Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Why the man tastes the wine......well why he used to.

"When a man is served before a woman, that also means you’re welcome to leave before paying. If you regard chivalry as ancient gibberish, you don’t deserve to eat well"

So Says Trevor White, yes him again, in his turgid little book "Kitchen Con."

"Bollocks to that" says Manuel in his tremendous blog, Well Done Fillet.

You're all the same to me
the bringers of cash...

Restaurant service is alive and kicking with old sexist habits. And, as hard as it is for me to admit, waiters are essentially the purveyors of these rituals. Does the little lady woman need to be served before the man? Is there a practical need for it? Of course there isn't! As for me I take a David Bowie approach to service, man or woman, you're all good for me. Wasn't always that way......

I've had to learn the hard way. I was trained by men and women back in the 1800's, or there abouts, and these people knew all about deference and "ladies first" style of service. And so it was passed on to me. The man got the bill, the man was presented with the wine, well hell he ordered it. The man, quite often, ordered for the "lady" unless of course she was one of those uppity Germaine Greer reading types. And even then she ordered the chicken and the "man" had the big man sized steak. And that's the way it stayed for quite a while.

But as society has changed restaurant service has in a lot of places failed to change with it. Still to this day men will be presented with the bill, they will still get first dibs on tasting the wine, and it will be assumed he will be eating the steak.

I admit that I had to learn the hard way, financially. I brought the bill to a table of two one evening and presented it to the bloke much to the very great annoyance of his boss. She paid the bill and told me that if I wanted a tip that I needed to ask her employee as I had no chance of getting one from her. D'oh! I didn't ask him all the same. But I have never presented the bill to the man at the table ever again. Manuel needs the cash...

Here's a list of sexist assumptions and what have you that, some, waiters often make.
I'm sure there are more, do feel free to add your own...

The host is always male. No, no they're not. I approached a fairly large table one evening just after they arrived to find out if they were all present and all that sort of stuff. I went straight to a chap that looked like he was in charge. BIG MISTAKE! "Don't ask him, I'm in charge round here" guldered a slight but forceful young woman. She pretty much owned me after that and kept making little jibes each time she ordered something, "Just check that is okay with my husband..." and so on. I haven't done that since.

The man will order/taste the wine. No, no they don't. Back in ye olden days, about 20 years ago that is, men ordered the wine, men tasted the wine, women drank the wine. Men were given the wine list as a naturally as breathing. You couldn't get away with that now though. I'm pretty sure that this archaic routine is in the past. Men were also supposed to taste the wine so as to save the little lady from the horror of tasting some rancid wine. I assume men have an ability to put up with sour wine better than the frail mouths of women. What utter tosh.Oh and the woman quite often enjoys a beer with her food just as the man quite often likes to kick back with a strawberry daiquiri whilst waiting for his caesar salad.

Men eat steaks, women eat chicken. This one has got nothing to do with waiters. But I've watched many a male chef preparing a menu and they always put "something light on for women", like chicken or if they are really lucky maybe some fish. They really do consider this to be their bit for women's lib. Chefs quite often consider salads and chicken and what have you to be women's food. Back when I was a wet behind the ears waiter I brought down steak and chicken to another waiters table. I popped the steak in front of the man and the chicken in front of the woman. Needless to say there was no tip that night either. Again utter tosh.

The woman must be served first. I knocked that on the head years ago. It simply wasn't practical, particularly with large tables. I serve it as I get it. I've yet to see a woman get upset or angry about it. I've seen a few men get agitated about it and step in with a snarky remark, "Oh it should be women first.." and so on. Yeah go fuck yerself big lad, if you wanna go tell my chef that be my guest.

The man gets the bill. Oh no he fucking doesn't. You wanna know where the bill goes? It goes slap bang in the middle of the table. Fight about it, arm wrestle, whatever, just pay it and tip the big fella. I don't know a waiter who hasn't fucked up with this one and I guarantee they changed the habit after. Women get rightly pissed about it. And pissing off the person paying the bill just doesn't make good sense. Not that I'm saying I'd still be doing it if it wasn't for the money but it did help me change my ways.......

So female readers of WDF have you experienced sexist attitudes in a restaurant? Do you get treated differently because you are a woman? Does this differ when you are out with other women from when you are out with a man? Share with me so I can learn and as a consequence earn.

42 People trying to get Manuel's attention:

problemchildbride said...

Yes. Many times. About ten years ago it seemed to be the better the restaurant, the more sexist were the waiters. That was the Midwest ten years ago. Here on the West coast things are generally a lot better. When I've been in the mood I've been a bitch about it before - gently bitchy, shall we say - not rude or anything - but an uppity snarker all the same.

I'm a good deal younger than my husband so maybe the ignorance-of-youth assumption plays into it too, even though I'm effing 34 now!

But, back in the 1800s, didn't being a wet-behind-the-ears waiter play havoc with your powdered wig? Bothersome back-o'the-ear-paste and such?

Blondefabulous said...

How about the waiter always asking the woman if she'd like dessert? I see that one alot. Like, just cause I'm female I'm gonna be roiling in the hormones and needing a chocolate fix??

SCREW OFF!...... and bring me some damn cheesecake!

Native Minnow said...

But the real question is, how long should you wait for the bill before you get up and walk out without paying it? Last night we had to wait for twenty minutes, and eventually had to get up and find our server. I've never wanted to leave a $0.00 tip so badly in my life (she still got 15% - don't worry).

The Rantolotl said...

me and my female partner, as a gay couple, often find we just confuse waiters. It's fine in cheap places, and expensive places, but anywhere in between, we usually end up with downright crap service. No idea wether it's cause we make them awkward or what, but it can get pretty annoying.

When we're dining with friends, it's pretty amusing to watch the waiter go straight to the guy on the table... the guy who's often a little out of his league already and there under our hostage!

Ah well, I'm sure they'll grow out of it someday.

RhondaIn VA said...

There is a small Mexican place that we eat at no less than 4-5 times a month. We have frequented this place for well over a year but it never fails that:
1)they give the steak to my husband even though he has never ordered anything other than the Marachi Platter (I don't care for mexican food but they make a mean Long Island so I enjoy the drink and order the medicore steak).
2)the husband is always presented with the check regardless of the fact that I have been the one to pay it each and every time we've been there.

We live in a small town & this place is small enough that we have had 1 of 3 waiters every time we have dined there yet they never seem to get the obvious (though they always remember that my oldest is taking Spanish and let him practice on him).

Anyway...it doesnt bother me. My tip has never been less than 30%. I suppose it would be diff if I thought it was blatant sexism but I think that it is more a case of "tried and true" than anything.

HB said...

i had a waiter once (about 5 years ago) he was a early 20's (as were my date and I) come over to the table hand the bill to my date, no big deal he didn't know I was treating. I took the bill holder thingy put my credit card in it and placed it by me on the table. He took the credit card came back handed the bill back to my date and said "how cute you let her pay" in a very snarky tone. He wasn't the greatest of waiters but not the worst I've ever had and in one snide remark went from a $10 tip on a $45 bill to a comment on the tip line "oh how cute... a 0"

Anonymous Boxer said...

You know the bill thing gets to me. often I'm paying and when it's automatically given to my dinner mate, I get cranky. The tip doesn't suffer but I have perfected the "Oh Dear God It IS the 21st Century" arm reach that usually gets the attention of the server. So you're right, putting it safely in "No Man's Land" is better. As for wine, I hate tasting it, I have zero idea what's good or bad and I'm tired of pretending. All I know is not to sniff the cork, right?
Oh I don't care. I order vodka and forget the overpriced vino.

HB's story cracks me up.

Jessie said...

The only time we (my fiancee and I) have been treated differently is when splitting a plate. However, no one ever gives him the bill or noticably serves me first. Even if they did I wouldn't go off on some big feminist rant about it. I believe you should always be cordial and even downright friendly with the waiter. Always leave them a big tip. If they're sexist, my tip won't reflect that. If they completely ignore us because we're splitting, then it will. Good service is good service, regardless of any in-built waiter sexist tendencies.

Medbh said...

Oh, excellent post, Manuel.
Women have a bad reputation for being lousy tippers and so I see that my presence at a table with another woman results in crap service, like tonight after seeing the Sex and the City movie with a friend. Maybe it's more a case that women HAVE less money to tip and leave less in general?
Yet I always feel charged with some mission to prove otherwise and tip heavily.
I love when I pay and the waiter STILL gives the card and all back to my husband. Read the name on the card, sir!
But I thrive on being generous.

Miss Becca said...

In a same sex couple relationship here too, and if you give my honey the bill automatically for being butch, I can promise you that your percentage will go down by atleast 10 percent rather than leaving it in the middle in "no man's land". I've worked in the hospitality, she hasn't!

healysequoia said...

Funny stuff - and yes this even happens to same sex couples where one of us looks butcher than the other. Although to tell you the truth I don't mind that waiters nearly always give my partner the bill - she's gonna pay anyway! But due to my wealth of wine knowledge I always order the wine so I should get to taste it!

Deborah said...

Yup - I agree with most of it.

I think to some degree it depends on the calibre of the restaurant. The husband used to manage a very high end place and the plates were arranged in the kitchen so they would come out ladies first, oldest to youngest, then men, oldest to youngest. It was real persnickety, they had to come in from the left and all this shite, but on the few occasions I actually got to eat there, it was a well orchestrated team and reeked of professionalism.

I think for the wine list, stick it in the middle of the table too, then whoever orders gets to taste. Easy peasy!

Agree with blondefabulous on the dessert comment too! It's always "Laydeez - how about some dessert?" Urgh. Course that could be fat ass too! ;-)

Miffy said...

My husband's 14 years older than me and when we first started going out, being as I was a mere slip of 20 I wasn't used to much restaurant eating (preferring clubbing!). So he took charge. Now, several years later I'm just as forceful as him and I often sense waiters taken aback at this confident 'little lady'. Often they assume given the age gap that we are conducting a torrid affair!

Sadhbh said...

I work in a middle-of-the-road kind of place, so I leave the winelist in the middle and always ask who wants to taste. I give the bill to whoever has requested it.

But I do have to say that I've been there two years and only ever served the couscous to a man once...

Manuel have you notice any particular food that's only ordered by men or women??

Conan Drumm said...

Ok, and if you were serving Peter and Iris Robinson (what would they say to the wine list, I wonder)?

Crispy said...

I get to make the dinner, dish it out to the family and the pleasure of washing the dishes!!! If someone wants to serve me first, taste my wine and give the bill to the bloke...be my guest!!!! I am bitter, I never get out for dinner....I remember this one time you used to take me out for lunch at least ONCE a week...what did do, where did it all go wrong, oh woe is me....
....gosh, don't know what happened there...must be the drugs!

Crispy said...

PS HB's post is hilarious!!

Sooz said...

I'm a woman (or so I'm told) and I work in the industry myself- my theory is, whoever asks for it, gets it! Woman orders the wine, she tastes it... Woman asks for the bill, she gets it! Or else I stick it in the middle, Manuel-style, and let them fight over it themselves! I have learnt never to make assumptions if taking food to another waiter's table- it safeguards their tip, and stops you getting ridiculously embarrassed!!!

Caro said...

I went for dinner about a year ago with the Italian's aunt and uncle - to a far posher restaurant than we'd normally go to, as the uncle (who's loaded) was treating.

When we got home the Italian commented on the fact that each course cost almost as much as we'd normally spend on an entire dinner. How did he know that as there were no prices on the menu? Turns out the gentlemen got the gentlemen's menu with prices on, and the ladies got the ladies' menu without prices...

daisy mae said...

j and i often encounter crap service because we're two students in their mid-twenties. you can see it when we walk in - most servers balk and trade us back and forth. just because we don't look affluent doesn't mean we don't order and tip well. we go out about once a month, because we plan on tipping well....

i HATE that just because i generally order water, the server dismisses me right off the bat. i LIKE water, ok?

now, if we're in a fashionable place, i order the wine. J has no clue, and i've gone through classes and had to serve the stuff many a time myself. and believe me, if i order and i don't get to taste, i don't have to say anything. j hands me the glass and the server turns bright red. depending on how they handle it, it won't affect the tip.

i just get mad when we have a female server who focuses on j, even flirts with him right in front of me. those girls get a whopping 10% tip, because i'm the one paying. i learned the hard way myself that you NEVER know who's paying, and unless you took the order, you can't assume the woman has the salad.

Michelle said...

I'm in the midwest but only once did I encounter a waiter who only addressed my husband! It was at a high-end steakhouse and he asked my husband "What will the lady be having?" Well, he didn't know what I was having so I ordered for myself. The whole night was pretty much like that...and yes! He asked ME about dessert! (of course, I had some) He gave the bill to my husband, too, though I usually hold all the cards, cash, etc so I reached over and took it from him. I actually enjoyed the experience because it seemed so archaic, and he was actually an excellent waiter, very formal and polite, so we left him a nice tip. Plus the food was awesome.

I'm not sure any old waiter could pull that off and not annoy the crap out of me, though.

Margaret said...

Whoever asks for the bill, gets the damn bill.

Anonymous said...

So true. To this day my husband always gets presented with the bill every single time even though I'm always the one to pay it. Ok so they don't know...But what about bringing the credit card slip back to him when the credit card clearly reads Mildred? Have never quite met a guy with an old English female name yet.

Ali said...

In the states I've never noticed much sexism when I've been dining out. And as a server, I'm very much about no-man's land, etc.

However, on the Mexico trip with my brother, it was infinitely obvious. All the reservations were in my name, I'm the one who signed all the receipts, etc. Yet, every single time my brother was deferred to. Then he shrugged, said "I dunno" and pointed to me.

The strangest bit was the fact that we had most of our meals at the hotel (as food was included in the package), and had the same couple of waiters time and again. Every single time, they put the check in front of my brother even though ever single time, I was the one who signed it.

Now, I just don't think my brother looks much like an Alexandra, but I may be mistaken.

fatmammycat said...

Not so much any more I have to say, and we eat out a lot, most waiters here leave the bill in a sleeve on the table. And you get two wine lists and so on.
Depends on the place though.
One thing I ABSOLUTELY hate is when the paramour and I are referred to as 'guys' as in 'hi guys,' or 'can I get your order guys?' It makes my spine flinch. But I suspect I'm being overly twaty about it.

dave said...

I say give the bill to the women.
If I don't have to pay it or split it, all the better!
I'll thank you with a much bigger tip.

Manuel said...

I'll deal with all of these tomorrow folks....way too many at this time of night......

Naomi said...

I love the presumptionness of many waiters. It makes me life all the more enjoyable and its not Irish based, or American based... it's the whole wide world.

Nearly everytime I go out, I seem to be presented with my male companion's choices... I drink black coffee or espresso, my male friends and boyfriend drink hot chocolate or tea (girly drinks apparently), I drink beer - my boyfriend drinks ciders and when we were travelling abroad, cocktails, so of course I get those too. I look a girly girl but I guess the chef in my chooses the blokey options (according to many servers)

As to people getting upset their waiters giving the bill to the wrong person... I often pay the bill, and it sometimes gets given to my boyfriend. But who cares? The prices are on the menu anyway; there are very few places that have 'lady's' menues anymore. I guess I just don't have the energy to stress about stuff like that.

As regards the wine tho, even more than the who tastes it thing, what bothers me is when the waiter refills the taster's glass before they fill everyone else's. I don't know why, and its really anal, and I always notice it but it somehow irks me.

By the way, I've been reading the blog for a few months now and really enjoy it. I work as a chef in Dublin, and agree with everything you say about chefs though some of us are less unstable than others ;o)

Manuel said...

naomi: cheers naomi....but I think that confirms you are indeed as unstable as the rest of your colleagues......hehehehehe

Sulima said...

I hate that outdated crap and as a waiter, I'm usually very forceful and consistent about doing what makes sense regardless of gender or age so that people understand this is a policy and not just ignorance of "proper manners" on my part. But my male co-workers insist that I only get away with it because I'm a chick and that guests get a kick out of the old-fashioned chivalry routine if it's pulled off right. They kind of have a point, because many Americans consider the whole restaurant experience a kind of theater and they have all sorts of absurd expectations when they see a white tablecloth. Old-fashioned "European" manners are part of that package. But ultimately I think catering to this is wrong because the more frequently people go out to eat the less theater they want with their service and the more common sense. And it's the frequent diners whose tastes should define restaurant etiquette. I'm glad you agree with me, Manuel, because you're a boy and your opinion is obviously sounder than mine.

Anonymous said...

I have a restaurant for the past 10 years & I still have male patrons ask me if they can speak with the man in charge, male wine makers who presume the buyer is male & waiters who apply for jobs who presume my male colleagues are in charge. The all get punished. No I can't help you with your booking, the wine buyer is unavailable (business card filed carefully in the bin), thanks you can leave your resume (in the bin).

However when I dine out with my husband, a lot & at both ends of the dining scale (I have to say the bottom of the scale is far less presumptuous), even if the waiter presumes my husband (who has a good palate, but no bloody idea about wine) will order the wine or pay the bill (he does not have job), although it does shit me, but if the service has been lovely I will still always leave a generous tip.

I am with native minnow

Bethany said...

I haven't noticed anything like that, but we don't do 'fine dining' or anything like that.

What does bug me is that when I take my handicapped friend out (he was born missing good portions of his arms and legs) I get deferred to. They bring me the check, they talk to me. He's gotten used to defusing that (he's very intelligent and can always make them feel a bit shameful but laugh anyway) but it still irks me a lot.

The weird thing I get is that I deliver pizza, and I get a lot of people who open the door and go 'hey delivery dude.' They don't even look at me- I have some very obvious tatas- they just assume I'm a guy.

I've learned to take that one in stride.

Eolai said...

Back when I had a life I used to eat out with a couple regularly in a nice restaurant, and it was always the case that he was brought the bill and she was brought a rose.

I used to complain about not getting a rose (I'm not really a roses man but they were the most impressived I've come across) and the waiters would ignore me.

So we very publicly would hand the rose on to me, or roses when there was more than one woman, and in fairness to the waiters after a few months they would then hand the rose directly to me themselves, and only to women they knew were willing to accept them.

And from there it was a short step to get them to stop always handing the bill to the man.

ellie said...

Last week a friend was out for a meal with her husband, he was driving so ordered a coke and she ordered a pint .... the waiter assumed the pint was for the male and gave a distinct snort when they swapped glasses! Bahhh!!!

Déborah said...

Heh, yes, it does annoy me, but never to the point of not leaving a tip.

What I notice the most is the wine tasting: I'm French, and know a little bit about wine, while my current and previous boyfriends were lager-drinking Scottish lads. But it never misses: the waiter always fill their glass to taste it. What I tend to do is smirk, take the glass from my man and taste it. And then smirk some more. It's more entertaining than anything else.

Hopefully, you're proof that things are changing!

(fantastic blog btw)

eurofilly said...

No, I didn't order the glass of chardonnay. Or the fucking cappuccino.

And if I order a bottle of wine and you give it to my husband to taste, you can feck off with your tip.

Masquerade said...

Honestly, as a waitress I need to tell people that IT'S OK TO ASK. Honestly, waitresses are NOT all-knowing, and questions are your friend! 'Alright, I have a lovely steak here for somebody...?' 'And the chicken...?' I only serve glasses of wine so I can't help with the whole tasting bit, but unless I'm told otherwise, the bill goes face-down in the middle of the table, with a 'I'll be back for that whenever you're ready!' I also use 'gentlemen' and 'ladies' as needed, and 'guys' if they're a younger type of table. I've found 'folks' to be a quite safe word for mixed groups.

Masquerade said...

And how hard is it to ask 'any dessert tonight?' People are just trained weird I guess.

And to be honest? It irritates me when a man orders for a woman. It makes me think he's a controlling bastard. I mean if they're old and I know they're regulars and get the same thing, that's one matter, but otherwise it's just kind of awkward. What I like to do is direct questions to her if she gets ordered for. 'My wife would like the house tips.' 'Great (looking at wife). How would you like that cooked? And the veg?' (etc. etc.) It's my own little form of rebellion I suppose.

I'm sorry for taking up all your space, Manuel! This is apparently a touchy subject for me :P

sweetnessandlight said...

Eek this is a subject that really get me going!
I work in a restaurant myself and I always make sure to ask what is going where. My problem is with the smartass male customers who think its funny to tell me the lady is having the Guinness and he is having the wine spritzer. My suspicions wouldnt be aroused only for the fact that he is smirking smugly as he says it and there I am in that horrible, awkward "trying to remain polite but really I want to rip your head of" kinda place.
My response in this situation is to say "and what would be wrong with that sir? Thats exactly what I'll be drinking when im in the pub later". Said with a sweetness and light smile of course (you can get away with saying anything this way)
Now who feels awkward?
You've just insinuated that im a Guinness drinking freak woman.
Ha!

p.s i dont drink Guinness. :)

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Jonathan said...

Working in a 6-table section cazsh fin dining restaurant, I've discovered that whoever orders a bottle gets to taste. If I'm not sure, I say so. If it's not clear, I present the bottle label up, hand under, and whoever acknowledges me gets to try it first. I don't read minds. I usually try to, if everyone is split over red/white, dry/sweet, to recommend one of our three blends, that seem to satisfy everyone. No assumption that the man is drinking red/women drinking white, whatever. It's 1000 degrees outside, a riesling sounds really good right now!

EVERYONE gets adessert spiel. No freaking out over turning/burning a 2-3 table section in a corporate hellhole, if my section is full of deuces, they eat specials, and tip 20%, I'm set for the night just off that table turn. Big. Little. One-tops. Menu items/not specials, who cares. I'm set. so, EVERYONE gets dessert, I don't care if you hang. Being around classy guests who know how to dine out, total love to you all!

I see a lot of guys getting wine. And I'm not afraid to greet a table by offering to list draft beers or going over our wine list. Hey, it's booze, I don't care what parts you have, it's all good. If you want shocktop, go for it, ma'am. And we have some awesome salads, so I'm not going to fault a man for getting a CZR salad with salmon. Fresh fish, homemade dressing, local greens!? YUM! And I see lots of women order our only red meat dishes, and men order green/leafy things.

SO, I'm happy to be at the point where there is no assumptions or prejudice, but I know how to disarm stereotypical gender wars with basic "middle of the road" items.

Much American Love, Manuel! =)

Anonymous said...

I work at a high end steakhouse in Canada, and honestly the only time I'm ever sexist is when it comes to the bill. I always talk directly to people, and always ask who will taste the wine (having been the wine taster in previous relationships).

The ONLY place where I am sexist is when it comes to the bill, where I usually present it to the man (unless the woman has requested it). This I do because I personally like it when my dinner date pays.