Last night was a big, big restaurant night. Across the nation (maybe even around the world?) restaurateurs looked forward to pulling in big receipts, as millions of couples celebrated amore in one of the most romantic of ways. But most of the restaurant people that I know couldn’t wait to get through this evening. As well as all the other big dining-out days; Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Easter, and even New Year’s Eve. Why? Because those are the times when the very occasional diner emerges from his burrow and attempts to remember how things are done in civilized restaurants (if he ever knew how at all).
At these times restaurants are jammed full of people who feel no more at home than they do in libraries. Few of them understand that when a reservation is for 7:00 that means the entire party should arrive just a little before 7:00 and not in dribs and drabs over the next 45 minutes. (at least on Valentine’s Day that is not much too of a problem). Nor do they realize that it is best for everyone to catch up on old times after the dinner selections have been made, not during the 6 or 7 attempts of the frustrated waiter to get their order. And when a waiter does approach the table, that is the time to take a break from the conversation and give him full attention. In this way the guest should not have to wait for that essential glass of wine that was ordered when the entree was being served. Besides, ordering in this piecemeal fashion is called ‘running the waiter to death’ and is unkind to your fellow man. Remember, they probably have other tables to take care of as well.
On normal nights it is common to see folks lingering over coffee and after-dinner drinks, unhurried and conversing in a relaxed manner. On Amateur Nights you will see people doing this same thing, but with nothing on the table, sometimes for hours, preventing other diners from being seated. Sometimes this will take place while their young children are playing Fort Apache with table clothes and tray jacks. (BTW moms, leave the Cheerios at home. Or if you must bring them see that they end up inside the child and not all over the floor.)
If this malingering occurs at the end of the evening it may be preventing an exhausted server from going home to their family, after a long shift. Some might say that since the server is working for tips they had best be patient and attentive. But this points out another problem with Amateur Nights. These are the times in which more people require the most attention and leave the least money on the table. Guaranteed. Tips are terrible on these high volume days.
Now, this probably does not describe you or your friends. You may be very adept at dining and you always leave a good tip (unless the server has done a poor job, of course). But did you go out to a restaurant last night? Or were you one of the millions of professional diners who shudder at the idea of going out on these busy days, for many of the reasons just cited? Ah-hah, just what I figured.
Oh, and by the way. Separate checks are gauche, particularly on Valentine’s Day.