So, here we find ourselves: You’ve made it to your chosen restaurant and the host has scanned the list of reservations, declaring you lucky enough to be among the chosen few to be served that night. They might lead you into the dining room or they might pass you on to one of the smartly dressed captains who oversee different sections of the restaurant.
I spent the rest of my meal with my nose pressed up against a glass partition, watching other people have a great time.
This should be the beginning of a most memorable evening. That is, unless you find yourself being led toward dining’s own version of Siberia. You see, fine dining is not an egalitarian business and, although you might be paying the same amount as everyone else in the restaurant, there are some people who, quite frankly, receive much better treatment than others.
Choose your table wisely
These are either the regular diners or those have are generally confident and well-informed enough to subtly let the waitstaff know that they’re seasoned when it comes to dining out. They often get better treatment than other diners, receive extra courses from the kitchen and seem to be the center of attention for most of the key staff. It may not seem right, but who said high-end eating had to be fair?
The split-level dining experience begins the moment you enter the restaurant. The favored will be shown to the best tables and booths while those the restaurant deems not quite as worthy will be led to a lesser part of the dining room. At one meal at the world-famous Spago restaurant in Los Angeles, nearly a decade ago, I was led through a packed dining room and shown to a table in a slightly dingy corridor. I spent the rest of my meal with my nose pressed up against a glass partition, watching other people have a great time while I rushed through my meal to get out of the place as quickly as possible.
You deserve a good seat. Don’t be afraid to demand one
Your experience may not be as extreme as that, but you may well find you and your party being led to a lousy table. It could be in a cramped corner of the room. It could be near the clanking of the kitchen, making quiet conversation tricky. Or, even worse, it could be close to the doors of the bathrooms.
If you are unused to fine dining, you may just think that you have to play the hand that you’ve been dealt. But bear in mind that you will be paying a great deal for your meal, and the restaurant’s task is to give you a terrific experience from the moment you enter. If you are unhappy at where you’re seated, the restaurant is at a disadvantage from the start.
In such circumstances, the key is to be firm but always courteous. I have found simply saying “I am sorry. This isn’t really a terribly good table. Do you have something else?” works wonders. If your server declares that there are no alternatives available, insist politely that they go and check. Restaurants of this type always keep some better spots spare for regulars, and they may well offer you one of these if they do not think it is going to be used.
Be prepared to turn around and leave
Finally, it always helps to know your endgame. If you are determined to eat at certain restaurants, you may occasionally find yourself putting up with a less-than-stellar table. But if you feel that it could spoil your evening, be prepared to do what I sometimes do and say, “I am afraid this really isn’t suitable. I think we might have to let our reservation go and find somewhere else to eat.” Sounds rash, and it is. Sometimes you have to be.
On more than one occasion, this has prompted the restaurant to go the extra mile and provide a better table. But, be warned, they may call your bluff and you may well find yourself wandering the streets trying to explain to your date that high-born principles are worth more than a great meal, as you suggest visiting the nearest burger joint.
Read the full Article at AskMen