Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Unjust desserts

One of the first things we did when we arrived in New York City on a visit three years ago was eat a quick breakfast at McDonald's. And I do mean quick — there was a seating limit of 15 minutes, after which the sign promised hell to pay if we didn't keep moving. It made sense, because the place was small, but even for me that was fast-paced.

I try to empathize with the people working in restaurants. When I eat at one, I'm always nice and efficient and I tip well. Not because I have waited tables — I haven't, though I've worked fast food — but because I am (or at least try to be) a decent human being.

But one of my standing criticisms of restaurant writing is how accusatory and/or disdainful it often is toward its customer base. Not the bad apples, mind you, but everyone. And in cases like this, it's not even for doing something genuinely grating like hogging a table*, but for wanting to purchase something offered by the business.

(*-I define this as sitting at a table long after you've finished eating. Which is different than how they define it, but that's my point.)

If a restaurant doesn't want want people ordering dessert, then it shouldn't offer it. Or, short of that, it can perhaps offer a profit count and an acceptable consumption time limit on the menu for each dessert item. If you're going to make the hard sell of, "Think of us," the customer should at least be informed.

Of course, laying bare such unspoken rules would probably alienate people more than any rats ever could. I'll be as good a customer as I can be, but if I want pie — especially pushed as it is in so many places — I'm going to order it and savor it, then I'm going to leave. If I'm straggling after that, then deal with me. Not that I will.

There's a difference between hogging a restaurant's precious resources and being made to feel like an intruder every second you're there. That difference will determine whether or not I spend any money at all. The customer might not always be right, but they're not always wrong either. At least, not anywhere that's worth patronizing.

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