Word of Mouth

When on the patio, remain calm and follow the rules

Welcome to In the Weeds. Kyle will be right with you -- most likely to complain about something. Usually he is pleasant, but this is his place to blow off some steam. Don't take it personally; he just needs to vent because he's been doing this for about thirteen years. Enjoy your meal.

Restaurant patios are like a drug. They're potentially a lot of fun, especially when mixed with alcohol, but they can also cause some people to temporarily lose their minds and abandon all human decency. Eating and drinking outside on a nice day -- and the limited number of seats in which you may enjoy such activities -- can turn otherwise reasonable people into chair-stealing, bitchy lunatics.

Here's how to avoid becoming one of them:

When you enter a patio, look for a hostess or a sign indicating whether you should seat yourself. I see entirely too many people who stride past the hostess and then glance around with darting eyes and a crazed look on their faces, as if a tornado is coming and they're trying to beat the crowd to a shelter. Too many people assume that because they're in a marginally outdoor environment, the seating is a seating free-for-all. But this is not 'Nam. This is a patio. There are rules.

You can't just pick any seat you want. You could be taking a table that is reserved or messing up the seating rotation. Checking in with the hostess is going to help you; it's better that she seats you in a section where a server is prepared to serve you rather than you plopping down where a server is already busy. And if you just dart to the first open seat you find appealing, don't complain if you're not attended to quickly.

I shouldn't have to remind people of this, but when you are sitting on a patio, you might come into contact with something called "weather." When a mass of rain clouds is forming overhead, it's probably not the ideal time to sit outside.

You can typically identify rain clouds by their large shape, gray color and ability to drop water out of the sky. If you note these objects in your vicinity and insist on dining outdoors, don't get pissed when you grab your soggy salad and come running inside -- where there's no seat available. I look at people who sit outside before a storm the same way I look at people who lose money after gambling for a full weekend in Las Vegas. What did you think was going to happen? Do you think those casinos built themselves?

And even if the restaurant is able to find you a seat indoors, be patient. Quickly moving a party across the restaurant, especially when several other tables might be doing the same thing at the same time, is not a routine procedure. It takes time for a server to locate you, bring you any food or drink you left behind, and then transfer your check to another server, who might be busy and wasn't expecting new tables.

If you're on a patio on a non-rainy day, you still have to deal with the elements. Here is a short list of things you are not allowed to complain about: heat, wind, flies, noise and sun in your eyes.

Despite what some people think, restaurants are not equipped with a direct line to God. We can't ring him up and say, "Hey, big fella, can you drop the temperature ten degrees, dial the breeze down and stop all cars from driving by? Oh, you're busy trying to provide clean drinking water to impoverished people and cure cancer? Well, what am I supposed to do about removing these bugs from their natural environment?"

And if a bug, leaf or piece of dirt lands in your drink, don't get all bent out of shape. You're sitting outside -- those things exist out there. A restaurant will hemorrhage money if it makes a new drink for every person whose beverage comes in contact with the elements, so be very thankful if an establishment fixes you a new drink in this circumstance.

Patios, especially in Colorado, should be fun. Guests are enjoying food, drink and the outdoors, and the staff should be making good money. Just remember to be careful out there.

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Kyle Garratt
Contact: Kyle Garratt