5@5 - You might be an amateur diner if...
December 29th, 2011
05:00 PM ET
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5@5 is a daily, food-related list from chefs, writers, political pundits, musicians, actors, and all manner of opinionated people from around the globe.

Editor's Note: Ron Eyester is the owner and chef of Rosebud restaurant and Family Dog bar in Atlanta. He doesn't like when people come to his restaurant and move around the chairs or pretend it's their birthday. You can also find him on Twitter as the Angry Chef.

As a chef and restaurateur, although the nature of food is undoubtedly the primary source of my passion, I am very intrigued by human behavior and how our relationships with people truly impact the dynamic of our business. As the owner of a neighborhood restaurant, I feel it is absolutely essential to have a vested interest in my immediate community and allow our neighborhood’s character help shape the culture of our restaurant.

I am very proud of the relationships that my staff and I have developed with many of our regular guests, but there is also another “special demographic of folks” that are worth mentioning.

Despite the fact that the recent weather conditions here in Atlanta weren’t exactly reminiscent of the holiday season, this “special demographic of folks”  that has emerged in recent weeks was more indicative of the holiday season than Santa himself working the bar at Rosebud.

The "Amateur Diner" is truly a unique and splendid being that has a priceless impact on any meal in which they make their presence known. Because this particular demographic of the dining public doesn’t make many appearances throughout the calendar year, it’s very crucial that they make a lasting impression on us until the next set of special occasions gives them yet another opportunity to entertain us with their outlandish remarks and downright ludicrous requests.

While the Amateur Diner comes in all different shapes and sizes, they all certainly share a common thread of ignorance that makes them easily identifiable by both restaurant employees and the everyday diner alike.

The holiday season is by the far the single time of the year in which we observe the largest migration of these diners; overwhelming our once tranquil and inviting eateries with their gaucheness and sometimes downright rude behavior as they parade around our dining rooms in their obnoxious holiday sweaters, requesting more bread and demanding yet another cocktail that obviously won’t be going on their tab.

Ah, the holidays, they truly are a spectacle. And while this common thread of ignorance can’t be contained to a mere word or phrase, here are five distinct patterns or mannerisms that will help you identify the Amateur Diner if you quickly find yourself overcome with confusion or, perhaps, awkwardness by what you’re witnessing while simply trying to enjoy your shrimp and grits.

1. "We'll squeeze..."
If you show up for your holiday luncheon an hour early with a just a "few extra people who can squeeze" so that you can decorate my dining room with your holiday cheer and fill your table up with mini Santas, cheesy ornaments and other dollar store holiday crap and then yell at us because the server accidentally spilled a glass wine and your guests were “cramped,” all signs point to amateur.

This particular amateur diner is especially interesting because they tend to dine out in groups and therefore, their vulgarity is amplified by sheer numbers. You can easily spot these folks blocking the front door, huddled in a mass around the host stand waiting to unleash their rude fury and repeatedly letting us know that they’re with “the party.”

Once this herd of frustrated-with-life middle management folks is sat, it’s an onslaught of demands and inquiries. “Is that included? Do you have more bread? Oh, no liquor drinks just beer and wine?”

Then, because you generally eat lunch in a place where you pay a cashier for your food, wait briefly for your number 4 and then bring it to your table on a plastic tray, you’re just completely shocked that it actually takes some time to prepare your food to order and bring it to you on china.

“Is our food almost ready? What’s taking so long?”

Yet, despite the urgency necessary to feed you, you and your thirty friends have plenty of time to stay and open gifts. Oh, and don’t worry about the wrapping paper, just throw it on the floor; the indentured servant that you won’t be personally tipping will be happy to clean up after you. And also, don’t even consider the fact that we may have your table booked for another luncheon in a couple of hours; it’s your time of the year.

2. "I'm kind of a big deal."
If you’re the loudest guy with the most demands and critical of every aspect of the dining experience, chances are you are not a “big deal” and you’re certainly not paying the bill.

You are easily identifiable because every time you order a drink, you order something different - and you probably started off the night with a top-shelf Long Island Iced Tea. Plus, you’re wearing a herringbone necklace.

You know it’s going to be about six months until your cousin graduates from college and then you’ll have another opportunity to enjoy the “high life” of dining out; so you’ve got to make tonight worthwhile. We also know you’re going to order the filet mignon, even if it’s not on the menu.

3. Does this come with a side of confusion?
If you ask your server what a Mimosa is or you try to order the number 11 and then wonder why it doesn’t come with a choice of soup or salad, then perhaps you traveled here by time machine today and you do not dine out quite as much in comparison to the average person.

Although you are generally the tamest species of the Amateur Diner, sometimes your humorous naïveness can quickly sour and your sheer lack of dining knowledge can grow frustrating for both you and your server; especially if the restaurant is busy.

While any server should be expected to answer most any food-related question a diner may pose, sometimes a barrage of questions can really occupy a server’s attention to the detrimental point that they are ignoring the other guests that are under their care.

I’ve often contemplated that perhaps we should administer a common sense test of very basic food questions to guests that we do not recognize. If the results clearly reflect that these folks do not dine out very often, we can monitor their dining experience under closer supervision than that of the average diner.

4. If you are those folks who declare “I only eat this" or "I only eat that,” what are you doing here?
You do realize that you’re in a restaurant and that they’re other people around you who are also paying us with American currency and require attention as well? If you need to consume (this being the operative word) a meal to your exact specifications so that you can take your pill later, then might I suggest hiring a personal chef or cooking for yourself?

There’s always a few of these tables that visit us during the course of the holiday season, reminding us all how indeed miserable life can be. They treat coming to the restaurant as merely an annual obligation to don their mothball-infested dining attire and ruin everybody’s evening within a earshot of their table - plus any employee who must interact with them.

The joyous pinnacle of their holiday season is when I have to go to the table and apologize for not meeting their standards yet again this year and because the dining room is just too loud. Yes, you're right - I really need to do something about all these other folks sucking down wine, talking to one another generally having a great time!

5. Keep calm and drink on
If you show up for your 8:30 reservation on a Friday night smack in the middle of December and become irate that we’re just getting you to your table by 8:40, clearly you have some issues. It’s the holidays brother, relax and have a cocktail.

Take a minute to reflect on the fact that it is the holidays, the air is full of bad perfume and feigned optimism and who knows, you may even get laid tonight. Your wife is really excited to be out on the town tonight and after convincing her to try a glass of Pinot Grigio (because no one sells White Zinfandel anymore), she’s getting a little giddy and she may have a little something extra in store for you tonight.

So quit being such a jerk and enjoy your dinner. We’ll see you next year!

Is there someone you'd like to see in the hot seat? Let us know in the comments below and if we agree, we'll do our best to chase 'em down.

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Filed under: 5@5 • Bite • Etiquette • Restaurants • Think

soundoff (469 Responses)
  1. I've been there

    Eyesore, you are nothing more than a liberal stooge and a short order cook with delusions of adequacy. You are a rectal wart upon the buttocks of this blog. Please do not ever plan to promote your restaurant on its current "merits".

    January 27, 2013 at 3:39 am |
  2. IceboxJewelry

    It will be a good night with the gold light!Infomative post!!!Exciting!!!I know a good cheap price but also very fashionable place, it sell diamonds atlanta, I know we also need it.

    November 21, 2012 at 12:31 am |
  3. Jeff

    I'm guessing we are not talking about an Applebee's here. I am not rich enough to enjoy the finer establishments and I will admit to being just a tad confused when more than two forks are placed in front of me. I, however, have common sense and try to keep my requests to a minimum. I have found most of the finer establishments to be very courteous and attentive when visiting on holidays and special occasions, like an anniversary, and the extra wait is a great time to spend time with those who cared enough to join you in a fine meal.

    My peeves are that I will not tolerate inattentive staff. If I am paying $35 for one meal, I expect to see the waiter more than once an hour, and they better not have purple and green hair, nose rings, or had a previous job as the tatoo'd lady from Borneo.

    I hate that a waiter is paid less than minimum wage and is expected to make it up on tips. I want to pay what the price is, not a delivery fee. However, I understand that the waiter is trying to earn a living and its not his or her fault that the industry has a screwed up pay scale. I will leave a tip; it will be more than a dollar, it won't be more than $15 unless I brought a huge crowd. If I particularly liked the service, it will be 15% or even more. But if I am sucking ice cubes waiting for a glass to be refilled, you can bet it will be reflected in the tip.

    Again, my dining experiences tend towards the chain restaurants and has likely clouded my perceptions. Crowding 6 people into a booth made for 4 tends to do that to me.

    January 11, 2012 at 2:19 pm |
  4. Chef Axxgrinder

    Ron is once again spot on! The worst part about the amateur diner is that they are pros at being ignorant. Everything in this article is true, lets face it people, if you don't like the article its because you are one of the people he has mentioned in the previous 2 articles he has written. Take a step back and look at it from our angle, we set aside tables at a set time and for a set number of people, don't bring in your 6 other friends and assume there won't be a problem cause there will be one. if you like to get sauced then tell your server straight up i'm ordering accross the board, they even might suggest the best drinks for you to ease the process. If you have a special diet or don't eat certain things then do yourself a favor and STAY HOME!! You will save everybody including yourself the heartache of having to sit there while you destroy the Chef's menu just so u can have come bland chicken breast and a side of steamed broccoli.
    We cater to everyone in the industry but your not the only one that comes into the restaurant. If you want to see what it feels like get a job in the business for 1 day, then you can see how these people are to those who brake our backs everyday in this industry.

    January 3, 2012 at 9:33 am |
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