I have been working as a food server off and on since I was fourteen and it never gets any less interesting. This is not about fine dining, its about the flip side of the industry working in the trenches of the massive national restaurant chains. Laugh or cry, people!

Monday, February 21, 2011

We're Going to Share That

One of my favorite couples was in tonight.  And when I say “favorite,” I mean they really are not.  These people are seriously crazy.  I started waiting on them about six months ago and I remember everything about them.

With many of my regulars, this is a compliment.  They are pleasant to be around, specific about what they would like, I reciprocate accordingly, and they leave me tips in the 30% range because I remember the details.  It works well for all of us.

These are not they type of regular I am referring to.  These people are seriously strange and I remember them for being strange.  They are an older couple and the first time I waited on them, they brought in two teenagers who were obviously their grandsons.  They made them order water and then split 2 breakfasts between the four of them. 

I’m not saying its bad to be frugal, but its embarrassing in a public dining situation when its obviously the main thing you care about.  I have never seen those kids with them again and I understand their viewpoint.  Why offer to take your grandkids out to eat and then put them through that?

Well, of course there is more to it.

They always share.  Sometimes it takes them 15 minutes to agree on what single item they will share.  They question me about these menu items extensively and seriously.  I answer in the exact same spirit, when I have time.  I understand it is their money to spend how they choose and with the restaurant they choose.  We do not charge for splitting plates but I always have the cook split and plate their entrée right down the middle so they will enjoy their meal without having to spoon half of their food onto the extra plate we provide free of charge.

They have questions about coupons. 
  1. Can they use a coupon and still get a senior discount?  (No, this is considered two discounts and you can only use one). 
  2. Can they use an expired coupon? (No, we do not accept expired coupons.)
  3. Can they use a coupon on a special we are running? (No, this is already a discounted item).

In the end, if they have coupons, they choose to use them even if another discount would be more advantageous.  Every time, no matter how I explain it to them.  So I don’t explain price differences to them anymore, I simply tell them if their coupon applies or not accordingly.  When it comes to coupons, they are not strange for using them, but for being obsessive about using them.

And again, of course there is still more to the story.

They always order water.  Lots of people just ask for water.  That’s OK.  Plenty of people just drink water when they eat out.  I do it too and I don’t really have a problem with it.  They want their water in a large glass with a slice of lemon and no ice, no straw.  OK, but aren’t we getting pretty specific for a free beverage I can’t even put on your bill?  It’s difficult to convey, but the way they say it when they order, I feel like I might mess up something right from the get-go.  And we’re still on water.

When they finally come to a consensus about the entrée they will be sharing, the gentleman always gives me a meaningful look and says, “We need extra napkins.”  Again, its difficult to convey, but he says it accusingly, as if I have already neglected him in some way.

Here’s the super-weird thing.  If a guest has good table manners, they often place the napkin in their lap or on their knee.  If they know they’ve ordered something messy or know they are usually messy, they might ask for another.

This couple spreads their first napkin (the one their flatware is rolled in) out on the table where their plate will go.  Like a placemat, only it unfolds into a giant square shape instead of the traditional rectangular placemat most of us are used to seeing.  They sit across from one another and their giant, paper-thin napkin-placemats overlap.  I can think of no reason to do this. 

As far as I can tell, and believe me I have thought about this, the placemat napkin serves no purpose other than to set their plate on while they eat and use the extra napkins I’ve brought to wipe their fingers/faces on.  I’m not kidding.  They seem to want extraneous napkins to rest the plates on.  And before you say it, they are not resting their flatware on this extra placemat napkin to prevent it from touching the table… I’ve checked.  And by the way, if you are so worried about the germs in the establishment where you are eating that you cannot allow the flatware to touch the table, you might be in the wrong place.

But again, that’s not what this couple is doing.  They seem to not want their plates to touch the table… I have met plenty of obsessive-compulsives, but a couple completely in-synch about this kind of weird shit…. Only one.

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