Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.


You spend a lot of money in restaurants.

Well, your company does.

Why, then, do you tolerate so much more in them than you would from a supplier or even your corner store?

Fancy meals cost a lot of money. So, if you happen to be one of those people who dislikes complaining, here is a rough guide to a few things you really should never swallow.

1. The Nuked Entree.

One Friday night, I was in a fancy restaurant in Yountville, California and ordered a pork chop. It arrived cold. I sent it back. A few minutes later, the server brought it back and rushed away. It had simply been reheated. It was as chewy as a car fender. He came back to ask how it was. "You nuked it," I said. "Well, a fresh one would have taken 15 minutes," was his jaunty reply. A few minutes later, I asked for the check. He brought it with the words: "Can you tell this is my Monday?" Could he tell that his tip just became 5 percent? If your food comes cold, just no.

2. The I-Know-Better-Than-You Server.

Once, in Miami, I was at a famous chef's new outpost. The server began: "Have either of you eaten here before?" I explained that I'd been to the chef's place in LA. He turned to my companion and declared: "This is nothing like that." Well, except for half the dishes on the menu. The evening continued in that vein. As far as this server was concerned, he was right and how on earth could we have not ordered either of the dishes he'd recommended? Oh.

3. And For The Lovely Lady.

This isn't generational. There's just a certain sort of male server who insists on using terminology guaranteed to annoy. It's especially annoying when he uses the same phrase with each dish he brings. It's even more annoying when the lovely lady in question is your potential business partner and cannot bear the restaurant you've booked precisely because of this oaf. This server refers to you as "my friend."

4. The Busboy Who'd Rather You Didn't Eat.

The worst I ever experienced was a few years ago at Anthony Bourdain's old haunt, Les Halles in New York. These busboys behaved as if they had their hands tucked under your armpit, ready to snatch your plate away immediately. They would have readily preferred it if you'd just taken two bites of your steak frites and given them the plate back. The busboy who repeatedly comes over to ask you if you're finished should be banished.

5. The Manager Who Claims Organic Principles.

I was in a well-regarded Italian restaurant in Sausalito, California. My dining partner, a celebrated editor-in-chief, found ants crawling all over his salad. The server rushed the plate away. However, the manager came over and sniffed: "You're upset with the ants. You shouldn't be. We're organic here. You should expect ants and snails." I wondered whether the restaurant had ever thought of, say, washing its lettuce. I really wish I'd made this story up, but it's entirely true.

6. The Reverse Jesus Christ Bartender.

You remember the man who turned water into wine? Well, how is it that quite a few restaurants seem to manage the reverse? If you feel, even for a moment, that the initial taste of a wine dissipates into something that reminds you remarkably of H2O, please send it back and say you're intent on conserving water.

7. The Server Who Thinks Your Choices Are All Excellent.

Someone must have taught this once upon a time. That someone must have read a terrible book about positive reinforcement. When a server says "Excellent choice," what does he think he's achieving? Making you feel more confident that you've avoided the rotten options on the menu?

8. A Menu Outside Without Any Prices.

I've seen this in Chicago. I've seen it in Miami, London and many other places. The message -- the restaurant thinks -- is: "If you don't have a lot of money, you won't want to eat here. If you do, you won't care." How odd that they never think it actually says: "This place is probably a rip-off."

9. The Restaurant That Serves You A Human Tooth.

A few years ago, one of my employees told me her father was coming over from India. He wanted to take me to dinner. He was a celebrated man in his home country. I was not to refuse. We went to a very fancy San Francisco restaurant. Where the celebrated man found something a little hard in his halibut. Not a bone, but a tooth. A human tooth. The restaurant manager didn't claim organic principles. Instead, he quaked. The meal was suddenly free of charge. Wine suddenly appeared without our ordering it. I still never went back. I wonder whose tooth it actually was.

10. The Hostess Who Wishes You Good Luck And Goes Home Before You're Seated.

This was a truly lovely restaurant. But this particular night, they couldn't get people to leave. So 30 minutes after our reservation time, we still weren't seated. At 40 minutes, it was becoming ridiculous. At least, we thought it was ridiculous. But we hadn't seen truly ridiculous. For then the hostess put on her leather jacket waved to us and uttered the immortal words: "Good luck, folks!"