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You'll likely want to ignore this. I think I have the cut right so it doesn't clutter up your inbox.

However, this morning I found "A Radical Restaurant Proposal" from mid-August 2011.

I have done a little waitressing. While she makes a couple of valid points, the rest has irritated me all day, but who's going to discuss an arguing thread that's almost 2 years old - except me?

"....Expressing my surprise, I (Vivian) picked off the offending slabs and explained to the waitress that I neither wanted the bread nor could eat it, since I have celiac disease. An agonizingly drawn-out conversation followed. (in which the waitress is concerned about her and tries to make things right.)"

I wasn't there. I am hoping and assuming that she complained politely, which is her right. If you have a problem, I am the front line of getting it taken care of, and usually things will go better for both of us if we are both polite about it.

""Are you sure you'll be OK?"

"I don't think I'm so sensitive that one breadcrumb is going to affect me.""

Vivian mentions later on that she is not a mind reader. Neither is the waitress, who has no idea how strong Vivan's celiac disease is. I know celiac disease can be painful, but I don't know if there are different levels, as there are with peanut and milk allergies. I really don't want a patron in pain or dying because of an allergy flair-up.

"...And on, and on. Finally I persuaded her that the salad was all right for me to eat, and handed her the bread. I like to dump pieces of bread right in the hands of serving people. They seem reluctant to touch it. Maybe they don't want to get butter on their hands. But what do they expect me to do with it? Leave it in a heap on the table? Perhaps make it into an impromptu centrepiece?"

No, what we'd/I'd like for you to do is say something, not just dump it on me. I would be happy to get rid of it for you, and no, I don't want to touch the buttered side(s) with my bare hands.

Give me a minute or two, and I'll bring a plate or a napkin and take it off your hands. Preferably a napkin, because I can not serve it to someone else, and therefore it usually goes straight into the trash. No, it's not the most gross thing I will or have touched, but if you don't like handling used buttered bread, what makes you think I will? Try the saliva/drink bucket after a banquet - that's sickeningly gross and has to be carried, as full as possible, to be dumped. Buckets can be spilled ....

By the way, why are you buttering bread if you're not going to eat it anyway? I understand garlic bread, because it usually comes with the garlic spread on it, but in my experience, bread is usually served unbuttered.

"Before the waitress left, she told me that in the future, I should always tell my server about any allergies I have before ordering....
I wondered why it is I'm reluctant to do so. Perhaps it's a desire to avoid that scarlet letter feeling, that public declaration of oneself as a sickly oddball."

I do not understand this attitude. It is none of my business why you do not want something in the meal. You may be on a low or no carb diet, so you don't want the bread; I just need to know that you do not want it.

Also, why are you ashamed of getting rid or avoiding something that might cause you serious pain/discomfort? I have acid reflux. It is painful, and embarrassing when I throw up.

Sometimes tomatoes are a strong trigger. I once threw up my entire lunch because I thought I was safe and used ketchup on my pretzel dog. If my stomach has been playing up lately, I may ask for no tomatoes, remove them, and/or not use ketchup. I don't broadcast why.

"Later that day, I figured it out. I'm tired of restaurants serving me food that I didn't ask for and don't want. Is this such a radical notion: serve me what I ordered, and not what I didn't order?...But in fact, this is not just an allergy problem. Once, I ordered chili at Boston Pizza and it arrived with cheese all over it. I didn't want cheese. Nothing in the menu said that the chili came with cheese..."

I can see this, especially since she has to be careful.

"Ketchup can also be a problem. It's an oddly popular condiment, so restaurants tend to assume you want it.... whereas if you prefer vinegar on your fries, you have to ask.....I hate it when a little ketchup-filled plastic tub appears on the side of my plate with my meal because I know that every ounce of it is going to end up untouched in the garbage, along with the once-unused plastic tub. All waste, which could have been avoided if only they'd asked."

Some of this is cultural. Vivian lives outside of my country, if I read correctly. I live in the middle of the United States. I remember very faintly hearing of vinegar with french fries, but I have never come across a patron or fellow diner who combined the two. If I recall correctly, an unopened plastic tub of condiment can be reused, but I may be wrong.

Plus, in many situations, there are items that the restaurant simply does not have, or the waitresses/waiters are not allowed to serve. I once grabbed an extra condiment from the room service shelves because a patron wanted something different, and was griped at afterwards. I like to keep my job.

"And what happened to asking? Remember when wait staff used to ask you questions? "Fries or baked potato? White or brown toast?""

Depends on the restaurant. I have been asked these type of questions even in fast food restaurants. Maybe also a cultural divide?

"I think this may have to do with the newish trend of dropping by your table after you've received the food and asking something like, "How's everything tasting?" or "Is there anything else I can get you?""

Again, please look at it from the wait staff's point of view. If nothing else, I would rather be on top of things and ask these questions than have an angry or annoyed patron snapping her/his fingers and yelling at me because I wasn't taking care of her/him fast enough or well enough. It is really a problem to simply say "no thank you, everything's fine" or "we're fine, thank you."?

I would much rather replace your meal or deal with a problem at the table, then have you complaining at the cash register, in a bad feedback form or email, or not coming back because you were not happy.

"...restaurants should provide patrons with some sort of signalling device they can use to let the wait staff know when they need something. I have long thought it would be great if restaurant tables each came equipped with a little flagpole and flag that you could raise when you needed service."

Oh, I love this idea. Would be very helpful and non-obtrusive.

"If you don't want to ask questions and you don't want to equip the tables with flagpoles, why not print on the menu everything that comes with the dish by default?"

I am trying to remember, wasn't there a movement several years ago for this? Part of this was the printing of little symbols that signified certain ingredients, like eggs or peanuts or shellfish. I have not heard anything about this lately.

"Because waitresses aren't paid to think. If they were, they might wonder why a person who didn't want croutons would want garlic bread, which is, after all, a larger chunk of the same exact thing."

No, probably not. Because, wonders of wonders, waitresses and waiters are human beings. We are going to forget. We are going to be taking care of several tables at once, be called by the manager to go do or get something else, or any of a thousand other things before we get your order and head to your table. We can get into trouble for taking items off of your plate(s) before we give it to you. Your waitress or waiter may have a graduate degree(s) and no money, or this may be a second job - please don't assume we're all stupid.

Finally, dumping extra bread and cheese on the waitress and/or waiter, and/or complaining to them about restaurant menus, policies and procedures are probably not going to change much in the long term. Speaking to the manager, writing letters and/or emails to management and owners are better ideas.


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