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Oct 30, 2008 03:32 PM

Restaurant "Regulars" Under Interrogation!!!

My husband and I have been having dinner regularly and quite often at one particular small, independently-owned restaurant. We choose to dine at this restaurant because of its location, and because we really enjoy the food and service there. For some time, we'd been going there about once a week, and almost always on the same day of the week. We usually have cordial, pleasant conversations with the owner and the hostess, and we're always greeted warmly.

A couple of months ago, we did not happen to be in that town as we'd normally be, so we missed our weekly dinner there. In fact, I think we missed two weeks. When we did show up again, as we were being seated, the hostess said, "You weren't here last week. And I think you weren't here the week before, either." I said, "That's right." But she persisted and said, "We missed you. Why weren't you here?"

Now, I know we don't owe anyone an explanation about WHY we happened to not be there. In fact, I thought it was positively rude and absurd that she was even asking. And, after we were seated, the owner came over to say hello and he asked us exactly the same questions. We answered both of them by simply saying, "We just weren't here." Then, last night, under similar circumstances, we were given the same kind of interrogation. I don't know if it matters, and maybe there are cultural differences I'm unaware of, but for the record, let me mention that both of these individuals were born in Asian countries.

We'd easily opt out of the restaurant entirely, were it not for the fact that there's really nowhere else nearby where we'd want to have dinner when we're in that town. Remember, I said we chose the place primarily because it's in a location where we need to be. But sheeeesh! It's as though they're trying to make us feel guilty for not showing up.

I need a good response to these nosy, inappropriate questions. I know these questions WILL be asked again. Don't make me have to find another restaurant just because these folks lack tact and business smarts. I don't want to be rude in my response. I just want them to understand that I'm put off by their inquisitiveness.

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  1. Did you ever think (contrarian) that maybe, especially in this economy, that they were just saying, 'we appreciate your loyal patronage and were thankful for your business'.

    1. I agree that the questions are nosy and rude, but perhaps (as you note) the answer could be cultural differences. Perhaps they were worried that you were sick or something. I'd politely just say "We missed you too" and if they persist with the questions either turn the question back to them (e.g. "Oh, were you worried about us?") or simply say something like "we were busy".

      1. Um, maybe it's all in the tone, but I can't see how these questions are rude or inappropriate. I think it is their way of showing they acknowledge and appreciate you as customers. Maybe they were afraid you had missed those two weeks because of some gaffe on their part, and they wanted the opportunity to find out about it and/or fix it.

        I go to the gym almost every single morning at the exact same time. Earlier in the summer I missed an entire week while I was traveling for business. My first morning back the girl at the desk asked me where I had been. I explained I was away on business and she responded, "oh, we were worried, we missed you!" It was pretty sweet, I thought, that she had even noticed, what with all the people that must stream in there on a daily basis, and that she took the time to express concern.

        Seriously. I'd take it as a sign they value you as customers and don't want to lose you, and nothing more.

        1. Your story reminds me of a little Chinese restaurant my mom and I used to go to before the owner sold it. If we hadn't been in for a while, the owner would come over and tell us how good it was to see us again. He was very cordial to us whenever we came ate there. I have had similar experiences with Vietnamese manicurists. I never think they remember me but they do! Even after two or three years. Sometimes it feels a little obsessive, but for the most part I'm flattered.

          I guess, especially with Carl, the Chinese restaurant owner, it was like we were family. I could tell he was genuinely fond of my mother. Give them the benefit of the doubt and give them an answer that you feel comfortable with, like "we were out of town." Although I've never had this experience in any Japanese restaurant, I have been welcomed this way in a Japanese owned gift shop I frequent.

          1. We also go to a local mom & pop restaraunt, they ask EVERYONE,where have you been? When you leave, they say "see you tomorrow" it's just their tag line. In fact it's printed on their cards and candy wrapers.

            In your case I think a simple we were busy response is satisfactory