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Foodie Rant - The Customer is Sometimes Wrong

By Anthony Todd in Food on Sep 14, 2010 5:40PM

satisfied-customers.jpg I hear (and often proffer) so many complaints about bad service, badly designed menus, food cooked into shoe leather and waiters spilling wine onto shirtfronts that I often forget that the customer is sometimes the stupid one. Sometimes this clueless behavior rises to such epic levels that I am tempted to vault across the table, jump the intervening aisle and shake some sense into the hapless fool. "Of course," I remind myself, "I'm in an unusual position - I do my research, I know chefs and restaurants. Maybe I'm not the best judge of what is a normal informed customer." But when customers enter a restaurant totally unaware of its basic premise, the food offered or what they can expect and instead sit down and expect to be served according to their every whim, I get quietly violent.

Picture if you will, the following true restaurant story. I was eating dinner at the Purple Pig recently and a couple of women, one older and one younger, sat down next to me. They were chatting pleasantly, and I thought nothing of it. The waiter handed them the menus, and they started to complain, loudly. It came out that they were vegetarians, and were outraged that they couldn't find dishes they could eat. Now, two facts. First, they walked into a restaurant called the Purple Pig, whose tagline is "Cheese, Swine and Wine." Second, I was with a vegetarian myself, and he was having a wonderful time. Well, apparently the vegetarian options were "too weird." The confused waiter suggested some cheese, but when it came, they were disturbed because it was too pungent. After half an hour of this, their dining companion arrived and they shared a pleasant 10 minutes giggling and complaining - how can anyone eat here, they wondered? Apparently, these people had managed to choose a restaurant without noting its name, looking at its menu or seeing the sign on the way in.

Another recent incident happened at moto. Now, as you may know, moto has very odd food and is quite expensive - and it's also very out of the way. No foot traffic accidentally wanders into moto. During my dinner, a well-dressed couple came in and was seated. The restaurant was full, and i later learned that they had booked their reservation well in advance. They received the menu (which is edible and serves as the first course) and began chatting, loudly, about the strangeness of eating in such a very odd way. After twenty minutes of this, the menus still untouched, they got up and left. Based on their clothing, money was not the problem - and yet somehow, they had managed to make reservations, arrive at this out-of-the-way spot and sit down without any idea what they were in for.

Customers have every right to comment on a restaurant, to complain, to praise or even to get up and leave. But it is also the responsibility of a patron to have some idea about what they're in for, and, failing that, to either accept what the restaurant offers or to depart without complaint. Otherwise, you may find me waiting for you in a dark alley.