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).