I haven't had time to finish Part I, it needs photos, but what the hell, here is Part II.
Birthday (part II)
Last week for my birthday, Sloph and Bee took me out to Fishers, a smart fish restaurant, which we keep for special occasions, visiting grandparents etc. This restaurant is supposedly one of the best fish restaurants in the country. The kids tried my oysters (not really sure they were so wonderful) and then we had our individual choices for main courses. We were having a really nice evening. Then instead of dessert, Sloph produced a birthday cake and all hell broke loose.
She asked politely if we could have plates and forks. The waitress snarled and said she would have to charge us extra, what she called "cakeage". We thought this was a bit rude, and also a bit funny as we never heard of restaurants complaining that people brought in birthday cakes, or inventing special terms for the "service". It's not as if Fishers has any interesting desserts that we were displacing. I've heard of "corkage" where you pay for wine glasses in cheap restaurants where you have to bring in your own wine, but "cakeage" for a birthday cake just seems silly.
We asked to see the manager. The waitress was the manager, it seemed. She said that she would rather pay the charge herself and give us the plates and forks. Perhaps it could have stopped there, if she had just said, "OK, as it's a birthday, we won't charge you". But what was this "I'll pay it myself"? Out of her wages? Like a favour? We didn't want a favour, we just wanted to have our cake and get on eat it.
Then we got a long lecture on company policy and how we were not allowed to bring food into the restaurant. "Imagine what would happen if we allowed people to bring their own fish into the restaurant" we were asked. We couldn't imagine, but she clearly had it all planned just in case, and was going to practice on us. I asked what had ever happened to the idea that the customer was always right, and about restaurants not spoiling their customers' birthdays.
So we decided to take our cake home with us and tried to pay the bill. But it was not going to be so easy. Sloph had to pay by card. Back came the manager, and instead of trying to get us out of the restaurant without further fuss, she told us how she had never had to deal with such rude people, and we had even made her cry. Never in her 15 years as a manager had she been treated like that*. I began to crack and said that never in my 60 years had I been treated like this in a restaurant**.
But it didn't stop there. We didn't have time to look carefully at the bill, before she began again. "I've only charged you for the wine, which I have to do by law" she said. But we weren't complaining about the meal, which we had enjoyed, and were quite happy to pay the full price. And didn't charging us less admit that she had done something wrong? Restaurants are surely entitled to give customers free meals if they want to. Their accountant might not be very happy, but where did the law come into it? So it wasn't really a peace offering at all, just the minimum she thought she could get away with. We didn't spend a lot of time worrying about how to calculate the tip.
So off we went and had my Maison Blanc chocolate birthday cake at home. As you can imagine it was not quite the birthday celebration we had planned.
Next day, I found that along with the bill, she had given us a card for the restaurant. Some hope of us going back, I thought. When I looked more carefully, it requested comments and suggestions. After that, it said (I kid you not):
Do you want a free meal on your birthday? Then enter your details below.
Thank you for joining Fishers Birthday Club. We will be in touch.
I don't think I could face another birthday there. And filling in our details might give her a chance to ring up and continue her harangue. The website doesn't have an email contact otherwise I would send them a link to this post.
It's really hard to understand a character like that, trained so successfully in the Basil Fawlty manner, or a restaurant that lets her loose on customers.
*Actually she looked in her late 30s so to have spent 15 years as a manager in such an established restaurant seemed rather unlikely. More like she started as a waitress there aged 25 and had worked her way up. I bet this was her first night as manager. Sloph was more charitable, saying maybe it had been a horrendous evening and we were just the straw that broke the camel's back.
**even in Kiev, where they have often had a good try.