Restaurant Etiquette, Vol. 6, Issue 28

Dear Etiquetteer:

Recently, a friend and I went to dinner at a Cape Cod restaurant where we both summer. Normally, their service is quite good. This night, they seated us immediately, handed us menus – which we perused then closed in anticipation of service – and then promptly forgot us. No water, no bread, no announcement of specials, no indication of who our server was, nothing. We tried to get their attention, to no avail. Others came in after us, were seated, given water, told specials, etc. Finally, we simply left our menus on the table, got up, and left. No one stopped us or even seemed to notice. But it still felt rude to me to be doing so. Was our behavior not Perfectly Proper? Should we have done something else?

Dear Dining:

Your question mystifies Etiquetteer. How is it rude to leave a restaurant where the staff forgot about you as soon as you arrived? While accidents do happen, few are as frustrating as waiters forgetting about your existence, especially when one’s arrival at the theatre could be compromised by slow service. Etiquetteer could not possibly fault your behavior. You could even have told the manager, politely but very firmly, why you were leaving without losing your Perfect Propriety.

Etiquetteer remembers all too vividly standing at the hosts’s station of a popular local diner at Sunday brunch a few years ago. A Gentleman of a Race Other Than the Host’s, approached on his way out and told the host he’d been waiting over 20 minutes for any service and decided "Maybe that has to do with my [Insert Racial Identity Here]." The host tried to persuade the gentleman to remain for better service, but the gentleman, wisely, chose to leave anyway. Etiquetteer can only fault him for making Race part of the issue.

While there are many tipping deadbeats out there who fail inexcusably to acknowledge good service appropriately, there are also a number of super-entitled waiters and waitresses who feel the world owes them a 20% tip just for showing up. On another occasion, some 20 years ago, Etiquetteer and two friends ducked into a downtown Thai restaurant for what turned out to be a long dinner. We waited 15 minutes for the menus, 20 minutes for the waitress to take our order and practically an Ice Age for dinner, which was served without the white rice that had been ordered. Thoroughly tired out by this experience, Etiquetteer and his companions decided not to leave a tip. Before we had walked 20 feet from the restaurant the manager had pursued us out the door to ask why we hadn’t left a tip! Etiquetteer made quite certain he knew about every defect in the service after that.

Dear Etiquetteer:

I was taught from the very beginning that you never ever put silverware you’ve used on the tablecloth or the table. More and more, however, I’ve noticed that some restaurants just provide silverware for one course. A friend and I were kind of annoyed by this when we went out recently. After we finished our salads I put my utensils on my plate, only to have the waiter put them on the table before clearing. My friend had not used his knife in the first course and tried to balance his fork on top of it to keep it from touching the table, but didn’t succeed. Why do restaurants do this? Is it OK to ask for more silverware?

Dear Forked:

To his chagrin, Etiquetteer has noticed this behavior and doesn’t like it one bit. Etiquetteer has seen this in, shall we say, pubs and restaurants devoted to "casual dining." But just because dining is "casual" doesn’t mean it should be careless. With a Sincere Smile, and not forgetting to say "please," ask for clean utensils as soon as you see your waiter begin to remove them from the table. In the emergency absence of any place to put your utensils, Etiquetteer can only suggest using your napkin (usually a paper one in such establishments) until your waiter brings you a breadplate.

Finally, Etiquetteer would like to congratulate Francesca and Tobias Bazarnick on their marriage, now officially solemnized on two continents, and lift a glass to wish them long life and happiness together. Per cent'anni, amici!

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