After twenty years in restaurant kitchens, Jamey Fader is now culinary director for Marczyk Fine Foods. But he’s still stirring the pot, and will answer your culinary questions in his weekly column for Westword.
Dear Chef: So I was sitting at a nice hotel eatery with a friend from out of town when a fellow stumbled in and grabbed a seat on the banquette at the next table, very close to my friend. (I thought he knew him; he apparently thought the guy knew me.) Anyway, he was drunk and let out a belch that almost knocked me out of my seat. What should a restaurant do in this case?
In a restaurant or a bar, do you find yourself randomly yelling, “Woohoo”? Are you prone to egregiously voluminous orations of raunchy tales? Do you consider yourself the “life of the party?" Have you ever been spoken to by a manager about your behavior, asked to leave, even 86'd forever? Have you vomited in a bathroom or stood on a table? If you answer is "yes" to even a few of these, let alone all of them, then you need to drink at home. Alone. In the dark.
Alcohol consumption, when performed in public, is for professionals. The rookies who don’t know when to say when are ruining the good time for everyone else, and that’s completely unacceptable. When consuming alcohol, if you're the loudest person in the room, overly argumentative and opinionated, or the only person “having fun,” know that it’s because your sophomoric behavior is making whatever you’re doing enjoyable to you while completely destroying all hope in humanity for everyone else.
For those of you who know how to consume alcohol without becoming a disruptive nuisance, we, the dining community, thank you for your maturity and professional approach to being an adult in the world. We’re grateful for you and appreciate your ability to have a blast while enhancing the positive vibe for everyone.
In the restaurant business, the manager’s job is to curate an incredible experience for every guest who walks in the door. This, in and of itself, is no easy task, because while there’s always at least a common denominator of expectations and needs, everyone is out for a different reason and they all should be catered to at the highest level. On any given night, a diner is celebrating, working a deal, trying out a first date, grieving, networking, starving and in need of a solid meal, planning a new venture or simply out for a good time. Many of these agendas conflict with one another, but a good manager can still construct a well-orchestrated evening for all with the exception of the disruptive, drunken buffoon who should have been put to bed before he even got started. That behavior is nauseating, boorish, childish and reprehensible.
The worst part is that, as a manager, you have to treat this person with respect and allow him to be wrong with dignity, because he is your guest, too, and we are hospitalitarians. Worse still is that we have to deal with a drunk knowing full well that when he's finally home where he belongs, scarfing Totino’s pizza rolls, he's gonna leave a shitty Yelp review about the experience in which he was in fact the asshole who was the very root of everyone’s problem.
In this specific case, where an “overserved” guest sits in the wrong space at the wrong time and lets out a belch that could warn ships off a rocky coast, the host should address the person directly. Let him know, politely, that he's in the wrong place, and keep it at that one small fact so that there is no debate or room for discussion around other guests. The intent is to get the disruptive person to leave of his own volition. If it’s his decision, there’s less fuss and disturbance to the herd. I would escort the nuisance away from the table and toward the front door via an angle that looks like we’re headed to the bar while keeping us focused on some casual banter. Once near the bar, I would then move us to the door, where I would ask if I could get the guest a ride home because he's not only too drunk to be in my restaurant, but too drunk to drive.
Once he's handled, I would return to the diner's table and apologize profusely for the inconvenience and rain down showers of comped affection to make it right. Not because you expect it, but because you don't.
Have a question about the restaurant business? Email Jamey Fader at [email protected].