Response to Richman’s Restaurant Commandments

My (late) response to Alan Richman’s Restaurant commandments. (I have only included the bold parts of Richman’s commandments and not his elaborations that follow in the original. Please google search for his expanded version as printed in GQ. All words following the commandments in bold are my reactions and response to Richman’s complete original commandments.)

1. Don’t threaten us. So so so sorry that you believe the world revolves around you. God forbid there might be other guests in the restaurant, other people with reservations, other people wanting to be seated on time and to have a perfectly timed meal. Hanging out and shooting the shit for over two hours while dining out is ridiculous. Go home.

2. Don’t banish us to the bar. First off, as a bartender I am offended. I would argue that the bar offers the best seats in the house. That aside, if you’re being asked to wait a few minutes for your table to be ready there is obviously good reason. Maybe guests with an earlier reservation time don’t want to be rushed (believing ever so much in commandment #1). Should we kick them to the curb so that you can have your table at 8pm on the dot. CHILL OUT dude. Don’t complain just because you want a free glass of (white) wine.

3. Since I’m not buying you dinner, I don’t care what your favorite dish is. Breathe, Kelly. Just breathe. You think servers are good people, huh? You just don’t give a crap about their opinions? And since when did being a server mean that we are clueless about good food? Um hi, we work in the food/restaurant industry — we might have some insights into the food our restaurant offers. Just maybe. And thanks to your generous tips, we can actually afford to eat more than one meal a day — and I promise that those meals don’t just consist of canned gravy. Oh and it’s not an order, it’s a suggestion. Be grateful that we care enough to offer it.

4. Don’t ask ‘Do you know how the menu work?’ Alright, this one I might actually agree with you on. The menu shouldn’t be an insane maze of food that cannot be untangled by the guests. Offering to answer any questions about the menu is one thing. Having to decipher/translate/interpret a menu is entirely different – and should be entirely unnecessary.

5. Bring back the dress code. Agreed. Unfortunately Americans in general are slobs. And restaurants in general are trying to make money. When American pop-culture decides it’s ok to wear velour tracksuits (or whatever other ridiculous fashion craze), there is little that we can do about it.

6. How about a wine list for the little lady? As a little lady, I agree. I love wine and generally I’m immediately handed the wine list from the “oldest, fattest guy at the table” (who is probably just going to order beer anyway). However, I also love the idea of wine being shared. The most knowledgeable wino in the group should look the list over throw a few suggestions out to his/her companions and then decide together on a bottle for the table.  Although I don’t know if I could share a bottle with you Mr. Richman, as I’m not as enthusiastic about Riesling as you apparently are.

7. Don’t place me on hold more than once. Yes, that could get annoying. But why let a  little thing get you stressed. Fight it with humor. Call back, put on a voice, and immediately begin trying to order delivery (or something equally absurd).

8. Don’t ask for a credit card until after dessert. Having actually worked at a restaurant, I completely understand the practice of asking for a credit card for a reservation. Unfortunately there are annoying and thoughtless people who make reservations at 5 different restaurants for the same night — the idea being that they decide which restaurant they’re in the mood for on that night. The other 4 restaurants hold the table until they realize that they’ve just been screwed. If you don’t break reservations, then giving a credit card shouldn’t be an issue.

9. Don’t underestimate our intelligence or math skills. Of course fancy cheese is going to marked up. This is business, my friend. Making a profit is the goal. That being said, there are some establishments that are more shameless than others. Solution: don’t go to them. Oh and don’t shoot the messenger – that waitress has nothing to do with how much cheese you get for your buck.

10. Stop scamming us with specials. Agreed. Specials are fun and I don’t want to avoid them just because I’m afraid of the potential price tag. (I also think asking the price of an item is tacky.)

11. Knock off the “Day Boat” routine. Agreed.

12. The “Diver-Scallop” scam is even worse. Agreed.

13. Don’t ask “Who gets the soup?” while I’m regaling my guests. First off, this specific scenario shouldn’t happen if the restaurant has a good pivot point system and reasonably competent staff. In terms of a server interrupting in general, fine – it’s rude. However it is also rude for guests to continue huffing and puffing through a ridiculously long-winded story about god knows what while a server is waiting patiently with a pepper grinder. At least acknowledge his/her existence with a nod of the head if you cannot pause your story to say, “Why yes I’d love some freshly ground pepper. Thank you!” Manners go both ways, sir.

14. Don’t ask “Is everything all right” unless you want an honest answer. I want an honest answer. Maybe not every server or manager or owner actually does, but I do. If your experience is not going well as my guest, then I want to know so I can take steps to improve it. That being said, this does not mean I want you to turn into a Negative-Nancy and rip apart every tinsy part of the restaurant. Don’t take out whatever anger issues you have on the minuscule stuff just to hear yourself talk (I know it makes you feel important…)  I’m sure you wouldn’t want me to come to your house guessing at the last time you re-did your floors and comment on the state of your dish-ware.

15. Ban the banquette. You do realize that EVERYONE disagrees with you on this point. It’s not something I understand either. All I know is that everyone wants to sit there. I guess you’ll just have to get over your issues with personal space because they will never go away.

16. Have mercy on my ass. What? You don’t like a banquette but you don’t want to sit on a chair either? Make up your mind man! In my experience some of the most comfortable chairs are those plastic lawn-chairs (even better if they have a beer logo printed on them).

17. Eliminate the omelet station. Nothing wrong with a well-made omelet. And why do you automatically assume that everyone is incompetent? How do you know the omelet guy never went to cooking school? And what does it matter? Do you have to go to cooking school to be able to make an omelet?

18. Take care of the coat check girl. Agreed. This goes for all employees. Owners and managers shouldn’t get overly greedy. It’s just bad form.

19. Show us the chef. Ridiculous. This one has already been over-discussed by many. I defer to Bourdain.

20. Get over yourself. Agreed. Everyone needs to take themselves less seriously these days. Even maybe you?

21. Ban house wine. Says the man who drinks Riesling. (joking. …kinda) House wine might surprise you someday. Don’t write it off. But yeah, sniffing the cork – a no-no. Agree with that.

22. Don’t serve a dish credited to the Chef’s mother. Really? Why not?I mean, of course the mother isn’t actually AT the stove. But we know you have an issue with this concept (ahem #19). Food memory is a strong thing, so I think it is perfectly understandable and even cute to have a just-like-mom’s dish on a menu.

23. Even worse is a dish invented by the Chef’s father. Even though I grew up with a dad who consistently burnt almost everything he cooked, I have to disagree with you on “because dads can’t cook.” Aren’t the majority of well-known chefs MEN? (sorry ladies, the truth hurts.) I’m sure that at least a few of these chefs are also fathers….

24. Don’t overfill my glass. Agreed. Servers should know not to fill wine to the brim. But if you are so worried about your precious white wine getting warm, might I suggest (a) drinking faster or (b) ordering RED WINE.

25. Don’t keep the bottled water coming. Agreed.

26. Get a new joke. Right back atchya, buddy. I hear guests say shit like that just as often as servers/managers/owners. “Oh that was terrrriiible! We obviously didn’t like it at all!” said over a plate practically licked clean. “Yuk. Yuk.” to you too. But as a server, I have to smile and laugh and pretend that I have NEVER heard that one before.

27. No more hot white wine. I repeat: TRY DRINKING RED WINE SOMETIME.

28. Enough with the Florentine Steaks. Of all the food fads… you decide to pick this one. Why? There are so many other bad food fads out there to pick on. Maybe you need a whole new list for those though.

29. Don’t push the Austrian Zweigelt unless you know something about it. Agreed. I’m also particularly annoyed by the new fad of putting Malbec on every wine list. Even more annoyed that wine enthusiasts think that “Malbec”  automatically means “good.”

30. Don’t ask me “Do you want change?” I  agree with you on this question. I think it is a tacky question. But you had to take it a step too far with “…should I be inclined to leave one [a tip]. You are not entitled to any of my money unless I say so.” Excuse me? Do you at all understand how the restaurant industry works and how servers (and other members of the staff) get paid? You are screwing with my income right now, sir. And on top of that you are basically accusing me of eye-ing your briefcase and overcoat because you think I might steal it??? Offended doesn’t even begin to describe my feelings right now.

After reading through all the commandments, thinking them over, and writing a response, I feel like I have come to a conclusion: The reason Alan Richman is so successful is because he is an arrogant jerk and yes, perhaps also a douchebag.
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About kellchris

I'm an artist and art therapy student. When I'm not painting or experimenting with ceramics, I'm usually hiking, cooking, or making the big bucks bartending. View all posts by kellchris

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