Want That Hot Restaurant Reservation? Ask With A European Accent

The parasitic Grocery Shrink Ray has infected restaurants, shrinking portions and spurring substitutions as restaurateurs struggle to pry revenue from cash-strapped customers. Desperate to fill seats by any means, restaurants are borrowing from the airlines and are starting to overbook reservations for peak times. They’re also giving preference to the new big spenders: Europeans.

Many restaurants are trying to sate diners and give them a sense of plenty for the lowest price possible.

“You have to be smart as a restaurateur and a chef and say, what’s the most value I can put on this plate so it looks like a lot of food and still appears to be a value and doesn’t anger anyone?” Ms. Taras Wallach of Little Giant said.

“I serve a lot of grits,” she added.

And many restaurants are trying harder than ever not to let any seats go to waste. Ms. Arpaia said that at Mia Dona she is accepting more reservations between 7 and 9 p.m. rather than steering diners toward early and late times that they might reject. Even if this means lengthening diners’ waits for reserved tables, she, like other restaurateurs, wants to make sure that no-shows don’t cost the restaurant money.

“I’d rather have people wait at the bar and buy them a free drink than not get them in the door,” she said, adding that she knows of other restaurants acting in a similar, extra-cautious fashion.

“You should see, when [the Europeans] come in the door, the shopping bags they hand off to the coat check,” said Graceanne Jordan, the general manager at the Modern, which is part of the Union Square group and is near the shopping corridors of Madison and Fifth Avenues.

“I mean, they’re just spending. It’s Monopoly money to them.”

So if you want that prime-time reservation, break out your best cash-happy faux-Euro accent and ask: “Sir? SIR! Ver eez my täbel, monsieur?”

As Belts Tighten, Lobsters Shrink and Bar Menus Grow [The New York Times]
(Photo: Sherry’s Rose Cottage)

Comments

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  1. deadspork says:

    I am boggled by the picture associated with this story.

    Though, it is a cute picture.

  2. mbordenkircher says:

    it’s an allusion to seafood.

  3. BiZarRroBALlmeR says:

    here’s a photo [abcnews.go.com]

  4. stoppie says:

    I wonder how the servers feel about giving preference to Europeans. Many are lousy tippers out of habit. That’s not meant to say that they’re cheapskates, but where they live, restaurant staff are already paid decent wages and typical tipping custom is just to round off the bill, nowhere near 15-20%.

    • Green Goth Brit Chick - AlternatEve says:

      @stoppie: SOME Europeans are lousy tippers. Please don’t assume all of us are unaware how the server’s wage system works.

  5. helsers says:

    i’ve been enjoying the input of the cat contributers in recent articles.

    as for shrinking food portions at restaurants — it sucks to not get the expected “money’s worth” people in the u.s. have grown accustomed to, but i welcome it. the portions we’re used to eating here are really ridiculous.

  6. Shadowfire says:

    Europeans generally don’t tip for crap, though. Just throwing that out there. ;)

    • TechnoDestructo says:

      @Shadowfire:

      That doesn’t really affect the management, except in increasing employee turnover.

    • Onouris says:

      What in the name of all things holy is a European accent? You mean an accent from a country in Europe?

      And no, ‘Europeans’ don’t tip for crap (we’re all the same, didn’t you know?) because a) it’s law that waiters are paid at least minimum wage, and no-one else in a minimum wage job gets tipped; and most importantly b) we don’t tip for crap service.

      People say England is expensive because people barely ever go outside of London, by far the most expensive place in the country. A one bedroom flat there costs as much as a huge house in some places.

      The Dollar is so weak it’s actually cheaper for us to FLY there and buy our stuff there, depending on how much we buy. Big department stores in New York even offer discounts to anyone who isn’t from America.

      • Preppy6917 says:

        @Onouris: So minimum wage (which, for a tipped employee is $2.13/hour) is supposed to pay someone’s bills?

        • Onouris says:

          @Preppy6917: It does for EVERYONE ELSE who is on a Minimum Wage job. Why is it any different for them?

          The minimum wage here applies to all jobs, as far as I’m aware. It definitely applies to waiting staff. Whether other countries let businesses get away with ridiculous pay is their business. But they can always look for another job that is on the real minimum wage.

          @speedwell: Why don’t you look outside your own country once in a while. It’s comparable to us saying people from the USA are exactly the same as those from South America, multiplied by about 20.

          • hapless says:

            @Onouris:

            Minimum wage for wait staff is a scam. Employers are only required to pay around half of minimum wage as base pay. If total tips plus total pay across a week doesn’t make minimum wage, employers are supposed to make up the difference.

            The catch is that wait staff typically do not report most of their tips, in order to avoid taxes. Employers don’t particularly want to crack down on this practice, as it’s essentially free pay for employees.

            Employees don’t want to call out employers when the wages don’t stack up to minimum wage, as then they could potentially run into trouble when they fail to report their larger incomes on the weekends.

            Seeing as everyone involved has a motive in lying to the government and not catching the other party cheating, it should be no surprise that employees often do not make the “minimum wage” on a particular shift.

            Wait staff depend on tips because it is most profitable for them to do so.

            • Onouris says:

              @hapless: That just makes the whole thing worse. They moan and bitch incessantly about not getting minimum wage, but at the same time they THEMSELVES ensure they don’t get it by not declaring everything, all to avoid tax?

  7. snoop-blog says:

    Yeah, but in my neck of the woods, they would just make you feel uncomfortable and act like we can’t understand your accent like we do to all of the foreign people.

  8. snoop-blog says:

    But where I live it’s also cool to put “REDNECK” on the top of your windshield so…

  9. Jonbo298 says:

    Considering the dollar is still crap compared to the Euro, its no surprise NYC and other area’s have been experiencing a Euro invasion.

  10. Mr_Human says:

    I don’t think I want to go to the restaurant where portion size is the signifier of value.

  11. forgottenpassword says:

    Great! I’ll try out my new yobbish, chavvy manchester accent! That’d work… innit?

  12. maztec says:

    Portion size in the U.S. is ridiculous. I would happily pay the same for my meal, or even 20% more, to have multiple courses that were smaller. Nearly every “French”, “Spanish”, and “Italian” restaurant in the United States is a joke. First, each “course” comes out in a size that is a complete meal in and of itself, second each “course” has the price of a full meal. Then, if they are smaller, they still maintain the same price or only drop it a little bit.

    In Europe, for $20USD, I can buy a four course meal, including dessert. If I wanted four courses here, I would need a second stomach and $80.

    I welcome smaller meal sizes and hope for smaller portion sizes. And I really wish less U.S. restaurants would be so snooty about sharing meals, if they are going to give me enough food to eat for three meals rather than one.

    • snoop-blog says:

      @maztec: word! They act like “oh I didn’t know you were poor” when asking for a second plate but when me and my fiance’s wieght combined doesn’t even make 300lbs, and your serving me more food than can easily sit in front of me, what do you expect? And then you think I want dessert? Like huh? And no I don’t want to take the leftovers to my house to throw them away for you. But seriously, I’m with the whole “appetizers are as large or larger and same price or $2 less than the main course” crowd.

      • randomangela47 says:

        @snoop-blog: The servers are looking at you like because, by splitting one entree, you’re cutting their expected tip in half. Of course it’s not your fault, but they’re just trying to make a living & they’re not the ones deciding the serving sizes.

        Not to mention the fact that a significant portion of those who do split a single entree also seem to think that 8-10% is a generous tip. Those frickin’ frackin’ people take up a table that could have earned the person $5-8 bucks easy, then leave $1.50? Not a recipe for good service the next time that couple comes in!

    • Sanveann says:

      @maztec: Which country are YOU eating in? We went to England in May and were shocked at the cost of restaurant meals.

    • Mr_Human says:

      @maztec: $20 will get you s schnitzel these days in Europe.

      @ClayS: They do, just not much.

    • TechnoDestructo says:

      @maztec:

      Yeah, at this point, I think the US ought to switch over to the system used in most Chinese (as in IN China) restaurants and just expect that 2 or 3 entrees are ordered from which everyone shares.

      @Onouris:
      “What in the name of all things holy is a European accent? You mean an accent from a country in Europe?”

      What else would it mean?

      Hey, there’s more than one American accent, too. Hell, there’s more than one New York accent.

  13. “Yes. I’m Abe Frohman. Party of three for 12:00… That’s right, I’m Abe Froman… Are you suggesting that I’m not who I say I am?”

    • SinisterMatt says:

      @Logical Extremes:

      First, you can never go too far, and second, if I am going to get busted, it’s not going to be by a guy like THAT!

      It’s interesting that restaurants seem to want to accept reservations more from Europeans. Is the euro and the dollar separated that much?

      Cheers!

  14. Western or Eastern European accent?

  15. ClayS says:

    Europeans? I thought they weren’t used to our custom of tipping servers.

  16. sir_eccles says:

    UK tipping is usually of the order of 10% but I used to have friends that “didn’t believe in tipping”.

    It took me a while to adjust to tipping when I moved over here and I am particularly irked by what I call “tipping creep”, no not everyone somehow deserves to be tipped for no reason.

  17. balthisar says:

    Yeah, Europe food is expensive as hell. I had to put everything on my company card last time, because the GOA permitted per diems would have resulted in my losing a lot of personal money!

    I do love European (and Mexican, really) style dining, and deplore places at home that (a) force me to make a reservation; (b) rush me; (c) bring the check before asking; (d) crowd me in. Really, eating a meal in and of itself isn’t the point — I’ve got food at home. The idea is to get out, relax, enjoy each others company, and while we’re at it, eat something that I want to try making at home, or something I wouldn’t bother trying to make. I would gladly, gladly pay a premium to go to those types of place.

  18. Eric1285 says:

    This advice comes a bit too late. The dollar is strengthening again and I’m willing to bet the slew of Europeans coming over to spend their Euros will slow over the next few weeks.

  19. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    Yeah, last time I went to Scotland, the Marriott breakfast buffet was four times the price it would have been back home at an equivalent business-class Marriott in Houston. I felt like I was eating pure distilled company profit.

    Euros were roughly 1-to-2 for dollars while I was there. When I went shopping and looked at the prices, the prices looked surprisingly familiar… except that instead of a $ in front of them, they had a €. Even the gas prices were the same, numerically, once you ignored the fact that the price was in euros and the quantity was per liter.

  20. emington says:

    Maybe people are going to the wrong places in Europe (i.e. touristplaces) because when I eat out there, it’s cheap…

    But really, I don’t need to deal with anymore faux-Europeans or faux-Brits so please stop with such silly advice ;_;

    • Sanveann says:

      @emington: I don’t know … we were in the Wirral in England, which is hardly a tourist hotbed, and the food was still pretty frickin’ expensive. I can see paying an arm and a leg in London, but we were pretty off the beaten path.

    • maines19 says:

      @emington: I think you’re right. When I was in Paris not too long ago, restaurants near the tourist attractions were high-priced, but significantly cheaper near where we were staying (a residential neighborhood a few Metro stops from the touristy areas), and just as varied and good.

  21. thewriteguy says:

    I CAN HAZ GREY POOP ONZ?

  22. homerjay says:

    Bonjooooouuuurrrrr, ya cheese-eatin’ surrender monkeys!

  23. silvanx says:

    European accent??

  24. In some neighborhoods an European accent is going to get you mugged or worse. Yea, just go ahead and speak like a Frenchie and see what it gets ya.

    Then there are the parts of Brooklyn where an European accent is going to get the server speaking in your non-native tongue.

  25. Overheal says:

    I laugh at them: The Irish DO NOT TIP.

    hahahahah – proof inside: [boards.ie]

  26. Overheal says:

    by the way european accent means not american. I guess youd have had to live abroad a while to understand what that means. but a good idea is james bond films (the really old ones) and other great films like Snatch and Trainspotting, Rob Roy, etcetera.

    • speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

      @Overheal: A “European” accent means “not American?” Last I checked, there were non-English speakers in both North and South America. There also exist people in places other than Europe and “America”. Duh.

  27. shufflemoomin says:

    Well done to the Americans here showing how prejudiced and narrowminded you can be. You’re saying Europeans ‘are crap tippers’? You’re being stereotypical of an entire CONTINENT? You realise you’re generalising about more than 40 countries and over half a billion people here, right? Do you realise the cultural differences between most of these countries? Just because we come under one name due to politics and semantics doesn’t mean we’re all the same.

    • speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

      @shufflemoomin: Hit a nerve, did we? Do you, yourself, make an effort to tip adequately, or have you been the target of a servers’ frustration lately?

      OK, seriously… servers always complain about tips, just like every other working stiff complains about their pay. There is never going to be a high enough tip percentage to satisfy all of them. Period. A decade ago, the standard tip was 15 percent. Now it’s 20 percent, and they’re angling to make it 25 percent. There’s never going to be a point at which they quit complaining about “crap tippers.” That’s just the way the world works.

      Grow some skin and stop nominating yourself “defender of Europe”.

      • shufflemoomin says:

        @speedwell: I didn’t nominate myself ‘anything’, in case you didn’t read closely enough to understand that. I don’t care about whiny American servers complaining about how people don’t give them enough free money. I’m complaining about how Americans here are stereotyping the entire continent of Europe. There’s no difference between Italians and Germans? The Finnish and French are like two peas in a pod are they? This has nothing to do with tipping, it has to do with typical American short-sightedness, ignorance and, are I say it, arrogance? The US should just be thankful anyone from outside there is still bothering to go through all the crap to get in for a visit.

        • Princess Leela says:

          @shufflemoomin: Well, hmm, three thoughts here:

          1)Why don’t you take the opportunity to educate our ignorant asses and tell us which people from which countries of Europe tend to tip more/less?

          2)We all (or most all) get that tips are, GENERALLY speaking, less in Europe because waitstaff wages are much higher. In fact some of us have lived and worked there and experienced this first-hand!

          3)I guess it’s okay for (again, GENERALLY speaking) Europeans to complain about how some of us don’t respect your customs when we visit, but not OK for us to say the same about some of you?

        • snazzycarrot says:

          @shufflemoomin: Actually, I think this IS about tipping. That’s the topic at hand and what the comments have mostly been about.

  28. TACP says:

    It’s like Emeril says: “Order grits, and I’ll charge you a dollar. Order polenta and I’ll charge you ten.”

  29. famousmortimer78 says:

    Good to know. I find the German accent is easiest to fake, plus their govt-mandated 30 days of vacation makes it plausible for them to be all the way over here in the west.

  30. BiZarRroBALlmeR says:

    That cat has crabs

  31. lovelyivy says:

    Living in Paris here. The price of meals is outrageous, except for pastries. Pasties and wine here are dirt cheap, and fantastically good.

    Then again, thanks to the exchange rates, pretty much everything here is outrageous. I have an apartment and confine myself to eating out once or twice a week, and groceries are just as crazily expensive (5 euros for CEREAL = $7.50)as eating out.

    The produce is beautiful though- shopping at a Parisian market is enormous fun.

  32. snazzycarrot says:

    I am always troubled by comments in the vein of ‘Well, if they don’t like it they can get another job’. That may well be true in individual cases but hardly addresses the real issue. It’s more an issue of how the system works than an issue of individual initiative. There will be server jobs to fill whatever any particular person does, and those positions will be filled. The pay scale here is constructed on the assumption that servers will make tips to supplement their base pay. It is true that raising servers’ base pay might make tipping less vital for them, but do that and you will see the price of your meal increase to cover the added cost to the restaurant. So perhaps those who don’t want to tip should celebrate the current system…if they like they can enjoy lower prices and not tip to compensate. I, for one, accept how things are and I tip around 20 percent most of the time, more for small bills and for exceptional service.

  33. Parapraxis says:

    I believe that no should should ever be allowed to eat in a restaurant with waitstaff until they themselves have worked as one.