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May 22, 2010 01:13 PM

Approaching the topic of "friend of the restaurant/staff" with a restaurant.

Had an experience a couple of weeks back that didn't sit well with me, and I've thought on and off about e-mailing the restaurant just to make a comment. But I've hesitated because the issue was over patrons who appeared to be "part of the furniture" there.

Went to a higher end steak & oyster place a few weeks back, and we found ourselves seated near a party, who through the meal, became apparent that they were either friends of the staff or related to the restaurant in some way, basing this opinion on the actions of the servers, special meals arriving to the table etc.

This wasn't a problem during the earlier stages of our meal, and not noticeable excepting the traffic to and fro, making us wonder why that table was so special (servers were sitting with them, chatting, back-patting etc-plus they had at least two servers to their four party table). What did become very very obvious, was the behavior of one of the patrons at the table, that left a very bad taste in all of our mouths after we left.

We were all having drinks with our meal as well and feeling warm and fuzzy, so this is not an issue of looking down on that type of thing, but this guy proceeded to get VERY obviously drunk as the evening proceeded, as evidenced by the increase in his volume, and noticeable the couple of times he stood up. Well, that and the bottles of wine that were killed at the table before their meal even showed.

Some time later, the guy could hardly stand (they hadn't received their meals yet), and was staggering to the point that he was careening dangerously towards our table, and we feared he'd crash over it, or onto one of us; it was making everyone pretty nervous. In addition to this, the guy was extremely loud, was dropping f-bombs at the same level, loudly proclaiming how "f-ing hammered" he was, and after receiving his meal, began playing with it (picked up a full crab and "danced" it about). Thankfully our meal was cluing up at this point.

We saw no evidence that anyone spoke to the guy, save for one person in his group once saying "shh" at one point when he got really loud. No one at the restaurant did anything and it was that kind of situation where we not only didn't want to further ruin our night (and there were older kids at the table), but the way the situation was set up there, it felt uncomfortable, and hey, no one wants to piss off a big drunk guy either. Also, I wasn't catching the bill.

If anything it seemed as though the staff there catered even more to the guy and the table, despite his behavior.

Quite honestly, even though the place gets great reviews, knowing that this party is either a regular at the place or related to the owners or something, is enough to turn me off going back.

I wonder if the restaurant realizes how badly this reflects on them. And I wonder how you approach these types of situations with restaurants.

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  1. Contact the restaurant and tell them how you felt about the situation.

    1. Totally the restaurant. If a friend of the restaurant, they need to know how bad this situation reflects on them. If an owner, jfood would never return.

      1. This is pretty unusual. I work at a restaurant with a large list of "friends," but the assumption is that the "friendship" will come in the form of some extra attention, some hellos from a bunch of staff members, and some free stuff. Our owner (who dines frequently with friends) made the policy pretty clear which is that no "friends" of the restaurant will interfere with proper restaurant services or experiences for the normal people who actually pay for everything they consume.

        My guess is that management will want to hear about this, if only so they know that when said "friends" dine they should moderate the wine flow for them. Just an email to let them know what happened, not to criticize management and you should get a thank you note. If you hear nothing or get a cheeky response, don't go back.

        1. maybe the guy was one of the owners or related to one of the owners?
          normally, the owners and their families get 'free passes' in terms of behavior.

          not saying it's right, but it is something i've observed.

          1. I hear what you're staying but am not sure what you expect them to do. If you were bothered you might have asked to be seated at a different table (at the time) but I don't really see what complaining about it after the fact will achieve. There are almost two issues here: were you bothered by an obnoxious adjacent table, or, were you bothered by the fact that the management seemed to ignore the obnoxious behavior because they knew them? If they were as bad as you say (and I don't doubt it for a second) I imagine the staff/mgmt were also horrified, but at a loss as to what to do about it. They likely were praying that other tables weren't being bothered. If you had said something at the time, they may have been forced to take action. I think it's natural to avoid unpleasant situations unless forced to confront them...

            6 Replies
            1. re: purple bot

              Agreed. If the party's behavior was bothering you, you should've spoken up. What's management going to do now? They'll most likely think you're after a gift card.

              That guy probably drops huge coin at the place. That shouldn't excuse his boorish behavior, but it definitely buys him leeway. There used to be this guy who came into my restaurant. He'd knock back 12 Amstels and two bottles of Opus himself. He'd get hammered- really blitzed, and loud. The owners turned the other cheek because he literally paid for his bad behavior. His checks were always over a grand and he usually tipped 50%.

              While all guests are "important", some really are more important and receive unexpected special treatment. If that situation isn't to your liking, the only thing to do is complain at the time. Nothing can be done about it at a later date. Hopefully this was a one- time ooccurence, and it probably was, since everyone seems to like the guy.

              1. re: purple bot

                I don't expect them to do anything, I just thought they might like to be aware. As I'd said in my OP, I was more or less a guest at this dinner, and because we were nearing the end of the meal, no one wanted to make a scene, and we all just wanted to get out of there.

                We were a party of 6, so there was also some $$$ dropped from our table too.

                It was sort of an uncomfortable situation all round. It was one of those things were you'd normally say something to the management, but given that the staff were all over the table, that made us hesitate. For all of us, this was our first time at the restaurant, and I didn't know who we were dealing with.

                1. re: im_nomad

                  "I don't expect them to do anything, I just thought they might like to be aware"

                  They're aware.

                    1. re: westsidegal

                      Yes, I am sure they are aware.

                      Just guessing, but the extra attention may partly have been an attempt to keep on top of things. I am a regular at a restaurant which has a lot of (also regular) patrons who drink a ton. The owners always spend a lot of time at the tables of regulars, drunks and people with kids.

                  1. re: purple bot

                    "There are almost two issues here: were you bothered by an obnoxious adjacent table, or, were you bothered by the fact that the management seemed to ignore the obnoxious behavior because they knew them?"

                    I'm guessing it's the latter.