|Subject: Re: US dining|
John Rule responded appropriately to the gist of what
Gail Norris and I had commented on, and I hope that
there will be further discussion of what, IMHO, is a most interesting topic.
I would also add that when I do get to San Diego, I will take up John's
offer, even though I don't believe he said he would comp out my party's
check. The salmon looked especially tempting.
However, I still stick to my observation that most treatment in European restaurants differs fundamentally from at least much treatment here. Indeed, John's comments, if anything, support my view, at least in part, since he acknowledges that post-prandial stays are not exactly encouraged here given the need for turnover.
Always being the academic, let me suggest three hypotheses:
1. Perhaps I (and John) are both wrong about the difference in service. Maybe I just perceive something given the fact that I am usually more relaxed when I am traveling with my family, had the wonderful exercise of shopping (at least watching my wife shop), taking pictures, speaking bad Italian, meeting people, and sight seeing in general. That certainly is different from my general attitude here. However, I have been away from home in US cities and noticed a similar attitude (with at least one major difference, the Berghoff in Chicago) to those I see at home in Dallas. I have also noticed, on the rarest of occasions, boorish behavior from servers abroad.
2. Alternative, perhaps European (and perhaps other non-US, but I am talking about Europe which I know best) restauranteurs encourage lengthier stays, and it is more than a cliché that departing early indicates dissatisfaction. If that is the case (I would love to hear from any European restauranteurs on the subject), how do they stay in business since they face same economic constraints American restaurants do? Indeed, they are less likely to be parts of chains, so if, for example, you want to eat at the Giglio Rosso, you have to be on Via Giglio in Florence and not in a suburb or, heavens-to-Betsi, in Siena. Moreover, you have no trouble finding restaurants that have been in business continually, though obviously under different ownership, for decades, if not centuries.
3. Perhaps European restaurants do try to encourage turnover, but they are simply more skilled at it since they are more likely to have professional waiters serve you. Again, I can't rule this out.
I do note that the Berghoff, perhaps my favorite US restaurant, is also one of its most European since it has resisted branch locations (save one, I understand, at the airport) and has truly professional waiters. I know that their traditionalism has irritated (no credit cards until about 10 years ago) and even understandably offended (women not allowed in part of the restaurant until about 30 years ago) some, but they have been in business for well over a century. How do they do it?
Perhaps someone interested in this issue can fund a grant for me to formally study this issue. You don't have to post a response--simply email me, and I will direct you to our Office of Sponsored Projects.
Ira H. Bernstein, Ph. D.