Dishin’ That: Questions about reservations, reservations about restaurants

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Thanks for the overwhelming support regarding last week’s stance on why restaurant reviews are a waste of newsprint and infinite Internet space. Along with those endorsements were a few examples of why restaurant reviews are, as one Falmouth bartender put it, “dumb for 1,000 reasons and play roulette with people’s job.”

A few emails were accompanied by decent “Peas and Q’s” inquiries, and I’ve decided to answer some of them.

Q — We were 10 minutes late for our dinner reservation because of the weather and the manager gave our table away. He gave us his card and said to please phone next time and let them know. I felt embarrassed in front of my date and thought he should have found us another table, especially since several were empty. What’s the rule on this? — Mike L., Gorham.

A — Ten minutes may not seem like a deal-breaking period of time, but without a call the restaurant had no reason to believe you weren’t a “no-call, no show.” Those empty tables were probably reserved.

Assuming there was a table and seats were available, the manager could have offered you a spot in the bar/lounge area. However, a phone call would have been the right thing to do. At least it isn’t like a doctor’s office, several of whom actually charge fees for missed appointments or late arrivals.

On the flip side, savvy restaurants will end a reservation-taking phone call with something like, “Oh, and please remember it’s our policy to hold reservations for up to 10 minutes, and for the entire party to be present. Please give us a call if anything comes up. Thanks, we’re looking forward to having you.”

The diner is informed and if the food and beverage stars align, the house is set up for a successful seating and turn-over flow.

Q — My husband thinks it’s OK to take our middle-school aged sons to Tilted Kilt in South Portland while I’m at the Maine Mall with our daughter. What are your thoughts on that place? — Sandy B., Portland.

A — I don’t think this question has anything to do with restaurants or food, but I like it.

With uniforms that are a cross between Catholic schoolgirl garb and NFL cheerleader costumes, the Tilted Kilt is a next-generation Hooter’s. Several other places near the mall offer decent pub fare (think Seadog), so it comes down to “atmosphere,” and what makes you comfortable (or uncomfortable).

Simply because of the brand’s premise, all kinds of sexist, ageist, elitist hiring offensives are possible. That said, everyone has a choice, and word on the street is the service itself is good.

Your sons probably see more skin at the beach, in their video games, and on daytime television, but that’s between you, your husband and your values system.

The mom in me says to use the dining experience as an opportunity to discuss respect for women and to withhold judgement about everything but the food, prices and service mechanics.

Q — My daughter just got a her first job as a hostess in a well-known restaurant. Last week she told me most of the people there, including the manager, smoke pot during breaks and after work. Now what? — Shelly V., Portland.

A — Another higher moral ground question, but a fair one.

Not all restaurant professionals are druggies, or even casual users. Most are serious about their craft and livelihood, as demonstrated by a restaurant’s success and their own personal accomplishments. Conversely, restaurants are notorious for being fun, socially oriented places to work. Shift and after-work drinks are the norm, and for many, illegal substances are an unspoken given.

Is it within your parenting level of acceptability to say, “I’m proud of you for making good choices and not joining in?” Or, are you and/or your daughter so vehemently put off that you think she should call the police, or seek employment elsewhere?

If it’s the later, I suggest a corporate or more controlled environment like fast food or retail. Going to the restaurant owner and hoping things will change are not realistic. I’m sure what’s going on won’t come as a news flash.

For the record, I don’t condone anyone offering your underage daughter a toke or a drink, although you didn’t say that happened. Like dining at the Tilted Kilt, it’s yet another parenting decision, with the restaurant universe as a backdrop.

Natalie Ladd lives in Portland. When not pecking away, she can be found serving the masses at a busy eatery, or tirelessly conducting happy-hour field research. Hospitality questions or comments should be sent to nladd@theforecaster.net, and may be featured in a future column. Follow Natalie on Twitter: @Nhladd.

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