I'll eat shit as long as I can sit at the best table.

There seems to be a growing movement of diners who approach the acquisition of their chosen table with the military precision and forward planning akin to a crack SAS unit.Nothing will thwart them from their ultimate goal:capture of the prize seat, this will often involve a forward reconnaissance trip to the pub beforehand and several phone calls afterwards..
We first experienced this phenomenon a number of years ago when the the local council decided to fund a pensioners Christmas lunch for around thirty which was very quickly oversubscribed.The group were due to arrive at midday as the pub opened but at around 11.30 I happened to glance out of the window and noticed a bus pulling into the car park.There's nothing as annoying as customers who arrive before you're ready to open up.If the front door's locked they will circuit the building until they find another means of access,even on occasion entering via the kitchen door fighting their way through the fly screen.
I'm quite adept at putting on the most deadest pan of faces when responding to the usual:
'We couldn't get the door open'
'Thats because we're not open yet..'
Anyway we were rushing around trying to get things ship shape early so we could get the door open,conscious that we didn't want to let a party of frail pensioners shiver on the doorstep and risk hypothermia before they'd even had their gratis Christmas turkey.
At this point Chef appeared.
'Jesus Christ come and have a look at this' he was standing mouth agape staring out of the window toward the garden path.
There was a veritable stampede of elderly folk charging drown the garden path ,walking sticks aloft,a flash of Queen mother handbags and cauliflower perms.There was even a wheelchair that would have given Dame Tanni a run for her money..
A disorderly queue formed at the door before the walking sticks were deployed into operation with a determined but impatient tapping on the door.
'We better open up before they put the window through' I shouted 'pass the keys…QUICK'
As I turned the key in the lock it suddenly occurred to me that there were around thirty clamouring pensioners rammed right up to the front door and DEAR GOD didn't the flaming door open outwards…
They could potentially go over like a pack of dominoes if a didn't get them to move back.
'STAND BACK' I shouted as loudly as I could 'I'M OPENING UP..'
I could hear shuffling outside and tentatively pushed open the door nervously, just in case.
As the door opened and I stepped outside to secure it on its daytime hook on the pub wall,I was almost trampled underfoot as a herd of nuns shoes and M&S slacks surged past me into the pub.
Ive never seen a set of seniors,some of them moderately infirm looking move with such speed and urgency..
Once inside there was  a further scramble as they each fought to secure the prime seats,the more able bodied fighting their way ahead and bagging seats for mates.
"Over  here Betty Ive kept you a seat!!' Several walking sticks were waved aloft to attract attention.
I  even saw a few minor scuffles break out.
With all the excitement the food seemed almost secondary.To be honest a fair few of them didn't eat much though we spotted quite a bit of turkey being wrapped up in napkins and tucked away in the lunchboxy Queen Mother handbags.
I was surprised given the agility of the field in the chair dash to be called over to a couple of participants and asked if I could CUT UP THEIR FOOD.

The other week I happened to take a call for a booking for seven people..
I was just about to put the phone down having extracted all the relevant information when the caller interrupted .
'One last thing..we'd like to be seated in the bar area'
"Im sorry I'm afraid our biggest table in the bar area only seats six people'
'Are you sure? We'd really like to sit in the bar area'
Expectant pause..
'Yes I'm sure..the table only seats six,I can sit you in one of the adjacent rooms'
I finally managed to get him off the phone but I could tell he wasn't happy.Something told me this wasn't the last id heard of this particular person.
Later that afternoon,after I'd just returned from my afternoon stroll with the pooch I caught the back end of a telephone conversation that made my ears prick up….
'Yes ok, I'll mark that down we, could do that for you'

I could sense trouble.They don't call me Christine Cagney for nothing (subtweet haha!!)
'What was that about?'
'Oh It was the seven booked tomorrow night,the guy said he was told he could sit in the bar area and he was just checking that it had been noted in the diary.'
Nothing gets my fucking goat more than punters playing the staff off against each other and GOD FORBID managing to gain the upper hand.

'WHAT?? But you know we don't have a table that accommodates seven people in the bar'
'I know but he said someone told him we'd put a chair on the end of a table..'
I seethed right through dinner service with the thought of the fucker dictating what goes on IN MY FLAMING PUB.

When the following evening arrived I WAS READY FOR HIM.
The chair was placed strategically on the end of the table in the main thoroughfare from the bar,it wasn't going to be pleasant for whoever drew the short straw and had to sit there with drinkers milling around behind,breathing beer fumes all over their braised beef.
And*cough* the odd member of staff inadvertently bumping onto it…
When they were all seated it transpired there were a couple of children on the table.For the next few minutes a plethora of children's games,cards and tablets were offloaded into the centre of the dining table.It was like a scene from Fenwicks toy fair on the last shopping Saturday before Christmas.
Finally they got around to looking at the menu..
I could hear mutterings.
'Is there a children's menu?"
I delivered the stock answer.
'No but we are happy to offer smaller portions of the regular menu'
There was more chuntering…then loudly in order to make himself heard over the top of the three currently playing versions of Old MacDonald Had a Farm
'I can't believe they don't even have a single sausage in the kitchen'
That did it.
I steamed over.
'Im sorry we don't have sausages on the menu today,so therefore there are none available in the fridge'
I had a little smirk to myself.
'Actually we quite often do have sausages,in fact they were on the menu only yesterday..'
How ironic.
I left them for a further minute to mull over the menu.
By now time was getting on and it being a Friday night Chef was getting tetchy for the order conscious of the backlog which was already piling up.
'Are you ready to order?'
'Actually no,we're just going to leave it as theres nothing for the children.I mean my kids will eat ANYTHING but theres just nothing there at all that they can eat'
I glanced up at the menu,noting the lamb chops,the steak,the pasta dish,the cod,the very tasty soup,various salads,belly pork,not to mention the range of simple sandwiches(what the hell kid doesn't like BACON??)and wondered what the fuckl this lot DID eat.
Reader,brace yourself for the next comment.
'Do we have to pay for the drinks?'
Lets just think this one through.
In addition to now having seven spare places on a Friday night and having already turned punters away,its now MY fault that you didn't like the menu and you'd like me to compensate you for the inconvenience by offering GRATIS drinks?
I toyed with the idea of telling them that if they'd put as much effort into finding out what was on the actual menu as they did researching the seating plan it would've saved everyone concerned a lot of wasted time and effort.
Instead I kept quiet and presented them with a drinks bill which was not received with warmth.
I consoled myself with the thought that the only place they'd get in at short notice on a Friday night was probably the one of the local Indian restaurants and pondered the likelihood of the kids eating curry when basic English fare was off limits…

Later on Postman Pat came in for dinner.
Popular fictional character

Not the actual Postman Pat if you get my drift but someone who bears an uncanny resemblance to the popular children's TV character.
Its worth noting at this point that if you are unfortunate enough to resemble some well known fictional character you might want to think twice about frequenting the same hostelry on a regular basis.Better to spread your custom around and thus avoid being tagged with an unwelcome moniker  similarly,persons who eat the same meal every time they visit may wish to ring the changes now and again to avoid becoming known by the name of their favoured dish.
'Postman Pat'
'Sausage man'
or even the unfortunate
'BLT on brown'
All existing customers of ours.
On the bright side if I ever lose my iPhone I comfort myself with the thought that the finder will make no sense whatsoever of the messages contained therein.
For example:
(From an off duty member of staff  doing a spot of shopping in Waitrose and happening to bump into a regular'
'BLT on brown heading your way Biff,ETA 10 mins'

Postman Pat always has plenty to say for himself.Probably because he has a chip on his shoulder because no one takes him seriously because he looks like Postman Pat..
He was troughing his way merrily through his meal so I thought I'd go over and put in an appearance just to nip any potential complaint in the bud.
Having inquired as to the enjoyment of the meal and having received an answer(well a nod to be exact-perfect timing his mouth was full)indicating the affirmative, I left fairly pleased and moderately surprised that the extra workload with the Christmas post hadn't dampened his mood.
I didn't give him much thought for the rest of the night.
Later as I was exchanging a few pleasantries with the kitchen staff, the Blonde burst through the kitchen door.
'Biff.I want to twat him'
'Postman Pat.He's just been on a massive rant about the wine list and how he can go to X and Y and drink lovely wine for £12 a bottle and he doesn't want to come here and drink South African Shiraz at 6 quid a glass when other places round here have far superior wine lists.And can I 'feed' this information to you Biff and can I tell you that you need to raise your game quick smart otherwise he won't be coming back soon'

'Ive told you before about holding customers at gunpoint and forcing red wine down their necks' said Chef helpfully.

Now recently we've employed an Italian kitchen porter who's family have been in the restaurant trade for many years and reader, the conversations I'm having with him regarding common guest relation problems are proving insightful to say the least..in fact Im picking up quite a few tips on how best to deal with difficult customers.
I was particularly impressed with his description of his fathers likely response to this particular situation.Imagine the following in raised tone and and with accompanying frenzied hand gesticulation:
'You wanna go to  X or Y then?? Well getta  the fucka outta here,in fact I call you a cab.RIGHT NOW'
At this point the conversation became a little silly partly because our new KP either wasn't aware of Postman Pats stunning resemblance to his fictional namesake or had no idea who Postman Pat was,therefore the following wisecrack from Chef delivered with the usual ascerbic wit, was lost in a cavernous void of misapprehension.

'He won't need a taxi,he's got his red van parked outside'

'He has a red van?Jesus Christ fancy driving after all that red wine.. The BASTARD'..

I should have been Italian..



Harley said…
Thanks for a great blog. A happy and prosperous New Year to you all
Alison Cross said…
I say this EVERY time,but I really don't know how you manage to keep a civil tongue in your head!

Have a marvellous evening and see you on the other side!!

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