Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Bad Behavior at a Restaurant Bar?


Chris Amirault
 Share

Recommended Posts

Ah yes Wednesday the day before Thursday, the calm before the storm. Wonder if the owner was on edge about getting ready for the weekend. I've seen a few get all kinda freaky on Thursdays getting ready to order everything.

I gotta give the guy credit for looking at the FOH. I sometimes wonder if some chef owners even know where the front door of their restaurant is.

I don't see this as anything different than any place having a rule against wearing gym shoes. Tuesday night and a place is empty, "Get the Hell out of here and don't come back until you're wearing Florshiems!!!"

I'd like to commend everyone on the passion shown in this thread.

I have this incredible urge to visit the place with a parrot on my shoulder for some reason. *I'll take pics*

"And in the meantime, listen to your appetite and play with your food."

Alton Brown, Good Eats

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Rona, Chris was not a guest in someone's home. He was a paying customer in a place of public accommodation. It's simply not the same at all, and you must know Chris wouldn't have started this topic if a friend had asked him not to use his laptop in a home hospitality setting -- not that he would have been using the laptop in the first place.

To me, there's not much difference between how I behave in my role as a guest in a restaurant setting or a home setting. But I do realize other people think paying for something should give them more leeway in how they behave. I had a friend who always cleaned out her purse at restaurants, and left the garbage for the waitstaff to clean up. She'd never have done that in my home (she might have cleaned out her purse, but she'd have thrown out the garbage herself), but in a restaurant it was OK since "that's what they're paid to do" (clean up after the patrons).

I actually did have a dinner party where one of the couples brought their laptop over. And they used it, but not while we were actually eating. (They wanted to show us some pictures, and they made us sit through a slideshow of hundreds and hundreds of them.)

(They used to also bring their cellphones, and actually use them during the meal. I finally put up a cute sign at the entrance of my home saying, "Please turn your cell phones off," but they didn't. That was the last time they were invited to my home for a meal. This should be another topic...)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I swear to you that I didn't try to foist a Picasa lop yuk slide show on anyone.

Now that would be a slide show I would want to see!

I just remembered that another friend brought her laptop to dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant last summer. She wanted to show my mother and me some pictures of stuff she entered in the MN State Fair. No one asked her to turn it off (it was a very casual place), but we got a lot of weird looks.

At Al's Breakfast (in MSP), a guy was sort of told to put away his laptop, but he didn't, and he didn't get kicked out. But the staff did let him know that if anything got spilled on it, they wouldn't take any responsiblity for the damage.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

For me, it's a clear sign that when I go to Providence this place isn't going to be on my short list.

Oh no, are you also organizing a trip, in your van, with Momo, to Providence?

I'm taking the owner's side here.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I am planning a trip but not for the eGullet Society. For my laptop computer gaming group.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yes, a dozen of you descend into the bar. Open up your laptops and ask where the outlets are. When they ask "what the Hell are you doing?" Tell them "we're restaurant critiques, now bring me my Hienikin dammit!!!"

"And in the meantime, listen to your appetite and play with your food."

Alton Brown, Good Eats

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This article from the Center for Ethics at Emory University in Atlanta poses some questions about public space etiquette in thoughtful ways: Etiquette in an Electronic Age.

Not saying our scenario under discussion here is at all comparable to the specific one mentioned in the article (the setting isn't a bar, for starters), just providing some related material for further reading about the underlying questions raised by this thread.

ETA: emphasis.

Edited by markemorse (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Regardless of the setting, they're not comparable.

Had this been about Chris conducting business loudly on his cell phone 12 feet (not 12 inches) away from anyone's eardrum, I would have been on Mike's side from the beginning.

I can think of many ways a cool bar's "vibes" can be cramped. How about depressed people drowning their sorrows? Perhaps ugly people? Should they be asked to leave?

This dude has no clue. That's not how you treat a new face who came in to hand you his money. If he keeps this up he'll be advertising "Free WiFi" pretty soon.

Maybe I'm living in a different economy.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"Poisonally", as Jimmy Durante put it so nicely, I don't see the problem here. Indeed, I would not have my dinner at Guy Savoy's or the Alain Ducasse's Louis XV with a laptop on the table but then again, neither would I open a newspaper or paperback book if dining alone. This was not Guy Savoy's; it was far from peak hours; and the way in one chooses to relax is much the client's choice.

I cannot help but picture a waiter at La Closserie des Lilas approaching a table and saying: "Excuse me, Mr. Hemingway but your pencil scratching is bothering the people at the table next to you". And what the devil - what about A.J. Liebling who took his Royal portable typewriter with him to half of the brasseires in Paris at 11 p.m.? Ye gods, the mind boggles.

True...owner's privilege. Ours in turn to say, as politely as possible to that owner, that we consider him an ass.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

To me, there's not much difference between how I behave in my role as a guest in a restaurant setting or a home setting.  But I do realize other people think paying for something should give them more leeway in how they behave.

I wouldn't characterize being able to order whatever you want and being able to send it back if it's overcooked as "leeway." Rather, a home and a restaurant are completely different situations. Some of the rules of social interaction should apply in restaurants: be nice, say thank you. And some shouldn't: you don't need to bring a hostess gift, you don't need to eat whatever you're offered. A home is not a place of public accommodation. This is not just a legal difference -- as in, you don't have to make your home accessible but if you don't make your restaurant accessible you'll be in violation of the ADA. It's also a fundamental difference in the relationship: you're a paying customer. No, that doesn't give you license to do anything. But it gives you the reasonable expectation of a whole package of accommodations that you wouldn't and shouldn't expect in someone's home. If you want to have control over your guests, invite them over to your house. Don't open a restaurant.

And remember, even in a home situation, there's a guest and there's a host. As a host, I would never in a million years ask a guest in my home not to use his or her laptop computer. Not even if that guest opened the computer right on the table during dinner. I want my guests to be comfortable. I assume any guest who does that has a good reason. The only way I would ever intervene in such a situation would be if my other guests took me aside and said they were seriously disturbed by the presence of the computer. Of course, good guests would never do that in the home.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

And remember, even in a home situation, there's a guest and there's a host. As a host, I would never in a million years ask a guest in my home not to use his or her laptop computer. Not even if that guest opened the computer right on the table during dinner.
Are you serious?

Why is a laptop OK in a restaurant or bar, but not a cell phone or Gameboy?

Heather Johnson

In Good Thyme

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It seems to me that there are two issues here. One is whether or not laptops are appropriate in a certain type of restaurant or bar, and the other is whether or not the owner of this bar handled this stuation appropriately. Chris sems to state that he was seeking input on the first issue, but I'd like to address the second issue.

Unless you've actually been in the position to own or manage a restaurant, it's hard to understand what a slippery slope it is to start making exceptions to policies. I can't tell you how many times making "just one exception" for someone has turned around and bitten me in the butt.

As an owner, I do understand the need to bend the rules sometimes (yes, hospitality is our business!), and do- but try to do so infrequently, since this not only sends mixed messages to other customers, but can get very confusing for my staff. I want them to be empowered to uphold our policies (whatever they are), whether I am on the floor or not and it can truly undermine this when exceptions are made. You have to realize- it's never "just this once..." when you are dealing with hundreds, or in our case thousands of people a week.

There are sooo many scenarios that could have taken place in the past that led to this owner's actions that I think it is really unfair to second-guess him or call him inhospitable and grandiose. Believe me- no owner wants to say no to a paying customer, and it's a very difficult thing to do. You wouldn't believe the things I've had customers feel entitled to do- then get offended when politely told they can't. Regardless, sometimes you just have to stick to your guns and remain polite (whether you want to or not!!) :wink:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

...this not only sends mixed messages to other customers, but can get very confusing for my staff.

Excellent point. I used to own a business (although not a restaurant or bar), and I know exactly what you mean.

Edited by Jaymes (log)

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"this is what I want, therefore that's the way it should be done." Is that really what you're saying?

Actually, that's the owner's position, and the position of everybody who says the "his place, his rules" truism ends the discussion. My point is that Chris was treated inhospitably, that there was no justification for doing so -- as in a good reason, not the "his place, his rules" power play -- and that it is simultaneously grandiose and petty to care if one person in a half-empty bar is using a laptop computer quietly in the corner.

Have you ever been to the University Club, or anything of a similar ilk? Almost all of them have rules against not just laptops, but cell phones, and really any sort of business discussions.

Restaurants and bar owners make conscious decisions about whether to have televisions in the bar area. If they choose not to, they're going to lose a lot of business to the type of crowd that insists on watching television while they drink, while simultaneously giving them a small bump in business from those who appreciate the lack of televisisions. It's likely a poor economic decision, but it's one that been made.

So Chris walks in to a place that has made the decision not to have a television. He pulls out his lapton, which the owner doesn't like. The owner comes to him immediately, before he has paid for his drink, and basically lets him know that he can't stay there with it. He does it nicely, and seemed to be polite throughout the entire interaction.

Lets say that the owner didn't say anything to him, figuring that he was in the corner, the light wasn't bothering anyone else, and someone else walks in and sits down at the bar and pulls out their laptop in the middle of the room. This obviously throws off the entire aestheric and vibe that the owner is going for. It's now going to be a lot harder to deal with this situation, given that Chris has been there for 20 minutes, has had a drink, and has been working on his laptop not disturbing anyone.

I don't blame the owner at all. His place, his terms. We refuse the right to serve anyone. I'm one of those who hates the glare and light of the television, laptop, and often even the blackberry, when I'm leaving the office and just want a cocktail at the end of the night on the way home.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yes, I've been. The difference between a private club and a neighborhood restaurant bar should be evident even to those who haven't been, though.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This is an interesting topic for me. I recently opened a neighborhood establishment in an exurb of Indianapolis. It's small, and the feel is somewhat upscale, but comfortable. Recently, I had a few minutes of free time from the kitchen, so I went into the bar and popped open my laptop to work on my website. A friend was visiting, and he proceeded to dress me down for using my laptop in the bar.

His reason was that people want to come in to relax, interact, unwind, etc., and seeing someone work on a laptop -- in his opinion -- might remind someone of work, at the very place they go to forget about it.

I personally never felt it was a big deal if someone comes in and works on their laptop for a while and has a drink, and I'm pretty conscious of the "vibe" I want to have. But my friend's comment, like many of those posted here, really makes me wonder.

I think the issue up for debate is whether someone working discreetly on their laptop is detrimental to the atmosphere of the type of establishment in question. I don't think it does, but now I wonder if I'm misguided in that belief...

kim

Link to comment
Share on other sites

...I'll also add that Mike has been invited to participate in these discussions -- via a friendly card sent through the USPS. (No email address for him or the restaurant, natch.)

Have you received any response asking you to join in the inevitable nightly discussion at the bar about you and your laptop?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I just had an experience which made me rethink this whole thread.

I was out with my parents at Sea Saw in Phoenix, a dinner I've been looking forward to for months. It's a small, quiet place, 6 tables and maybe 15 bar seats? Something like that. After an hour or so of lovely, peaceful dining, for some reason my mom brings up this very laptop/bar/eGullet topic and it turns out my dad is very much of the same mind as Chris, which I guess I could've predicted. So he and I start debating the point, my regret increasing along with my blood pressure.

At about this time, three unrelated couples at the bar simultaneously hit that magical point in their evening's intoxication curve where inhibitions drop and speaking volume rises, and before you know it, they are bellowing across the bar at each other in this otherwise quiet restaurant about the intricacies of arranging happy endings at massage parlors and the taxonomy-related differences between "Mexicans and Hispanics". And that's just the beginning, you wouldn't believe the list of topics. Going on and on, and I mean yelling at each other as if they were at a sold-out basketball game sat inconveniently a few rows apart.

And I realized that at that moment I would have been approximately 7000% happier if all six of them were instead working on laptops, silent except for the hum of their processor fans, the glow of their screens, and the different clicketies of fingernails or not on keyboards. Maybe technology's not the problem...

:wink:

mark

Edited by markemorse (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I guess in my initial post I should have written, "I planned to have only two or three drinks, to tip well, and to avoid attempts to engage fellow customers in loud discussions on the intricacies of arranging happy endings at massage parlors and the taxonomy-related differences between 'Mexicans and Hispanics.'" In case, you know, that wasn't clear.

Say hi to your dad for me.

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Lets say that the owner didn't say anything to him, figuring that he was in the corner, the light wasn't bothering anyone else, and someone else walks in and sits down at the bar and pulls out their laptop in the middle of the room.  This obviously throws off the entire aestheric and vibe that the owner is going for.  It's now going to be a lot harder to deal with this situation, given that Chris has been there for 20 minutes, has had a drink, and has been working on his laptop not disturbing anyone.

This is a very good point, and it's the sort of thing that is often difficult to make properly understood to that one guy opening his laptop at a table in a back corner.

To a certain extent, I can agree with Chris that his one laptop in the corner with the screen turned down low wasn't likely to bother too many people. But, at the same time, presumably we all agree that a restaurant bar with several open laptops during the cocktail hour isn't the sort of vibe that is likely to broadcast "cocktail spot," and surely we all agree that it's reasonable for the owner to take steps to protect the image he is working hard to project for his restaurant bar. Perhaps the owner might have something to say to a guy who came in wearing a tank top and running shorts (just because there is no posted "dress code" doesn't mean that owners can't have certain expectations as to minimal dress code).

For me personally, if I were the owner of a prospective cocktail spot or wine bar attached to a restaurant, my thoughts on things like laptops would have a bit to do with the time of day. I would be much more tolerant of a guy tapping away on a laptop at 3:30 in the afternoon with a coffee, beer or glass of wine than I'd be of the same guy at 8:30 with a Negroni.

--

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Just read this on Tom Sietsema's weekly live chat on the Wash Post site:

Funny story: A couple years ago, I was lunching alone at Seasons here in town. A manager asked if I wanted a newspaper or magazine, but I declined. He pressed on in an attempt to please me: "Would you like a laptop?"

How's that for timely?!? :laugh:

"I'm not eating it...my tongue is just looking at it!" --My then-3.5 year-old niece, who was NOT eating a piece of gum

"Wow--this is a fancy restaurant! They keep bringing us more water and we didn't even ask for it!" --My 5.75 year-old niece, about Bread Bar

"He's jumped the flounder, as you might say."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...