Unwelcome Policies

"I dislike policies that presume we are children who need rules in order to behave appropriately."

Last winter my husband and I decided to meet at a favorite restaurant for a weekday dinner. I arrived first and asked for a table for two. 

The hostess smiled. “I’m sorry, we can’t seat you until the other person has arrived,” she said, even after I pointed out that the place was half empty. I didn’t argue with her. I sat down and waited for Mr. Man to arrive.

During dinner, though, I kept thinking about that policy. It’s among a handful of practices that I understand, mostly because I write about the hospitality business for a living. 

Still, I resent them. My husband and I are adults. We hold up our ends of deals. We also value our time as well as transparency in organizations with which we do business. I dislike policies that presume we are children who need rules in order to behave appropriately. Read on, and you’ll see what I mean.

Seating only complete parties. Yes, an intact party will turn a table faster than a singleton waiting for her date. Still, why can’t I enjoy a glass of wine and peruse the menu while waiting? It’s productive time; I’ll start running up a tab and decide what I want to eat. 

Charging to split an entrée. That’s particularly annoying if I’ve ordered a bottle of wine and an appetizer. I know restaurants are trying to safeguard against cheapskates, but that’s not me. I know my appetite. I’m splitting an entrée to save room for the other good things on your menu. 

Refusing to take reservations. No-shows can bite into an evening’s revenue, and taking reservations is just one more task for staff. But honestly, I’m going to show up for my reservation. If I can’t make it, I’ll call and cancel.

Charging an automatic gratuity. That presumes I’m going to cheap out rather than tip generously for expert service. More alarmingly, few servers mention this policy, usually stated in superfine type on the bottom of the menu’s last page. This policy strikes me as overprotective at best and deceptive at worst.

Refusing to split a check or limiting the ways it can be split. I’m the customer. I should dictate how I want to pay my bill. I can see how processing five credit cards to pay one check would vex even the most gracious server. Yet I can’t imagine it happens that often; when it does, the house should just graciously accept the payment. 

Dear restaurateurs, I propose a deal. I’ll treat you your business like a grownup. I’ll trust that you’ll prepare my food safely and well, that your staff will treat me kindly, and I’ll leave happy and healthy.

In return, I’ll be a grownup. My date will arrive. I will honor my reservation. I’ll tip generously for good service, and I won’t fill up on bread and then save money by splitting an entrée.

And you know what? I’ll even use my indoor voice.