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BUT THE GUESTS <i> DO </i> MIND

A number of readers have written to me to thank me for my recent remarks on restaurant telephone rudeness and to share further examples of such rudeness with me. I won’t cite specifics here, since at least some of these reader complaints describe situations that sound as if they might well have been ambiguous and others mention behavior that doesn’t sound exactly rude to me (e.g., the fact that one establishment answers its telephone by saying “Hello"--not very informative, admittedly, but hardly anything to write to Miss Manners about). But I do want to stress something here: The vast majority of the complaints that I receive object not so much to specifics of treatment as to the manner in which such treatment was meted out.

I have the impression that most restaurant patrons would gladly put up with long waits, disappointing tables, mixed-up orders, even food that wasn’t quite what it should have been--as long as the management or its representatives were smart enough to realize that a problem existed and smart enough to apologize for it. I think restaurant patrons are probably a lot more understanding of the potential problems in daily restaurant life than proprietors usually give them credit for. It’s just that they don’t like to be treated as if they were the ones who caused these problems--which they usually weren’t.

For the record:

12:00 AM, Jul. 27, 1986 CORRECTION
Los Angeles Times Sunday July 27, 1986 Home Edition Calendar Page 104 Calendar Desk 2 inches; 58 words Type of Material: Correction
You don’t believe everything you read here, do you? Good. On June 16, for instance, I noted that the highly praised new chef at the Los Olivos Grand Hotel, Guy Bergounhoux, had worked, among other places, at Michael’s Waterside Inn in Santa Barbara. Michael Hutchings, the Michael in question, notes that Bergounhoux has not , in fact, ever worked for him--though, he adds, “I am flattered by the thought.”

Restaurant customers are, in a sense, an establishment’s honored guests--and if one of them (or a party of them) is insulted by some popinjay manager who thinks he’s (she’s) king (queen) of the world, or by some incompetent waiter who expresses his (her) ignorance of the serving profession through surliness and bad etiquette, then like any good host where guests are mistreated, the restaurateur in question ought to be very much ashamed. It’s just common sense: If you invite people over and then treat them badly, they’ll turn down your invitation the next time and visit some other friends instead.

A TAXING INQUIRY: And speaking of waiters, when the IRS decided to require restaurateurs last year to withhold income tax from their dining room employees’ daily share of the loot, a veritable chorus of said employees was heard in the land--objecting specifically to the figure the IRS had picked to represent a reasonable average estimate of each waiter’s take: 8% of the pre-sales-tax check totals in that person’s station. Public (and government) opinion to the contrary, the nation’s servers maintained, their average tips (i.e., their income) is lower than 8% in many cases--thanks to the cheapskate tipping policies of so many of their customers.

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I must admit that I found--still find--some sympathy with that claim (I never would have believed how little some otherwise perfectly nice and intelligent people tip, even in good restaurants, had I not worked in a couple of such establishments myself). But now comes word from the IRS that during a spot check of San Francisco Bay Area eating places, 65% of the employees had under-reported their tips at the first place audited, representing a total of $134,500 in taxable income--and that a similar check in Dallas found the staff at 42 different restaurants holding back a total of $9 million in reported tips. If they’ve got that kind of money stashed in the mattress, no wonder waiters can afford to be surly sometimes.

A LA CARTE: The Biltmore, downtown, has started serving Afternoon Tea every day from 2 to 5 p.m. The cost is $7.95 per person. Call (213) 624-1011. . . . To celebrate its 65th anniversary, the Pacific Dining Car has been holding a weekly drawing. The prize is a chateaubriand dinner for four at the restaurant. Call (213) 483-6000. . . . Chef Guy Bergounhoux (writes William Tomicki from Santa Barbara), a veteran of such establishments as the three-star La Bonne Auberge in Antibes and L’Esperance in St-Pere-sous-Vezelay, and of Michael’s Waterside Inn in Santa Barbara, is now in the kitchen at the Los Olivos Grand Hotel, in the Santa Ynez wine country.

TASTINGS: The second annual pastry tasting competition is being held today at 385 North from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. Some of the city’s finest pastry chefs are on hand. For information, call (213) 657-3850. . . . Garlic Week returns to Los Angeles from July 13--19. The main event will be the annual Festival, held on July 13 in West Hollywood at San Vicente and Melrose. More than 30 restaurants will be serving alliacious dishes, while the likes of John B. Williams and Papa John Creech play live jazz. Tickets are $5. For information, call (213) 739-5231. . . . A Taste of Los Angeles, an outdoor festival will be held at the Santa Monica Civic Center on the second and third weekends in August. Participating restaurants include, among many others, La Toque, Orleans, Rex and St. Estephe.


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