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.
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..."
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."
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?
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?
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
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.