Stop Asking Me If I ‘Saved Room’ for Dessert
July 10, 2018 6:09 PM   Subscribe

 
I think that most, if not all, of those would make eating in restaurants more pleasant for anyone.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 6:16 PM on July 10 [10 favorites]


I’m just sitting here reading this and thinking about how many of the things this person finds triggering or stressful are things restaurants deliberately do because they result in people ordering more/pricier food, and in higher customer throughput.
posted by egypturnash at 6:20 PM on July 10 [33 favorites]


Absolutely. All these things, except maybe the "saved room" comment, increase the speed at which the restaurant can push customers through. Interesting points that I have never considered, but not many will make it through the restaurant business...
posted by Windopaene at 6:26 PM on July 10 [2 favorites]


Yeah, much of this is stuff that servers are specifically instructed to do, either to increase profits - especially the one about ascribing value terms to food (like rich or healthy or light or heavy) instead of listing ingredients - or to push customers through faster. I guess that makes sense, since living with an eating disorder can make you hypersensitive to manipulation, and most of the things on this list are manipulative, in that normally low-level way of all service industries everywhere.

I wonder how helpful it is that now quite often restaurants have their menus available online, so someone could do a lot of prep at home before going out. That at least is something that helps business as well as appears to be accommodating.
posted by Mizu at 6:31 PM on July 10 [4 favorites]


Meh. I was a waitress for a few years, and I've had an eating disorder for fifteen years (although I have yet to be institutionalized for it). I feel at least somewhat qualified to opine on this article.

I think three of these are merely good service (asking how everything was rather than commenting on amount counsumed, not engaging the table in conversation while people are chewing food, not clearing plates while anyone at the table is still eating) and the rest are either contrary to good service or simply not practicable:

- waiting until the menus have been put down before ordering: sometimes people, especially those on first dates or otherwise feeling slightly uncomfortable, will take refuge in perusing the menu long after they know what they want. It's something to do with yourself, especially if it's before drinks have been brought or something else with which to busy your hands.

- making "value judgments" about menu items. In my experience, the primary information people want is exactly this type of value judgment. I suppose when I worked in fine dining we would merely recite the long list of ingredients and their preparation (presumably because both server and guest understood that just about everything in fine dining tastes amazing because it has way, way more butter or oil than you would ever countenance in home cooking), but when I worked in less formal environments, what people mainly wanted to know was exactly this type of information - rich vs. light, etc.

I suppose asking if people "saved room" for dessert is a slightly declasse way to approach it and it likely wouldn't fly in a fine dining situation. The author has a point about the logic underlying the phrasing.

Still, I would say that anyone whose recovery is so fragile as to be in jeopardy by any of the enumerated occurrences should respect their own limits and eat at home or at an establishment known to safe (perhaps one where you order via iPad)- or, as Mizu suggests, look into the menu in advance. Having had many of my own setbacks and relapses over the years, part of what I have learned is that it is up to me to respect my own limits, even when doing so means avoiding normal and commonplace things like eating at a restaurant.
posted by Aubergine at 6:33 PM on July 10 [103 favorites]


I've always really disliked the phrase "are you still working on that?" because a) it makes me feel like I'm being rushed out, and b) eating is supposed to be pleasurable, not work! Now I realize it could be on this list too. It draws attention to your eating speed, and might make you self-conscious if you are still hungry but feel like you "should" be full.
posted by scose at 6:34 PM on July 10 [10 favorites]


Don’t make comments about how much or little someone ate.
OMG there are wait persons that actually say that?? Why don't they just say that there are persons starving in China or that at this moment there are homeless people right outside this eatery that will eat what you dont. Geeeez!!
posted by robbyrobs at 6:39 PM on July 10 [2 favorites]


restaurants deliberately do

Uh, only the first and last things listed (rushing to get an order and pre-bussing a table) would save time and/or affect turnover and even then the time saved is negligible. I doubt its some weird restaurant conspiracy.
posted by drinkyclown at 6:40 PM on July 10 [2 favorites]


All the server really means by "are you still working on that?" is "should I take that away?", but I'm not sure the latter phrasing is better for you. They have to ask because some customers want plates taken away immediately while others might be saving a few bites for later. If you read judgement into it you're going to have an anxious time
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 6:42 PM on July 10 [10 favorites]


This article is an interesting, uneasy contrast to reading the Salty Waitress advice column, which has taken questions from restaurant patrons complaining about waiters checking in when your mouth is full, recommending richer menu items, and rushing you through a meal (while waiters complain about patrons taking forever).
posted by nicebookrack at 6:45 PM on July 10 [2 favorites]


If you read judgement into it you're going to have an anxious time

If you suspect there is overlap between people with eating disorders and people with anxiety disorders, you are absolutely correct.
posted by nicebookrack at 6:48 PM on July 10 [16 favorites]


I find "are you working on that" infantilizing; like a parent evaluating a child. I'm an adult. If I wanted to I could use all the powers of my adultness to consume the food in front of me at a tremendous rate. There is no problem with the quality of my eating work.

Alternatives:

"May I clear your plate?"
"Finished here?"
posted by sp160n at 6:53 PM on July 10 [13 favorites]


Hrm. As a former restaurant dishwasher, I think a lot of these reflect a person of privilege making demands of those less privileged than themselves. In particular:

Don’t — please, please don’t — clear any plates before everyone is done eating.

OK, real talk. If you are a person who has not only achieved recognition for your eating disorder, but also received treatment for it, it is extremely likely you are more privileged than the bussers, who are working one of the most economically precarious jobs that exist in the Western world. Generally they are evaluated on how quickly they clear tables, and sometimes there is a specific need for plates, glasses, silverware, etc., when they get sent out to the floor to bus. It seems wrong to me to also task them with looking after the diner's comfort level concerning who has what dishes remaining in front of them.

Unless - unless there is an edict from management about what the restaurant priorities are and how the job should be conducted. I think that's a general problem with this essay - it's directed to the lowest level staff, who the author interacts with but who have the least control, whereas it should be directed at restaurant owners and managers. The way it's written it comes off as entitled and demanding of low-paid service workers; "punching down" if you will.

Also terms like "heavy," "light," and "rich" are legitimate descriptors of food texture. How else are you supposed to describe the mousse, the tiramisu, the creme brulee, and the trio of sorbets if someone actually asks? I'm genuinely curious about what those with eating disorders would prefer, I don't mean this to be a dickish rhetorical question.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 7:01 PM on July 10 [83 favorites]


Yes, those alternatives would be preferable for me. I agree about the infantilization thing. I suppose for a person with an eating disorder there isn't much difference between the alternatives.
posted by scose at 7:02 PM on July 10 [1 favorite]


Agreed that many of these are good practice in general. I’ve never been a server in a restaurant myself, but my understanding is that one can get quite hectic trying to be attentive to all of one’s tables. Can a server reasonably be expected to ensure that no one at a table is chewing before checking in? Might that not mean you never get to check in on a table, since of the four or six or eight diners, at least one will be chewing at any moment?

Aubergine, since you also put this on the “don’t” list, I’d love to hear your take!
posted by ejs at 7:10 PM on July 10 [4 favorites]


Yeah no eating disorder here, but I nearly had one, and was often accused of having one. I am autistic and my disorder mostly manifests itself as sensory processing disorder. I ate almost nothing as a kid. Picky to the extreme, largely because I had massive massive issues with textures in my mouth. So I ate almost nothing in public at school, and was stick thin. I hated food, but not for ED reasons. So people accused me of being anorexic all the time. I wasn't, largely because of my mother. She could tell that if I had one negative comment about weight, I was likely to eat even less than I was- so she scrupulously avoided commenting negatively on her, my and my dads weight, and made sure as I was growing to frame my gaining weight as a positive aspect of growing up. (her own mother was... not so great.) SO thankfully, as I got treatment for the sensory stuff, and as I got older *not* being exposed to negative weight talk, I sort of snapped out of it, and started eating more normally. (still have some issues with food)

That being said- I am totally on team article writer, because while my mom's very deft parenting means I don't have an ED, I still have autism and am VERY anxious in food related settings. If I think someone will judge me for how fast/slow I am eating (maybe because a texture is bothering me, or the food smells too strongly and I am sort of slowly processing that) I just... freeze up and lightly freak out. I have like a mental map of restaurants that wont rush me, or judge me for eating alone- or for sometimes hoovering up my food because I still sometimes under-eat and by the time I do eat I'm ready to eat an elephant... SO I am very neo-phobic about new restaurants because I am terrified of being judged by a waiter for how much or little I am eating. I sometimes lose my appetite halfway through a meal because texture and then get massive side-eye for leaving food over. Please. PLEASE. do not comment on my food left over, cause worst case for me I get anxious and never set foot in the restaurant again, but if you do that to someone with an ED the consequences could be much worse.

great post OP.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 7:10 PM on July 10 [11 favorites]


I have mixed feelings about this as in recovery from anorexia. Restaurants were these frought wierd experiences for a long time, but the farther I'm in recovery the less likely I am to think what the waiter /busser is thinking about me and more about what I want out of my meal out (a romantic time, a particular type of food, a nice quiet break... ). I think breaking out of how food and eating behavior is a reflection of self worth is a huge part of recovery.

That being said, it still is incredibly distracting and an emotional rollercoaster to work on these things in public places. I really wish we had better ways to communicate when and if help is wanted, if a plate should be cleared or left alone. Different countries and cultures do this differently, and in my opinion some better than others.
posted by AlexiaSky at 7:26 PM on July 10 [4 favorites]


I guess I sort of feel like next someone is going to write an article about how restaurants should be mindful of their recovering alcoholic customers by making people ask for a wine list instead of leaving it on the table, and not mentioning happy hour.

Some of these suggestions are sensible, like using the phrase, “May I take your dish?” and NEVER commenting on how much someone ate (I can’t see how that would ever be a good idea), but others would interfere with actual restaurant logistics, like not clearing plates until everyone is done, or not approaching the table until nobody is chewing, and are pretty unrealistic. I have to agree that if someone’s recovery is that fragile then maybe a dine-in restaurant isn’t a good environment for them. And honestly, servers and bussers aren’t paid enough for this, truly. This is like expecting your bartender to only give advice that passes muster with the DSM-5.
posted by Autumnheart at 8:15 PM on July 10 [49 favorites]


I think for all these things to happen people would have to be willing to pay more for all restaurant foods. It's a low margin business and the goal of moving customers through isn't to shame people, but because tables are money, time is money and without that flow you're bleeding cash.

It's a really hard needle to thread because half the suggestions about never coming to tables unless certain criteria are met would piss off most people because they expect opportunities with servers to request refills on water, alcohol or even just a check in to see if they want a check or some other thing.
posted by Ferreous at 8:15 PM on July 10 [5 favorites]


There are rules about how one should place one's silverware when one is done with a plate. (Also, resting) Most mid to fine dining staff generally recognize them and won't try to clear plates unless the signal is given. At restaurants where "flair" and "peppy" are the requirements for staff, even if they do recognize the symbols, table turnaround is a big part of how they are judged by management, and if you look done, they will ask if they can box it up for you, because, gtf out.

I have social anxiety issues, and a public eating thing, so I totally, absolutely, understand and sympathize with the author's discomfort, but some of the things she would like eliminated, like using "rich" or "light" to describe a dish just isn't feasible. Except for very fine dining, servers just don't have time to do an audition for the food network to describe all the variables of a dish. And if servers had to wait till everyone had a menu down before they approached a table, y'all, a table at a restaurant would be rarer than toenails on a toad, because they'd be full of glazed eyed patrons who got lost about page five. See also, not catching people with their mouth's full. Either you want someone lurking there, waiting for that opportunity when nobody has a fork up, which would be insanely creepy, or you don't want your server to check on your table to make sure everything is right, or you take the chance that when the server stops by your table, while waiting on 7-10 other tables full of people, you might have food in your mouth. At a restaurant. Which sells food. For you to eat.

But I am totally down with losing "did we save room" for dessert. Just ask me if I want to see a dessert menu, wheel the trolley full of pie past me, offer to tell me what sweet treats await my demand, but for the love of god, I am a post menopausal fairy gothmother who is definitely old enough to be your mother, don't infantilize me like I'm a recalcitrant toddler.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 8:17 PM on July 10 [19 favorites]


"how's that first bite tasting?" is still ok though?
posted by yesster at 8:28 PM on July 10 [1 favorite]


I’m going to go with “Minimum-wage workers pulling 8+ hour shifts of heavy lifting with no break are not responsible for your recovery” and call it good.

This letter might be a better one to send to an owner, or a company’s operations, because that’s where it would have the most effect.
posted by Autumnheart at 8:30 PM on July 10 [63 favorites]


Yeah, it's very hard to think about this without the context of shifting effort and labor onto servers who exist in a very precarious job, a job that has a huge amount of emotional abuse baked into it, a job that requires people to be subservient and obsequious, to endure pay rates that are unpredictable and variable, to have to put a nice face with people who sexually harass them. It's a lot to ask.
posted by Ferreous at 8:33 PM on July 10 [14 favorites]


on a field trip to a Cheesecake Factory

This seems like a particularly grueling choice of restaurant eatery for someone with an eating disorder. Three courses from this menu could easily top 3000 calories.
posted by rh at 8:34 PM on July 10 [9 favorites]


I’m glad the author wrote this. Whether the suggestions are realistic or not I leave to those with more experience, but I think its important to try to wrap our heads around how others in difficult situations experience the world. This is what care can look like in public.
posted by wemayfreeze at 8:40 PM on July 10 [13 favorites]


There are rules

I somehow thought everyone knew these. I was taught them as a child during the time my parents were transitioning taking us from 70s "family restaurants" to better places. I find it annoying when my utensils are clearly not together in 4pm position and someone wants to take my plate.

Most servers in places that aren't trying to push through two tops in an hour are pretty good about recognizing silverware placement.
posted by hippybear at 8:51 PM on July 10 [4 favorites]


To play it safe, just wait until everyone puts down their menus before asking if we’ve decided.

Servers are busy people, and a menu that has been put down looks exactly like one that hasn't even been opened yet, so I'm not sure there's a good way for a server (at any old type of restaurant) to be certain that a table is ready to order.
posted by 23skidoo at 9:03 PM on July 10 [6 favorites]


What about, “Here are your menus, I’ll be back in a couple minutes to see if you’re ready to order.” Then the customer knows what to expect and it shouldn’t interfere much with the server’s other tables.
posted by Autumnheart at 9:12 PM on July 10 [2 favorites]


Or the thing where you say, "can we have maybe 3 more minutes?" and then 15 minutes pass and you're looking around the room to see if your server is even still on duty.
posted by hippybear at 9:16 PM on July 10 [5 favorites]


Oh sure, that's kind of the norm at most places I go to. Servers ask if you're ready to order after a certain amount of time, not when they think you've signaled that you're ready to order.
posted by 23skidoo at 9:16 PM on July 10 [1 favorite]


A lot of this because from the guest's point of view, a servers's job seems dead simple. It's not, they're juggling multiple tables, doing huge numbers of jobs, many of which are often at odds with each other and all with the threat of their livelihood being threatened via shit tips hanging over their head.
posted by Ferreous at 9:32 PM on July 10 [16 favorites]


Absolutely. All these things, except maybe the "saved room" comment, increase the speed at which the restaurant can push customers through.

Meh, even that. The "saved room" is more likely to prompt someone to forgo dessert, which is good because restaurants have found that they make more money turning over the table than having people linger on the last course.
posted by grandiloquiet at 9:40 PM on July 10 [2 favorites]


Not related to the actual food, but I cringe when I enter a restaurant as a solo female diner. The host looks at me and says "Just one?". As if I myself am not enough to merit a table. Please re-state the question: "Table for one?" or "Would you like a table?" (I know the staff don't mean to offend me.) When I'm with friend, I have never heard a host ask "Just two?"

I recently walked into a restaurant at lunchtime. It was all empty tables. Three different staff walked past me and said "Just one?". I rolled my eyes and walked out. The owner called after me asking what was wrong. I turned back and tried to explain my issue. He man-splained at me. He said -- you know I must ask you that because you might have your husband parking the car.
posted by valannc at 10:49 PM on July 10 [13 favorites]


This seems like a particularly grueling choice of restaurant eatery for someone with an eating disorder. Three courses from this menu could easily top 3000 calories.

I've never had the Cheesecake Factory experience - are they truly enormous portions? (I don't want to pick apart why they're confusing me, in a thread partly about EDs.)
posted by carbide at 2:31 AM on July 11 [1 favorite]


Three different staff walked past me and said "Just one?". I rolled my eyes and walked out.

I might be out of line for asking, but... did you answer any of them?

"Just one?" might be awkward phrasing, especially compared to the alternatives you listed, but is not reserved for solo diners on the basis of gender. It's reserved for solo diners, regardless of gender, on the basis of that most diners in most classes of establishment with hosted seating tend to dine with company.

The manager getting mansplainey and bringing an irrelevant and theoretical husband into play is indeed fucked up, but if you stood there rolling your eyes and choosing to be offended instead of answering an innocuous and well-intended question from three people trying to do their job, I don't think he's the one who started things down a confrontational path.
posted by 7segment at 3:01 AM on July 11 [14 favorites]


Hey, could we remember when talking about ED and privilege that it's not a 1-D axis. If you don't have an ED you're far more fortunate than those of us who do in that respect. Please don't automatically assume that someone with an ED is a slim, otherwise able-bodied cis white woman.

Like with any other accessibility issue, when restaurants are more accessible to us it benefits everyone else too because it makes eating out more enjoyable. This article is written as if the servers get a choice, and it would be better framed as addressing managers. That doesn't make it wrong.
posted by Braeburn at 4:24 AM on July 11 [4 favorites]


These are good rules and don't interfere with "restaurant operation" if you practice them at your next dinner party.
posted by agregoli at 5:22 AM on July 11


If I don't order dessert, it's because I don't WANT dessert, not because I'm being all girly-watching-my-figure tee-hee. So DON'T bring the other person's dessert and then coyly put down an extra spoon for me just in case!! tee-hee your tip just went down tee-hee
posted by JanetLand at 5:24 AM on July 11 [2 favorites]


Most of these things would also make restaurant experiences much better for a friend I often dine with, who has some cognitive disabilities and can be overwhelmed easily by waitstaff interactions.

And they'd make my dining experience better just be being more pleasant.

I don't begrudge any particular waiter - I know they've got restaurant scripts and policies to adhere to. But this strikes me as one of many times where a system could be made better for a lot of people by tweaking it a bit to address the needs of particularly vulnerable or marginalized people.

I'm sure there are trade offs and some changes are not economically feasible, but the question is worth asking.
posted by Stacey at 5:26 AM on July 11 [1 favorite]


They have to ask because some customers want plates taken away immediately while others might be saving a few bites for later.

Who prefers plates taken away immediately? It feels like this is more about moving the tables, to get the table pre-cleared for the next one.
posted by corb at 6:44 AM on July 11


I've never had the Cheesecake Factory experience - are they truly enormous portions?

Yes. Astoundingly, immensely, enormous portions. They are served on plates the size of platters and enough to feed a family of four. And the menu is huge and overwhelming to me, and I've never had an eating disorder. I find myself going there much more often than I'd like (others in my family are quite fond of it) and I solved my issues by only ever ordering one thing - Thai Chicken Lettuce Wraps. The rest of the menu can go jump in the lake.
posted by Daily Alice at 6:55 AM on July 11 [4 favorites]


Restaurants are SO WEIRD.

Server-staffed restaurant dining is one of the few experiences I have in life where I am expected to order stuff and then pay after I get/consume it, rather than before. There's no expectation that you'll just get a full ingredient listing and nutritional guide automatically to help you decide what to get; you have to ask a bunch of questions and it seems hard for servers to get you that information when you ask. And portion sizes vary between restaurants about as widely as clothing sizes do among manufacturers. You get some of the menu on paper, and some on sometimes-hard-to-see chalkboards, and some orally (but for the oral bit you may not get told the price, but it's not a secret, you can ask).

The experience seems to ideally go for a kind of gracefulness, where hosts and servers and diners and bussers are all dancing together and know the steps and the moves and so on.

But different people want different things out of the dance! Just in this thread -- I prefer to have my plate taken away immediately when I'm done with it, and if it weren't against the social rules, I'd go bus it myself. And when I don't order dessert, sometimes that is because I don't want an entire dessert, but I'm happy to get the chance to share my friend's/spouse's dessert, because a few spoonfuls is totally satisfying to me.

And I'm glad there are alternatives to server-staffed restaurants that do not require my household to cook its own food that night. I know one person with social anxiety severe enough that they have often chosen where to eat based on optimizing how few words they will have to say to order their food; I'm fairly sure they nope out of server-staffed dining and go for fast food. I would love to have been able to go to the Automat in its glory days...

A subset of what this author wants is to have less fraught communication with servers about ordering and plate-clearing and stuff like that. When different people need to communicate and send signals asynchronously we know some ways to help with that; some are customs like putting utensils in a certain position to indicate "I'm done with this now" and some are more software-y. I think it'd be an uphill battle to get any new convention or tech solution to take off, partly because it's a boil-the-ocean problem, but also because part of what some people want is the dance, is to feel taken care of in this particular way.... when dining out, the author wants as little attention as possible paid to her choices, and some people want something on the other side of that spectrum, I think.
posted by brainwane at 7:28 AM on July 11 [2 favorites]


If I don't order dessert, it's because I don't WANT dessert, not because I'm being all girly-watching-my-figure tee-hee. So DON'T bring the other person's dessert and then coyly put down an extra spoon for me just in case!! tee-hee your tip just went down tee-hee

I can be more nitpicky than I care to admit about restaurant experiences but I remember to 1) never get actually upset; or 2) to allow it to affect my tipping behavior. Servers are often following rules they have no control over. I imagine it is standard practice at many restaurants to always bring over an additional dessert utensil; it's far easier for a server to just do it than have a manager start in on them in the middle of service about not setting tables properly. Also, my dining style is not everyone's; I too skip dessert with a partner who often doesn't, but can see how it is easier to just drop a spoon on the table from the beginning than run back to the kitchen every time someone decides to flag you down because they want a bite after all. They're just trying to make their (very difficult, extremely time-sensitive) jobs easier, I can shrug it off.
posted by youarenothere at 7:29 AM on July 11 [19 favorites]


Who prefers plates taken away immediately?

Lots of people.

When to clear plates is one of the thornier issues in table service, because half the world remembers that in traditional etiquette, plates should be cleared all at once when everyone is finished, and the other half the world doesn't want to sit there looking at congealing gravy or picking at the fries they're trying not to finish for 20 minutes while the slow-eaters finish up and both halves of the world believe that their preference is the ONE TRUE WAY.

In the era of giant plates and tiny tables, I personally prefer to have my dishes taken away when I am finished with them, but I acknowledge that there are other acceptable alternatives.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:33 AM on July 11 [18 favorites]


I feel very sorry for servers in tipping cultures. They seem to be in a no-win situation with regards to some of the issues brought up in this thread - none of which would even occur to me to think about - about which different people evidently hold dramatically differing viewpoints but feel strongly enough about them to allow it to affect their behaviour towards/tipping of the server. It must be very stressful to be guessing at some of this stuff and hoping you get it right enough to be able to pay your rent.
posted by lwb at 7:51 AM on July 11 [12 favorites]


Who prefers plates taken away immediately?

I do. I hate sitting with a dirty plate in front of me, at home and especially in a restaurant. Part of the joy of restaurants for me is that everything is just...nice. And sitting with food scraps right in front of me ruins the illusion (I was a waitress for many years, so I get that this is definitely my weird preference). That said, if the practice of clearing plates all at once will make things easier for someone with an ED, then I am definitely willing to live with my relatively minor discomfort.
posted by TheFantasticNumberFour at 8:03 AM on July 11


They seem to be in a no-win situation with regards to some of the issues brought up in this thread -

Just take a few minutes and read some random Yelp reviews. The original article mentions "hospitality culture", but people will dock stars for any number of reasons, and you'll inevitably find reviews that contradict one another on what is considered good hospitality. I think there's a lot of different things at play including people wanting to exercise power over the waitstaff (which is crap and something I always try to be aware of), but also just an honest difference in the expectation of what IS good hospitality culture, Ask vs. Guess kind of stuff.

Oh, and remember that Yelp isn't just an innocent feedback mechanism. It's also a social network and a promotional tool for restaurants so bad reviews definitely can impact business for the ENTIRE restaurant.
posted by FJT at 8:18 AM on July 11 [4 favorites]


Who prefers plates taken away immediately?

If there's more than one plate per person on the table, I find it very helpful if empty plates are cleared away early so we can stop juggling plates on a table just a little bit smaller than can easily handle the number of plates.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 9:03 AM on July 11 [1 favorite]


>If I don't order dessert, it's because I don't WANT dessert, not because I'm being all girly-watching-my-figure tee-hee. So DON'T bring the other person's dessert and then coyly put down an extra spoon for me just in case!! tee-hee your tip just went down tee-hee

A lot going on here
posted by Cpt. The Mango at 9:27 AM on July 11 [5 favorites]


I think the real solution here is that if these aspects of dining are important to you communicate them with your server rather than getting mad when they can't magically Intuit them
posted by Ferreous at 9:33 AM on July 11 [6 favorites]


Also terms like "heavy," "light," and "rich" are legitimate descriptors of food texture. How else are you supposed to describe the mousse, the tiramisu, the creme brulee, and the trio of sorbets if someone actually asks? I'm genuinely curious about what those with eating disorders would prefer, I don't mean this to be a dickish rhetorical question.

I am recovered / forever in recovery from a pretty severe eating disorder. I agree or am pretty neutral about most of the list, but definitely disgree with the author on this point, I agree with you. I really dislike it when servers talk about a dish being “healthy” - which is a value judgment, and not even a very good description since people have different health needs. It can be helpful if the server says something like “it has a very light/dense texture” rather than just saying light or heavy, but that’s helpful information for me, as is whether something is very rich or very sweet.
posted by insectosaurus at 9:35 AM on July 11 [2 favorites]


I appreciate the sentiment of the article, and empathize with the struggle a person with an eating disorder must go through on a daily basis, but I had an incredibly negatively visceral reaction to this article, so much so I know I'll struggle to put it into words.

I think any person recovering from any disease or addiction or disorder is unreasonable to expect the world to change solely FOR them and their needs. There must be some accountability and acknowledgment that if you've had an eating disorder and you choose to go to a restaurant, it is likely that in general that will be an unsettling and triggering experience regardless of how sensitive people are towards you.

Expecting people working in restaurants, (who work incredibly long shifts for low pay and deal with a variety of differing arseholes on an hourly basis, and see hundreds of people every day) to change their vernacular to suit your (un-communicated) needs is unrealistic and not particularly clear-thinking.

Rather than complain that the server came to ask your order before you were ready to choose your meal, perhaps you could use your words and communicate that you need a bit more time? or better yet tell your server at the start that when you put your menu down you'll be ready to order your meal.

I appreciate that anxiety is real and it can be uncomfortable to use your words in this fashion - but no more so than ordering the wrong meal and panicking about it for the rest of the day. I guess my point is, as a whole, we need to communicate our needs where possible rather than expecting everyone else to bow to our unknown desires.
posted by JenThePro at 9:40 AM on July 11 [12 favorites]


So DON'T bring the other person's dessert and then coyly put down an extra spoon for me just in case!! tee-hee your tip just went down tee-hee

C'mon. Don't do that thing where you knock down a server's tip for run-of-the-mill stuff and keep score. For all you know, the server has been instructed by management to always bring extra spoons, or the server has long experience showing that most table will ask for extra spoons if they don't bring them, thereby requiring yet another interaction with the table.

Tip at a standard rate unless your service is truly offensive or unacceptable. Otherwise, it's just power tripping.

If a restaurant is bussing my table in stages, I just figure that 1) they want to turn the table over, which is fair because that's how they make money and if I like them I want them to make money and stay in business or 2) they need the plates and silverware to get into the wash and back out onto other tables, which is fair because they own them, they are literally their dishes and it's not really up to me to be an ass about when they wash them.
posted by Squeak Attack at 10:12 AM on July 11 [22 favorites]


The problem with the article is that it implies that the server bears some responsibility for the customer’s continued mental health. The server is not responsible for that at all, in even the tiniest way. The server is responsible for taking your order and providing the kind of dining experience that the restaurant wants to promote in accordance with established health codes. By the same token, a bartender is responsible for taking your order, and for not serving obviously inebrieated or underage patrons in accordance with the law. They are not responsible for checking to see if you’re supposed to be on the wagon. That is entirely the responsibility of the customer.
posted by Autumnheart at 10:30 AM on July 11 [9 favorites]


When you’re in rehab for an eating disorder, one of your final challenges before being discharged is going out to eat at a restaurant. It’s the ultimate test, meant to confirm how you respond when confronted with food in the real world.

The first lines of the article are pretty clear. I don't think this article is meant to change restaurant service etiquette but is the author's experience as an eating disordered pre-discharged patient. I am grateful for their opinion and will take their words to heart.
posted by waving at 12:49 PM on July 11 [1 favorite]


Pre-bussing has become standard practice and is now considered good service in most types of restaurants. Only in fine dining was I ever instructed to leave plates until everyone is finished.

A lot of people don't want to stare at their chicken bones and crumpled napkins for 15 minutes while one person finishes their meal.
posted by Mechashiva at 1:20 PM on July 11 [2 favorites]


The first lines of the article are pretty clear. I don't think this article is meant to change restaurant service etiquette but is the author's experience as an eating disordered pre-discharged patient. I am grateful for their opinion and will take their words to heart

I would agree with you, but this article isn't just written from a pre-discharged patient's point of view though. In the opening paragraph the writer says:

"These days I eat out a lot, and venture to say I’m pretty chill about it all.......restaurants are meant to be welcoming places; and if managers better understood what their service staff might be doing that could trigger someone with an eating disorder, it would be a big step toward creating a space that feels inclusive to everyone."

So I think the comments above are a fair critique.
posted by JenThePro at 2:11 PM on July 11


NEVER commenting on how much someone ate (I can’t see how that would ever be a good idea)

Not so much the commenting on consumption, but "would you like to box the remainder to go" or "was there a problem with the food" both seem like reasonable questions that at least hint at, "you've only eaten half of what you ordered."

Depends on the restaurant and so on; in some settings, either of those is a horrible question. But at Cheesecake Factory, which does indeed have monstrous proportions for some of its meals, it makes sense for the server to try to figure out why you're not finishing the meal. If the answer is just, "wasn't that hungry," that's fine; if it's "flavor wasn't what I expected," that's a too-bad-but-fine, but if it's "the salad dressing is rancid but I was too shy to mention it," the server wants to know that.

I also suspect that, for every ED person in recovery who wants all the plates cleared at once, there is one who wants their particular plate gone the moment they're finished eating. And as far as "don't take orders until menus are down" - when the place is busy, servers are under instruction to get orders as quickly as possible. And many people will never put the menu down at all - they keep it open to remember the name & options for what they're ordering, and they don't want to choose between the soup or the salad until the server can tell them what today's soup is, or whether the salad includes croutons.

"Be mindful that some of your guests will not react well to the standardized system" is great advice. "Follow this particular set of guidelines instead" is much less great.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 3:42 PM on July 11 [1 favorite]


Having been in recovery for WAY too many years, really, the only issue in the article that I can really relate to is the menu causing me severe anxiety. Even after all these years, deciding what is safe to eat, much less what I want to eat (ha ha ha) is completely overwhelming. If I can go online and decide in advance, it makes the whole experience of eating out so much easier. That said, I don't really think it's the job of the server to make it easier for me. As long as they are pleasant, it's fine and I personally consider it my problem to deal with.
posted by Sophie1 at 5:58 PM on July 11 [2 favorites]


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