Playing Host at a Restaurant
There have been many occasions when, instead of hosting a dinner party at home, my husband and I have taken people out to eat. There are some obvious incentives, not the least of which is less prep on my part.
We usually pick somewhere we’ve been before. We are fortunate that Richmond is in a restaurant renaissance. That may sound pretentious…until you go to one of the amazing eateries popping up like yummy mushrooms and try the chef’s take on soft- shell crab, fried green tomatoes, or tres leche cake. Then you’ll say, “That’s not pretentious, that’s delicious!”
When hosting we make it clear it’s our treat. If the guest offers to pick up a round of drinks or the tip, I think it’s OK to accept graciously. If they don’t, that’s OK too. Guests should not feel obligated. The only thing I absolutely cannot abide is a tussle over the bill. My husband’s family has mastered this sport. One relative literally ripped a bill in half trying to wrestle it from my husband. Frankly, I would have given it to her gladly! And I’m not talking about the bill. But I digress.
I think hosts should offer to drive and be mindful of their alcohol intake. If a guest has a compelling reason to drive, I think that’s all right too and the offer should be gratefully accepted. It’s a funny thing, when people hear I’m supposed to drive they become very keen on providing the transportation themselves. I’ve been known to back into things.
If possible, we make reservations to prevent a wait. Needless to say, everyone should do their best to be on time. There is nothing more stressful than chasing a reservation at a popular place because your guest wasn’t ready. If there is no emergency, there is only one reason for keeping people waiting. And that is because you’re a jerk.
I often see complaints in etiquette columns from hosts whose guests have ordered expensive entrees. I don’t quite get this. I assume that if my hosts have invited me to a restaurant, they can afford to feed me. I don’t think it would be polite to order a take home meal for the babysitter, but if it’s on the menu it’s fair game. No pun intended. Same for drinks and various courses.
Unfortunately we have hosted guests at restaurants where the service is bad. Although the host has no control over this variable, I always feel awkward about bad service, as if I were the one holding things up. What does one do? You don’t want to bring attention, but it gets to that awkward point when everyone is hungry. It’s like an elephant in the room that you wish were on your plate. On one occasion when the drinks hadn’t shown up after 45 minutes, we got up and left. I think the arrival of drinks is a pretty good gauge. Besides, after a round of drinks you don’t care as much. Another telling sign is if very few diners have food in front of them.
If the actual food is not up to a guest’s standards, I think they should just grin, chew, and bear it. After all, you can’t beat the price. I feel it’s rude to criticize a free meal. That’s happened to me several times and I’m always taken aback by it. To me it’s the same as criticizing a gift. It’s all right to politely send something back that’s the wrong order or woefully undercooked. But to compare food unfavorably to other restaurants, or even home-cooked meals, is insulting to the hosts. What’s the point? Keep it to yourself, or better yet find something you can complement, like the company.
What finishes off the meal best is a heartfelt thank you; from the guests for the meal, and from the hosts, for the fellowship. Even if everything sucked, at least you didn’t have to shop, cook, or clean. That is something to be thankful for.
Thank you for visiting.