Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Free Stuff

Can we talk about free stuff? You go to a restaurant and there is a certain amount of free stuff which is customary. Water, for example. Bread is another classic example. Some places have nuts or other little nibbly bits for you to munch on while you consider your dining options.

Some people get very particular with the free stuff, as if it is something they are paying for. One classic example is asking for olive oil with bread at a restaurant that serves it with butter typically. What's up with that? You don't like butter? Have you tried it? It's delicious, and we're giving it to you for FREE! You take your knife (a "butter knife") and you spread it on the bread which we are also supplying at no charge and with our compliments.

Of course we may have olive oil in the back. It's a restaurant with a kitchen, we are liable to have all sorts of ingredients which we use to prepare food for which we charge you. You will find this on the menu. Frankly, however, the oil we have may be blended olive oil/vegetable oil/soybean oil. Hardly what you would dip bread in at home. You are probably thinking of fancy extra-virgin olive oil, which is admittedly delicious with bread. However, you should ask yourself, why would they give me that for free when they clearly serve butter with the bread. I guess what I am getting at is, if you don't like butter on your bread then don't eat it, but please don't expect to get fancy olive oil as a substitution. Maybe we can work something out where we charge you a small fee?

Don't get me wrong, if you are nice and you ask sweetly you will probably get what you want. My point is, don't act entitled and don't imply that butter is somehow more low-class than oil. They are both delicious fats, and we happen to serve butter because this is not Macaroni Grill!

Also, what is the deal with people who order a salad for their meal and request "lots of bread"? "Lots of bread?" I would say that two pieces of bread per customer is plenty, and frankly we know that you are just trying to get as many free calories as possible. The bread is free, so why on earth would we give you extra when you are trying to lowball us on your bill? I would go so far as to say that there is no such thing as "lots of bread" at our restaurant. There is bread, which you get for free because we are nice and we appreciate your business. It is not a substitute for the food we sell, so don't be surprised if you keep asking for more bread and I keep forgetting to fetch it for you.

In many ways, I suspect that people who make special requests regarding free stuff are really looking for something a bit more abstract than the item they have requested. They want to be served, they want a nice well dressed young person to fetch them stuff. Fair enough, that is part of the deal when you walk into a restaurant. Frankly I want to fetch you stuff, but I only want to fetch you stuff that costs money, so that you will have the opportunity to calculate a tip (20 percent is recommended!) and pay me for my efforts. If you are requesting free stuff, there is no payoff for me. Why would I do something for you for free?

Here's my thought: If you ask for extra bread, or a lemon for your water, or olive oil instead of butter, or a little extra sauce on the side, mentally calculate what that is worth to you and include that in the tip. Then go back to that restaurant again and again and always leave a good tip. You want to see some free stuff? Be a regular who tips well and believe me, the river of free stuff (desserts, drinks, appetizers) will flow in your direction.

1 comment:

  1. So true. What's worse is that we have owners that cater to it. There was actually one guy who comes into the restaurant where I work and demands olive oil, red pepper flakes, the entire pepper mill, balsamic vinegar, a bowl of lemons, and tabasco sauce with his bread. And we wouldn't happen to have any other kinds of bread would we? Whole wheat maybe? He's not nice about it either.

    And the owner gives into it every time. It's rediculous. People need to let go of a false sense of entitlement, and accept free bread for what it is, a few pieces of bread to shut you up until we can get some food out.