance.
And the answer to why we put up with this? Because the vast majority of customers are warm, kind, and charming and appreciate what we do. They're the reason we keep doing this every day despite the antics of a few clowns.