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Sometimes the customer is wrong

Empty tables in a restaurant

Empty tables in a restaurant Credit: iStock

I witnessed a maddening scene on Friday night while I dined at the bar of a well-regarded Long Island restaurant. A couple and their little daughter sidled up to the bar. Mom was in high dudgeon. They were “a little late” for their reservation and she could not understand why the table had been given away. Her son had fallen ill, apparently. How could she have been expected to arrive on time? What’s more, this was the second time she had “tried to eat” at this restaurant; the last time the restaurant had been unable to accommodate her. Obviously, the restaurant “didn’t want her business.”

The bartender was cool as a cucumber. He listened sympathetically and then went into the kitchen and got the little girl a bowl of edamame, poured her parents some drinks. He told them that he would talk to the dining room manager and see what could be done. As Mrs. Dudgeon calmed down, it came out that her “a little late” was 30 minutes late.

It was all I could do to hold my peace. Very few restaurants on Long Island are busy seven, or even six or five or four nights a week. Most of them do most of their business on Friday and Saturday nights. An empty table for four on a Friday night can cost a restaurant a couple of hundred dollars. How in the world could the restaurant have known that the Dudgeons were ever going to show up? Why did the Dudgeons not call to alert the restaurant to the delay? This is the kind of thoughtless behavior that has driven some restaurants to ask for credit cards to hold reservations.

While I silently seethed (and perhaps let loose a small harrumph), the saintly bartender managed to find a table for the Dudgeons, earning their effusive thanks. He transformed their mood from irritation to gratitude and probably made some new regular customers for his employer.

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