HOME > Chowhound > Not About Food >


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.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Contact the restaurant and tell them how you felt about the situation.

    1. Totally unacceptable...contact 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.

                  2. I had a somewhat different, not as awful, but still upsetting situation a few years ago. Our first visit to Blue Hill at Stone Barns, (for us) an extremely expensive restaurant-- a really out of our usual date night situation. We were seated at a banquette next to a table that was clearly "friends of the chef". People kept coming by to chat with them for long periods of time. At one point someone came and stood between our tables, so that his posterior was just about in my face. This went on for 10 minutes or so. It made us feel very ignored and unimportant. Really kind of spoiled the evening for us.

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: DGresh

                      It seems to me owners/managers never know what to do, they wait it out till the offending party leaves. In the mean time, the clients around the offenders suffer in silence.
                      I've restrained my husband from going over and saying something, I did not want to cause a scene. It does spoil the evening, you just want it to end.

                      I intervened in a restaurant when my 28 year old, daughter was insulted by drunks, she's gay and looks boyish, I addressed a table of 6 guys , they laughed at her when she went back in the restaurant to use the washroom, after husband and I were outside waiting for the car ; she came out in tears, The bunch of guys had been loud and boorish throughout our meal, so mama bear here had no problem going back in and talking to them, they shut up real quick, the staff thanked me. The mgr told us to come back for a free meal another time.

                      The damage was done by that time anyway, but I felt good for having addressed them.
                      I guess a 58 year old small woman reading you your rights can have a calming effect on a bunch of boors, lol... My husband, btw, had no clue I went back in, he was waiting for us in the car.

                      I would think that patrons who seem to know the owner or staff, could be made to quiet down more easily than strangers, when one cannot anticipate their reaction.

                      1. re: superbossmom

                        Probably what saved the day was that your husband was NOT the one to go back in. From what you say, the situation would have escalated to physical violence if HE had gone back.

                      2. re: DGresh

                        At one point someone came and stood between our tables, so that his posterior was just about in my face.

                        I'll give an offender a minute to exchange pleasantries, but I could never allow any buffoon to extend this a moment beyond . This action always works for me.....

                        Excuse me....you want to get your ass out of my face and away from my table.

                        1. re: fourunder

                          Use a knife to move the ass. Of course, you'll have to ask your server for another knife. jfood's votive candle idea could be entertaining, too.

                          1. re: ricepad

                            Be sure to use the handle of the knife, and/or ask fro a new ne afterward.

                            I have had somebody's butt in my face at a restaurant, now that I think of it. the first time you wait in horror, the second time you do something about it, after having revisited the 'what I shoulda done' scenario several times in your mind.

                            Candles are a little risky, but why not try doing some condiment painting, especially if you've asked the person to move and they didn't? If you can, take a picture of the view before painting- AND after.

                      3. Honestly?
                        You cross it off your list. The guy is either an owner or a friend and the owners probably have an entire cadre of obnoxious undesirables who frequent their restaurant. Even if they don't, life is too short and good restaurants are too plentiful to worry about conducting a scientific study or trying to coach the restauranteurs into better business practices.

                        1. True confession....I've been that party. There are three restaurants where we are regulars, as are our best friends, and one of our best friends gets really out of hand when he drinks. He's a great and a friendly (too friendly) drunk and generous to a fault...it is not uncommon for him to hand out $100 bills to any staff member he comes across (on top of his very high bill and generous tip). His wife and I do our best to keep him in control, but we aren't always sucessful. For the four of us it is not uncommon for our tab to run $500+ with a $200+ tip added. We are comped a lot and we pay it forward. Between us and the other couple we spend easily $3500+ at each of the three restaurants every month. I'm not saying it's right...I'm saying it's the system. And the owners and staff welcome us with open arms.

                          12 Replies
                              1. re: Janet from Richmond

                                If my friend drank and got out of hand more than once, I'd never go out to dine in public with him again if a word to him didn't elicit better behavior. Whatever you're spending in the restaurant is no compensation to fellow diners who deserve better.

                                1. re: mcf

                                  I second this. There is no way i would continue to dine with someone who "gets really out of hand when he drinks" on a regular basis. I would be embarrassed, i don't care how much money is involved.

                                  1. re: mcf


                                    someone needs to take this buffoon aside and tell him he is part of society and to grow up and stop acting like a poor little entitled rich kid at a fraternity.

                                    the whole group is guilty, not just blabbermouth.

                                    1. re: mcf

                                      He has been spoken to be numerous people and has lost friends due to his behavior. He has been my husband's best friend for 30+ years. The worst part is he's a great guy and means no harm. Of course he generally has no memory of most of the evening.

                                      1. re: Janet from Richmond

                                        Sounds like he's overdue for an intervention. (I hate that word, but it really seems appropriate in this case.)

                                        1. re: Janet from Richmond

                                          Oh my! That's a tough one and way outside the scope of these boards.

                                          1. re: Janet from Richmond

                                            I can see why you'd want to maintain the relationship, certainly, given your very accepting attitude toward his drunkeness. I don't see why you'd do it in public with such predictable results.

                                            1. re: Janet from Richmond

                                              I have a friend like that. We don't live in the same country now, but when we did I just made it clear that I would not go to events where he'd be drinking heavily. It worked out fine for us. Luckily in most restaurant situations, he was fine, but at pubs he was a complete mess.

                                      2. re: Janet from Richmond

                                        I am sorry Janet, it is hard to do this. You know you are going to deal with this dude, and take the aftermath.

                                        Having a friend who clearly needs help is horrible. You know what happens after, you know what that family deals with. You are powerless to help. Imagine how she feels and wonders. I hope no children are involved.

                                        Yes, when tips, bill and freely given cash are in effect, as well as good patrons who frequent and order well, as well as put up with that behavior, it happens.

                                        I offer one word; enable.

                                        1. re: Quine

                                          The key here is "good patrons." Is the only criteria that they spend a lot? At some point, does the loss of other not so good patrons over rule the spending criteria?

                                      3. I think what has been missed is that the OP was not footing the bill. We all know how that feels, you are somebody's guest so you feel your rights as a diner have fallen a step down. Always harder to complain if your food is not quite right and you handle the waiter differently in the way you approach a problem. Your host wants you to be happy and as his/her guest you don't want to seem to be overly complaining.

                                        The OP could have excused himself to look as if he was going to the bathroom and tried to find the manager or the server out of earshot and eye of the host and said something. Or, in conversation with his host the OP could have asked if it would be appropriate to complain on behalf of their party.

                                        I think since nobody said anything at the time, the OP could have called the restaurant next day to comment and maybe for another time the management would tell this boor to behave.

                                        1. I think the key sentence in the entire post was "high end steak place." Anyone who lives in NY and has been to Peter Luger, Smith & Wollensky's, Bobby Van's, Morton's, etc knows that these places are notorious for the after work boozefest, followed by giant steaks and even larger mouths. If this had been a romantic setting and someone got like that or a mom & pop place, you'd be fine in saying something to management. The thought at most of these places is, the customer, no matter how beligerent is always right. Now if vulgarities or threats had been made towards your table, then you'd be 100% right in wanting the person removed. I've been to places where this has happened and I've been to places where we had "that guy" at our table. Believe me, it's as embarrassing to the table dining with this oaf as it is frustrating to you.

                                          What I would do (if you liked your meal enough to return) is call next time and make the reservation. Ask to speak to the manager and explain that you loved the meal, thes service, etc, but the last time you were there you had a rough experience because of another patron. Chances are they will give you a more secluded table, the servers will definitely be more attentive and you may even find some added perks on, or should I say off, the bill.

                                          1. Here's another possible scenario that has not been mentioned. This table may have been friends of the owner/management, but their particular friend was not on the premises that night. And the rest of the staff did not want to chance offending them.

                                            1. Had something similar happen to me, only it was worse. The loud table of drunk boorish males, were not only deafeningly loud (complete with swear words), but brought out a Playboy magazine, which they passed around showing the centerfold for one and all to see. I had a bunch of family from Canada and Scotland with me, including my 70 yr old cousin, a very prim and proper Scots lady.

                                              I asked them to put the magazine away, and they refused. I did try to take it from them and they said some, uh very nasty things to me. They said I should complain to the management Well, I did! First told the bartender what was going on, and he pointed me to Gus. Ah, Gus, you are a true gentleman! Gus was either the general manager, or an owner (this was at House of Prime Rib for you SF locals). He heard my story and first offered to move us immediately, but we were pretty much finished at that point so i decided against it. He then went to the table and very diplomatically told them to be quiet and put the magazine away. Which they did.

                                              But it got better! Gus had calmed the situation but after a few minutes came back to the horrid table, and told them all "Your parents ought to be ashamed of having children like you! And I hope that they tell people that they have no children!" plus a few other choice insults. They then told him that they would never return to the restaurant to which he replied, "Good! I don't need people like you in my restaurant"

                                              Gus had all of our booze comped as well, but honestly I didn't really want it, because it really wasn't the fault of the restaurant. It was a nice gesture though, and i did not complain :)

                                              They did ruin our dinner, but at least I have a good story to tell about it. And Gus did save the day. Oh how he shamed them! That was great to see. We did all have a good laugh after.... Also his actions guaranteed that i would go back.

                                              Basically, you should always bring up bad situations with the restaurant management when it's happening, because then they can try to do something about it.