HOME > Chowhound > Not About Food >

Discussion

How horrible/helpful would it be to warn a restaurant in advance

LOCKED DISCUSSION

about the usual behavior of one of our guests? I know this is a weird question, but my MIL is coming to visit for a week and insists that we all take her out to celebrate her birthday. Let's just say she invariably behaves very badly in restaurants (not going into details here, but it usually involves demanding tirades, racist remarks, very memorable meltdowns, etc.). When they lived nearby, we would only eat out with her in places where we did not expect to eat again and would tip really well if she said or did something offensive.

Do you think it would be at all useful to let the restaurant know when I make the reservation that one of our guests is a bit crazy (she does actually have a personality disorder) and to please seat us in a fairly private area and give us a very patient, thick-skinned server?

I've never done anything remotely like this, but I am dreading the whole thing so much! If you were a server would this be helpful to you or would it cause you to not want to serve us? The rest of our party of 6 is very civilized and polite.

  1. Sounds like an excellent idea to me.

    1. Having worked in restaurants and been on the receiving end of this kind of behavior, I'd say it's a very good idea. It will give them a heads up and allow them to prepare their most seasoned servers.

      1. I would just have a family dinner at home if it's as bad as you say. Just because she's "insisting" to be taken out to dinner doesn't mean anyone is under actual obligation to do so.

        13 Replies
        1. re: LeoLioness

          I'm with Leo on this one. Or if anyone is warned in advance it should be your MIL! If children are taught or should be taught to behave in restaurants and elsewhere, or else they don't go, then the same should definitely go for adults. Racist remarks? Come on, why should anyone have to put up with that, especially where they work. I think you're lucky she hasn't been kicked out.
          Curious, has this ever been discussed with your MIL?

          1. re: Island

            Wow, is there really a world out there where you can discuss inappropriate behavior with your mother in law and have it finally resolved on the spot with no further hostility or life-altering ramifications?

            Who knew?

            I'm calling mine right now.

            1. re: ferret

              Ha!

              I hear you. But there is a world where one doesn't have to submit to the demands of the mother-in-law simply because she thinks you should. Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries.

              1. re: LeoLioness

                Of course you are right and if she were just a bitch, but rational, that's what I'd do. However, she's actually a crazy bitch (has borderline AND narcissistic personality disorders). If you have a person like this in your life, you will know how hard it is to approach him/her about anything and then have to put up with a crying meltdown and more bad behavior. That's why our approach leans more towards avoiding the situation than confronting her about it. She doesn't live in the area anymore, fortunately. When she did, we had to cut way back on the frequency with which we got together because DH, her own son, really didn't want to be around her, and he's a very tolerant man.

                I will say that when she does nasty, entitled things in my home, such as licking the serving spoon and putting it back in the dish, I will definitely call her on it, but in public, this would only make a bad situation worse.

                1. re: Isolda

                  If you have a person like this in your life, you will know how hard it is to approach him/her about anything and then have to put up with a crying meltdown and more bad behavior. That's why our approach leans more towards avoiding the situation than confronting her about it.
                  -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

                  You have my complete sympathy. There is no way to rationalize with this type of person, they will never see anyone else's point of view, never recognize their own bad behavior, never. It is part of the mental illness. I have/had more than one in my life.

                  I like the caling ahead and/or private dining room idea but I think the best suggestion BY FAR was the private catered meal at home idea. The narcissist gets the spot light shined on her and you don't need to worry about public outbursts.

              2. re: ferret

                Yeah it's called being an adult. Appropriate conversation for the adult child to have with his or her own mother and if s/he isn't willing to do it, then that a problem too. This is coming from someone with a very difficult MIL who has been tamed. MIL status is no excuse for that BS.

                1. re: Island

                  That's all well and good when there aren't genuine psychological issues at play, which the OP has indicated is the case.

                  Logic only works when you're dealing with logical people.

                  1. re: Island

                    Your story belongs in Ripley's because each of my mother-in-law's 5 children has, on scores of occasions, done just that, Bottom line, it's her way of getting attention and none of the kids (and now grandkids) have the energy or desire to keep at it.

                    1. re: ferret

                      When people want attention and try to get it this way, the best thing to do is to not give them any attention at all. Nope, no going out to dinner. No conversation if she says something she knows is offensive, etc.

                    2. re: Island

                      If someone's nuts, telling them they are really isn't a cure. How I wish this worked!

                    3. re: ferret

                      LOL! I'd like to move to that place too! I think they call it "Utopia."

                      1. re: ferret

                        Thank you. I have a similar MIL and we take to either a private club where we are members or someplace we are regulars and can warn ahead of time and we always do the earliest possible time and try to get her in and out as quickly as possible.

                        Back in the day when my FIL was living and they still drove themselves to dinner, they would go to Ruth's Chris regularly and the staff knew to give them their regular table (my MIL was convinced no black people had ever sat there) and not to give them a non-WASP server.

                  2. I really like the idea of finding a place with some privacy. You don't have to go into details about your MIL, but you might want to slip a 'bonus' to the waiter up front.

                    Make sure she has taken her meds.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: sueatmo

                      I think the problem with the upfront cash is that it puts the server in an awkward position if things get way more out of hand than anticipated. Does a fifty dollar bill make a racial slur okay? Or causing disruption to other diners? Being accommodating to a difficult guest is one thing, being abused is another entirely.

                      1. re: LeoLioness

                        That's why I wouldn't give anyone money up front. It doesn't pay for abuse or even run of the mill rudeness. But I have certainly tipped very well just to acknowledge to the server that we know how hard they had to work to accommodate her "allergies" and other issues.

                      2. re: sueatmo

                        I reconsidered my original thought. I wouldn't take her out. Why should any server or other restaurant staff be subjected to horrible behavior. Honestly, I'd decline to take her out. If she melts down, at least it won't be in front of a bunch of innocent bystanders.

                        I have dealt with a very few such people (not many, and I'm no expert here) and I have discovered that often they can control antisocial impulses, but choose not to.

                        I feel for you Isolda, I really do. I don't think I'd get within 2 blocks of your MIL. She sounds toxic. I would't take her out. I wouldn't have her in my house.

                      3. I think a heads-up would be helpful, because you're acknowledging that the behavior may be a problem and giving the restaurant a chance to prepare for it (rather than simply staring at the ceiling while your mother-in-law acts up).

                        1. Knowing how your MIL behaves is it really fair to subject a restaurant staff, let alone other diners, to this behavior? Even if you call ahead and warn them? I don't think it is. The servers are there to make a living and other diners are there to enjoy themselves. Your MIL's behavior sounds like it would be difficult for servers and other diners to do either of those things. Have dinner at home.

                          1. Wowza. That's like informing the Management that your MIL projectile vomits for fun, and thus you'll need a private tarp-draped room.; but otherwise, everyone else is on good behavior.

                            If the rest of the party (family? friends?) are indeed civilized and polite, might they consider a more public-service option of having a 'special' private dinner for MIL in their own home(s)? If MIL is going to 'get ugly' in public anyway (per her past performances), might as well just let her 'get ugly' and complain about not getting to go to her chosen destination, privately. She's perfected the lose/lose scenario, might as well keep it private and shield innocnet bystanders...

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: silence9

                              LOL! It's not quite as bad as projectile vomiting, and once in a blue moon, she behaves.

                            2. How about a personal chef or catering to make it "super-special?" Then you could have it at home, and control the potential damage -- especially if the chef/caterer prepares the food then heads for the hills before MIL shows up for dinner.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: sunshine842

                                Now this is an idea that might work for us. I'll look around the area and see who could do this.

                                1. re: sunshine842

                                  This is exactly what I was going to suggest.

                                  If a personal chef/caterer doesn't work would it work to get her to look at a restaurant menu in advance and decide what she wants (including all substitutions for her "allergies") so you could pre-order? Probably not, she's no doubt come up w/ a 1000 other questions or problems at the restaurant. Just trying to think of options.

                                2. You know, restaurants have the right to refuse service to anyone. It's not like she has a walker and they need to accommodate her, this is a real problem and if I were a manager and you called me, I would probably suggest you might want to look elsewhere as our restaurant would not "work well" for your group. Like at home, as others have said. I would not go out to a restaurant with this person, sorry. She can't MAKE you. She sounds like she will be miserable and nasty no matter what you do, so why not just stay home.

                                  1. Agree with all others on calling and informing the restaurant ahead of time and also requesting a table in a private area. I would speak to the manager, not just the person taking the reservations.

                                    And leave a big tip.

                                    7 Replies
                                    1. re: valerie

                                      "And leave a big tip."

                                      When I was waiting tables a large tip would never have compensated for putting up with that kind of behavior. Assuming a wait person will do so is demeaning to the wait person. I still say stay at home and deal with difficult family matters where they belong.

                                      1. re: ttoommyy

                                        But staying at home might not be an option. If the server is warned in advance, they will at least know what the situation is. They may not like it, but hey, I don't like everything and everyone at my job either.

                                        1. re: valerie

                                          "They may not like it, but hey, I don't like everything and everyone at my job either."

                                          But dealing with racial remarks is not part of the job description of a wait person. If you were witness to or the object of racial remarks at your place of employment, would you say "oh well, just part of the job?"

                                          1. re: ttoommyy

                                            "They may not like it, but hey, I don't like everything and everyone at my job either."

                                            Being subjected to racist tirades should not be a part of anyone's job. The fact that some people think its acceptable to subject wait staff to racist tirades actually makes me very sad.

                                            1. re: twyst

                                              Great minds think alike twyst.

                                          2. re: valerie

                                            'But staying at home might not be an option."

                                            Why not? Is she going to FORCE them to take her out?

                                            1. re: thegforceny

                                              The question from the OP was not "should we stay home or go out?". The OP was asking how to handle the situation when going out.

                                      2. Find a place that has private dining rooms and book one. Dinner out and only family has to deal with it.

                                        4 Replies
                                        1. re: escondido123

                                          "Dinner out and only family has to deal with it."

                                          Not true. The wait staff, support staff and management also has to deal with it.

                                          Eat at home.

                                          1. re: ttoommyy

                                            Staff deals with all kinds of people in the course of a day--racists, sexists and just plain crazies. If they can't deal with one demented woman then I am amazed they are still in business. (Both my parents suffered from dementia but loved to eat out, so I'd pick a table int the corner and cross my fingers. Sometimes they said weird things, sometimes my dad looked like he was going to touch a waitress, but I refused to keep them home because they might say something inappropriate. Following your line of thinking, most people with developmental disabilities wouldn't be allowed in restaurants.)

                                            1. re: escondido123

                                              Well said. Unfortunately not every customer that walks in the door is lovely, sweet, caring, thoughtful and a generous tipper, even when there aren't certifiably crazy. Some people are just plain mean, and yes, it sucks.

                                              My suggestion to the OP would be almost like dining with kids in tow...get in, order, eat, get out quickly. And in this case, give the manager some warning.

                                              1. re: escondido123

                                                Quite true! I waited tables for years and you get all kinds - just part and parcel of dealing with the public. Most people are great, but some are in a league of their own!

                                                I think a call to the management ahead of time is a good idea. They will know which server can handle the situation. If it is not a good fit they will let you know. After we reach a certain point in life most of us have had to deal with behavior in relatives that we would never tolerate in friends.

                                          2. Family or not, if the behavior is that bad and is not brought on by senility or SERIOUS mental illness I can't imagine I'd even associate with a person like this, much less take them to dinner.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: twyst

                                              Oh honey, I would love to not associate with her, but, alas, she is the mother of my husband, whom I love, and the grandmother of my kids. Fortunately, she now lives on the opposite side of the country now, so once a year and we're okay.

                                            2. Please do not subject ANY restaurant to this kind of behavior. It's not fair to them or to other diners. And no dollar amount of tip can compensate for stuff like this.

                                              "Insistent" isn't a reason to succumb to your obviouslysocially/mentally-challenged MIL's demands. And I wouldn't have any problem at all telling her exactly WHY you won't be dining out. Let just your own family listen to her tirades while you serve her a nice birthday dinner at home. No reason the rest of local humanity needs to. And if she doesn't like it? Well, no one will be forcing her to eat it. Her choice.

                                              1. I'm really torn. I don't know I could dine with someone who acted like that. I've declined invites to dine with people for much less extreme behaviors.

                                                Honestly I don't think I would or could do it. I'd be filled with so much anxiety leading up to and during the dinner. You're already dreading it so much.

                                                I hope you can find a solution and I wish you the best of luck. Keep us updated.

                                                1. I would hope for a bit more compassion from folks when faced with a crippling disease... mental illness. Find a restaurant where there is private dining available and explain the situation. If they sound like they would be accommodating, then go for it. If you really can't find one, then opt for a personal chef experience (of course, speaking with the chef in advance).
                                                  I am astounded at the harshness of some people on this board when addressing this issue. So, if the person was in a wheelchair, it would be O.K., but they draw the line at other illnesses which are not readily apparent.
                                                  I don't think I would try and go to a restaurant with her without talking with management first.
                                                  Good luck, and take care!

                                                  23 Replies
                                                  1. re: wyogal

                                                    Having compassion is one thing; forcing one's rude behavior due to mental illness on wait staff and other diners is just wrong. A woman who blurts out racial slurs to wait staff whether it is due to mental illness or not should not be foisted upon people trying to earn their living or trying to enjoy a night out. Period.

                                                    1. re: ttoommyy

                                                      Did you miss the part where I said "private?" Did you miss the part where I said to talk to management and ask them if it would be possible?
                                                      Jeez. There just might be a compassionate fit, if not, then I suggested doing it in one's home.
                                                      comma,

                                                      1. re: wyogal

                                                        A private room still has to be attended to by wait staff and support staff. And I believe subjecting them to such behavior is wrong. If it were just a temper tantrum or odd behavior, that would not be so bad. But racial slurs are where the line is crossed. I base this opinion on having worked in the industry and also having dealt with mental illness and dementia in my family.

                                                        1. re: ttoommyy

                                                          Then you must have the last word because you are the expert.

                                                          1. re: wyogal

                                                            Not at all. I said it is my opinion, not the last word. I can only answer based on what I have experienced. We are all just giving our opinions. I respect your opinion. When I respond, I am just keeping up my side of the ongoing conversation. No one has the right or wrong answer to this situation.

                                                            1. re: wyogal

                                                              How do you even know she has a mental illness?

                                                              1. re: dty

                                                                the part where the OP said "she actually does have a personality disorder"

                                                            2. re: ttoommyy

                                                              So if someone had Tourette's they shouldn't be allowed out in public because they might offend people wherever they go? The OP said her MIL has a mental illness so I believe that makes a difference.

                                                              1. re: escondido123

                                                                Yes, the OP did mention "borderline AND narcissistic personality disorders." I am not exactly sure what that means in the context of mental illness. But the OP also says the MIL is a "bitch" (the OP's word) which leads me to think it is just more than mental illness.

                                                                I think Tourette's would be another matter but you bring up a very good point. Thanks for making me think.

                                                                1. re: escondido123

                                                                  "The OP said her MIL has a mental illness so I believe that makes a difference."

                                                                  The OP actually said personality disorder, which narrows the scope quite a bit. Personality disorders are things like OCD, Narcissism etc. and are a whole differrent animal from dementia, Tourettes, etc.

                                                                  I think the diagnosis would play a big part in what I would tolerate. The way the question was presented it seemed likr the MIL was just an asshole and the personality disorder was just icing on the cake to me.

                                                                  EDIT, tommy beat me to it.

                                                                  1. re: twyst

                                                                    Yeah, it seems in a number of cases an appeal is made to "it's an illness out of her control" yet, when they will fully pay the costs themselves and cant shift it to others they can control their behavior. Dont mean to suggest that in this case.

                                                                    Has your MIL ever been kicked off a plane for out-of-control behavior? It seems odd to me one could behave in a reasonable fashion for a 5hr, possibly unpleasant and trying flight, but not for a 2hr nice meal.

                                                                    1. re: twyst

                                                                      "The way the question was presented it seemed like the MIL was just an asshole and the personality disorder was just icing on the cake to me."

                                                                      Yep, that's the message I got too. Plus the OP referring to her as a bitch. An over the top self centered narcissist is completely different than someone who has tourettes, etc deserving of compassion. Sounds like she needs a Nanny 911 intervention!
                                                                      But since none of us have seen her in action....or want to or have access to her medical files, it's all speculation in a novel thread.

                                                                      PSP brings up a good point. If she can remain in control confined on a long cross country flight why can't she for a meal in a restaurant? Because she chooses not to??

                                                                      1. re: Island

                                                                        Maybe because a flight does not stress her in the same way or maybe it scares her so much she shuts down. We cannot reasonably speculate on this woman so can't know if she has a mental disorder or is just hard to deal with. I had a FIL who made racist comments in front of me even though I had asked him not to...was he ill or just a dick? I still don't know.

                                                              2. re: ttoommyy

                                                                i dunno. in the past i have NOT discriminated against customers with pretty serious tourette's symptoms, or their families. knowing in advance that there is some likelihood that someone might be repeatedly chanting "twat" and "cunt" when i'm waiting on their party is sort of key to me not freaking out, dumping a drink on a person's head and 86'ing the lot of them.... with advance warning i can be patient, but if someone foists a bullshit situation on me w no notice i can have a very short fuse.

                                                                now, if the op is a regular at a local place, a *good* regular who is respected and liked by the staff, i think a conversation could take place. maybe after closing the tab some evening w her husband, she could take one of the managers and their favorite server(s) aside-- rather than saying "hey we're bringing in his mom who sucks" ... ask for dining advice. explain that the woman is mentally ill and demanding, that she can have poor control over verbal outbursts. don't hold back details, be honest. gauge the temperature of the conversation and follow the lead of the mgr and servers. who knows... they may share that their own family members have similar illnesses, and rec a nice 5pm tuesday table at their own restaurant. they may be like-- wow that sounds like a lot to deal with, i would just stay at home and order a pizza if i were you. i think a reasonable and respectful conversation, where everyone (on the restaurant side) knows what they would potentially be in for, but allowing either party to gracefully bow out before a commitment is made, sounds fine, honestly.

                                                                to be clear, i don't like--at all-- the op's previous idea/"solution" of going to a place she plans on never going to again and foisting a situation on unwitting staff.

                                                                1. re: soupkitten

                                                                  >serious tourette's symptoms
                                                                  >
                                                                  if you are far enough over the line, it is easy to tell you are ill and not just an asshole.

                                                                  so of course you jst feel pity for them, dont take it personally, except a good tip, would appreciate a headsup etc in that case.

                                                                  ito the OP:
                                                                  I assume her child, you husband telling her "if you cross the line (again), we will leave" is not an option ... i.e. it will lead to an on-the-spot meltdown.

                                                                  1. re: psb

                                                                    >I assume her child, you husband telling her "if you cross the line (again), we will leave" is not an option ... i.e. it will lead to an on-the-spot meltdown.<

                                                                    Good point. But lets say he does say that, and she still does it. What about if they just pick up and pay the check and leave. Think she'll do it again next time (if they even give her a next time)?

                                                                    1. re: LulusMom

                                                                      The problem is that people keep wanting to use logic. Logical reasoning doesn't work in these cases. It's not about logic.

                                                                      1. re: LulusMom

                                                                        If she has a genuine personality disorder? Yep, she will.

                                                                        1. re: sunshine842

                                                                          Then don't take her out. I just don't think it is fair to subject others to her just because she insists on it. Stressful enough having to deal with her at home.

                                                                  2. re: ttoommyy

                                                                    "A woman who blurts out racial slurs to wait staff whether it is due to mental illness or not should not be foisted upon people trying to earn their living or trying to enjoy a night out. Period."

                                                                    Curious: if she had Tourette's Syndrome would you also believe she should never eat out?

                                                                  3. re: wyogal

                                                                    Yeah, me, too, but most people don't have to deal with mental illness and think you can cure it by speaking rationally or somehow "teaching" good behavior. How I wish that were true!
                                                                    But I will say that mental illnesses, such as bipolar disorder or depression, are a bit different from personality disorders, in which the sufferer is rational, but deluded in some way.

                                                                    1. re: Isolda

                                                                      My father--who lived in a dementia facility-- had Lewy Bodies Dementia, which meant he would say sexual things out of the blue or make comments about peoples weight--the censor in his brain was shot so he said what other people might just think. To an outside observer he looked like a perfectly normal guy saying crude/outrageous things--things he would never have said before the disease. If I sat him away from staff, I could usually keep things under control, but not always. If that happened, I would speak to the staff away from the table and apologize, explaining his illness. I'm glad to say everyone was nice about it and told me not to worry--and I always left a big tip.

                                                                      1. re: escondido123

                                                                        Where our family member with Lewy Body Dementia just saw dead people and talked freely about seeing dead people.

                                                                  4. I'm sorry, but I am in the surprisingly-lacking-in-compassion crowd. Recall that you will be speaking to a service manager when you call ahead. You will NOT be speaking to the subordinate, probably working-class (i.e. needs his/her job) service person who will actually be abused by your MIL (most likely, at least) during your dinner out. Believing that no one should be expected to "put up with" racist comments in the workplace, I think that even if your server's superior says "yes, we have a thick-skinned server, we can put you in a private room and our staff will be warned of her behaviour, and asked to be tolerant if she does misbehave", it's not ok. Knowing that she is likely to be abusive to your server, at the very least, and perhaps other people in the restaurant, my own opinion is that it is your responsibility (and an unpleasant one) to keep her at home. Obviously, though, this is a pretty grey area. Maybe if the restaurant manager or owner you spoke to agreed to look after your party himself/herself, in order to shelter his/her staff?

                                                                    1. Great idea. I had a very quick tempered friend of mine that we had New Years Eve dinner with at a really nice restaurant. He knew in advance that there was a limited menu but insisted on ordering the porterhouse that he always ordered. He started getting loud and obnoxious so I excused myself to the mens room. I found the manager, informed him that my friend will be making dinner unpleasant for not only us, but for everybody in the general proximity, and if they had the damn porterhouse they had better cook it for him. The manager looked around the corner, saw the carnage going on in the dining room , walked over, and told him that they'd be glad to prepare the steak for him.
                                                                      Needless to say, we never dined out with him and his wife again.
                                                                      If you know that there is going to be a problem, do everybody a favor and call ahead.

                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                      1. re: JNUNZMAN

                                                                        sorry, I'd walk out the door on any "friend" who thought it was acceptable to act like that, and there wouldn't be any more gatherings. Ever. At least you put a stop to it.

                                                                        I'm willing to try to find a workaround for someone with a mental illness...but Assholery is not a recognized illness.

                                                                      2. You're passing your inability to draw boundaries onto another person.

                                                                        Instead of addressing the issue yourself and refusing to take her out, you're asking if it is OK to pass her antics onto non-related servers, granted as long as you give the OWNER a heads-up and tipping largely.

                                                                        Nope, put your Big Girl panties on and deal with her yourself. Or better yet, have your DH deal with her and tell her you're eating at home. Make a big fuss about how you'll make her favorites! And everyone will be there, it'll be more relaxed, etc. Sounds horrible.

                                                                        1. There are some very good comments in here on various sides of the issues.

                                                                          - If a server knows in advance that the person is one banana short of a split, then the comments; be they sexist, racist, whatever;should be easy enough to ignore. These people are professionals, and trust me they are subjected to sexist, racist, and otherwise rude and inappropriate comments on a frightenly regular basis.
                                                                          - If a private dining room is available then at least the damage is done to a limited number of people.
                                                                          - the restaurant should definitely be warned in advance so that anyone dealing with this dynamic has a fighting chance of dealing with it appropriately.
                                                                          - MIL needs a good sit down discussion at least twice before going to the restaurant, just as a naughty child would. Make it very very clear that if she misbehaves she will be taken home and sent to her room immediately. Dragged out the fire exit kicking and screaming if necessary.

                                                                          I know of a woman who missed her daughter's wedding because she decided that three minutes before the ceremony to lie down on the floor in the bride's room and have a kicking screaming crying meltdown. Bridesmaids had been warned, dragged her to a waiting car and driver who spent the next hour driving up and down the freeway until the ceremony was over.

                                                                          5 Replies
                                                                          1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                                            omg...love the mother of the bride story!

                                                                            1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                                              I would say the Mother of the Bride had some kind of mental problem--or am I the only person that thinks that is very peculiar and not normal behavior?

                                                                              1. re: escondido123

                                                                                Never diagnosed, but there were other subtle signs that things weren't quite right. Lets just say she was high functioning most of the time. As the poem goes, when she was good she was very very good, and when she was bad....

                                                                                the reception aftwerard was a bit of a minefield but by then it was too late and she mostly behaved.

                                                                              2. re: KaimukiMan

                                                                                I'm not sure you get that crazy people don't respond to "good discussions" about behavior. If that worked with MIL, I would have done it long ago, believe me! She lived in our area for 5 years and got progressively worse. What really sucks is that my FIL, the sweetest man, is an enabler who just does what he must to pacify her.

                                                                                I'm definitely leaning toward the private dining room. I just looked for private chefs and the price was pretty scary!

                                                                                1. re: Isolda

                                                                                  Maybe a mental health professional could help the whole family know what is actually going on so that you can figure out what or what not to do in dining out situations. Old age can exacerbate issues so that they become intractable.

                                                                              3. I wonder if you could not only request a private room, but have a preselected buffet/family serving platters set out before you arrive. That would minimize the interactions with staff. However, you should definitely speak to management ahead of time and give them the option of letting you know if they can cope or not. (and if not, don't hold it against them)

                                                                                A family I know where the mom has dementia hands out little cards to the waitstaff and other patrons explaining the situation. This woman is not abusive or loud, but will roam the restaurant and take other patrons bread baskets. If this happened randomly, I would be wierded out. If it happened after I had been alerted to the possibility, it would change my reaction to a more compassionate one.

                                                                                4 Replies
                                                                                1. re: lrhr

                                                                                  "If this happened randomly, I would be wierded out. If it happened after I had been alerted to the possibility, it would change my reaction to a more compassionate one."

                                                                                  ______________

                                                                                  BINGO! I think this is key. I had a patient who had a head injury many years ago that removed the filter from his brain. He kept saying "I love you" and made kissing noises at me. If I had not been warned about his condition, I probably would have been entirely creeped out and refused to have seen him. But I was able to handle myself appropriately because I understood he was ill.

                                                                                  OP, I think it would be prudent of you to warn the restaurant. They will be on their guard and will know how to deal (provided you don't go to a place like Shopsins in NYC)! As Kamuiki Man said, waitstaff probably encounter this stuff more often that one would think.

                                                                                  1. re: Miss Needle

                                                                                    Please, please, please take her to Shopsin's! PLEASE!

                                                                                    1. re: thegforceny

                                                                                      I'd say there's a chance that Shopsin's might be a pretty welcoming atmosphere for her. Her crazy might mesh well with the crazy that's already there.

                                                                                      1. re: thegforceny

                                                                                        Ha ha! I would love to see what Kenny would do. The OP's MIL may never ask to be taken out ever again!

                                                                                  2. Wow, just when you think you've heard it all! I'd say, if you absolutely MUST dine out, definitely give the restaurant a heads up. I think if I was a server I would certainly want to know in advance, and I could be mentally prepared for this woman.

                                                                                    1. What about insisting that you planned a very special dinner at home for her? Under the circumstances I'd even consider using my kids by saying that they planned something special.

                                                                                      1. I'm with those who have said that just because the MiL is "insisting" on being taken out doesnt mean she has to get her way.

                                                                                        1. Wow. I thought my MIL was an itch.

                                                                                          Dinner at home sounds best.

                                                                                          You can talk to manager ahead to get clearance; you'd also need to warn server at time of service (because linengirl is right, boss agrees but server is the one present); arrange for private room.

                                                                                          But most importantly, someone in the FAMILY needs to address/manage the behavior. Just like a colicky baby (take outside to cry/soothe); a toddler in his terrible twos (redirect, apologize, remove); a young adult with brain damage who throws things (prevent, remove objects, remove person); an older person with Alzheimers who wants to touch waitress (intervene, prevent, seat away from staff).

                                                                                          If there's gonna be a meltdown, address it at the point of behavior, and take it outside if it escalates. We've all seen families just sit and watch the bad behavior, or pretend it's not happening. I know families get tired of managing behavior, but she's your family, not the servers'.

                                                                                          I think pinot noir or cabernet goes best with harridans. Large-format bottles.

                                                                                          1. Is your mother in law an attorney? I think I used to work for her. That said, I'm in the call-ahead and get a private room camp. There's a young waiter out there somewhere who'll be telling his friends over drinks, "you won't believe the crazy bitch I waited on tonight. I got a fat tip though."

                                                                                            5 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: silvergirl

                                                                                              That's a story I want to hear! I really hope that if we do end up in a restaurant, which seems likely, our server will be like your hypothetical one!

                                                                                              (And no, my MIL is an artist.)

                                                                                              1. re: Isolda

                                                                                                Warn them. Tip well. Post mortem on Chowhound.

                                                                                                1. re: whs

                                                                                                  Would be surprised if a "post mortem" happens. Threads like this tend to disappear once the drama has dropped. And the OP of such threads are normally - & frequently entitled to - wanting to disappear as well.

                                                                                                  1. re: Bacardi1

                                                                                                    Yeah I'd like to hear how it shakes out too.

                                                                                                    1. re: Bacardi1

                                                                                                      The OP has been around CH for a long time, I would be surprised if she disappeared.

                                                                                              2. I speak from an industry side. As long as your MIL isn't going to be a risk of throwing plates and causing actual damage, I'd have no problem with calling the restaurant and asking for a private room and explaining it to them.

                                                                                                This allows the restaurant to make the decision, if you give them all of the information, they will have the ability to say yes or no. You aren't forcing anything on them, you aren't subjecting them to anything they can't handle. If they don't want to, they will say no.

                                                                                                In my experience, a small run restaurant with a private room where the owner is the manager and actually works there might be your best bet. I have seen more then one owner take control of the situation and run the food or control the room in situations like this, that way none of the staff have to be exposed to it.

                                                                                                I've seen worse in restaurants before, and the fact that she has an illness and that things shouldn't be taken personally, I'd have no problem cooking food for her or serving food to her.

                                                                                                1. Well considering your question was in regards to whether or not you should call ahead I will answer that! Instead of all of these ridiculous people telling you to never subject anyone to this or that and passing so much judgement! Jeesh. Anyways, I am currently a server, and I have only ever been a server, personally I think it is a great idea to call ahead! and do exactly what you said in the first place: ask for a private area and a thick skinned server. Seriously, if the restaurant can't handle it they shouldn't be in the industry, customer always comes first. If you are going to go out and she is that bad you owe it to the poor server to give them a heads up, they will also be more understanding if a rude comment is made. Also not all servers are capable of handling things like this, I know many people who I have worked with in the past, would either give attitude right back if they didn't understand the situation, or would just plain freak out, not too mention, alot of servers (especially in the summer) are part time and don't know how to handle things like that. I 100% think you should call ahead. PLEASE.

                                                                                                  As for whether or not you go out at all: I think you and your husband are the best judges of that, and don't listen to these complete strangers, because they do not have the insight into the situation like you do :)

                                                                                                  Good luck, sincerely!

                                                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                                                  1. re: hilarym

                                                                                                    Indeed, we strangers do not have the same insight, although we have been asked for our opinions and we've given them.

                                                                                                    By the by, I assume that this lady's personality disorder leads to her launching "demanding tirades, racist remarks, very memorable meltdowns" in all sorts of other situations in daily life. Surely they are not confined to occasions when she eats out. How does the family generally deal with them and, in fact, how do they deal with it when she launches one of these when dining at home with the family. Must be generally very unpleasant to be on the receiving end of that sort of abuse from a family member.

                                                                                                    1. re: hilarym

                                                                                                      "As for whether or not you go out at all: I think you and your husband are the best judges of that, and don't listen to these complete strangers, because they do not have the insight into the situation like you do"

                                                                                                      When one comes on a public forum such as this and asks for advice, one should be ready to receive a lot of suggestions and comments. If the OP was not ready for this, I am sure she would have taken her question to a private arena. Boards like CH are meant to kindle discussion; not inhibit it.

                                                                                                      As for us being complete strangers...no kidding! If the OP wanted the opinion of friends all she needed to do was pick up a telephone.

                                                                                                    2. I would go with the private room and NOT call ahead - I would GO THERE and explain the situation and relate incidents that "could" happen. If they are okay with it then take her there. Have a couple of restaurants in mind in case they say "sorry no go" When I was a server many moons ago I had a seriously "troubled" (we said "nuts" back then) guy who would come in every week with family. They always asked for me and always tipped well. I used to laugh at the junk this guy would pull as I knew what to expect and the kitchen would wait to hear the latest every week.

                                                                                                      1. I posted on this thread about my own MIL but want to reiterate, call ahead, go as early as possible and ask for an out of the way table.

                                                                                                        1. Folks, it seems like most of the options for dealing with the restaurant have been suggested and things are now focused on how to deal with a mentally ill relative. That's pretty far afield for Chowhound, so we're going to lock this thread now.