When it comes to Valentine's Day, you either make plans or you don't.
For those who do decide to celebrate, nothing screams romance like a candle-lit dinner. According to the National Retail Federation, a projected $3.5 billion (R49 billion) will be spent this upcoming Thursday on an evening out as a gift to that special someone. It's easy to conclude that for the restaurant industry, Valentine's Day is a great day for business.
When I started hosting in Boston, the first holiday I had to work was Valentine's Day. The establishment, which also doubled as a dive bar, didn't take reservations so there were a slew of couples waiting at least 45 minutes for a table. It was overwhelming to say the least.
From there, I moved on to a restaurant in the Upper West Side that could seat over 400 people in a single night. Over the years, I grew to dread the holiday based off what I observed.
From awkward Tinder meet-ups to unexpected breakups, there are a slew of cringe-worthy dates I've seen go down while at the host stand. However disheartening they might've been, there were plenty of takeaways on what not to do on a date.
When it comes to public displays of affections, I can guarantee that the front of house staff loves if it's left in the bedroom. One couple didn't get the memo. We were more than happy to accommodate their "cozy table" and "date night" requests just like any other reservation. I sat them at a corner table with a view of Columbus Circle. While surveying the restaurant a few times for available tables, I could see them laughing as the wine flowed and their entrees were served. Fast forward 10 minutes and they were making out while surrounded by around 250 other patrons. Another 15 minutes later, they were way past first base.
It's no surprise that blind dates can be hit or miss. A guy in his early 20s sat next to a redheaded beauty and they seemed to be enjoying each other's company at the Boston bar I worked at. He came up to me asking for the bathroom, which was by the host stand. He stood by the door for a few minutes. He looked at me and said, "I actually don't need to go. I'm actually hiding from my date right now. It's awful. She's from California and she's so basic."
I merely said, "Oh really? That sucks."
He began to list all the things he hated about his date. I reminded him that he should go back to the bar and close out if he desperately wanted to escape. He then asked me for my number and if I was free the next weekend.
The spontaneous breakup
A couple came in without a reservation and we sat them in the middle of the restaurant. They first ordered a bottle of wine. Moments later their server came up to me and said, "Something is happening at that table. The woman is straight up bawling and I don't know if I should even go back."
I turned my head and saw her slam her glass on the table and put her face in her hands. I later found out that the man was leaving her for another woman from work. The woman came up to me, still in tears, asking for the bathroom. She spent the rest of the evening at the table finishing the bottle and refusing to let her now ex leave.
All seemed to be going smoothly for the young couple in the corner booth. They had three rounds of drinks and were laughing over their oysters and steaks. All of a sudden, there was a screaming match. At first I thought it was the couple bickering. But then I peeked over and saw it was the man and my manager arguing in the middle of the floor. He claimed he placed his credit card with the bill and saw our server take it. The panicked server said that never happened and she searched the server hutches and behind the bar for the card. He then accused her of taking his card.
My manager tried to diffuse the situation and was about to look over security footage when lo and behold, someone found a wallet in the men's bathroom. His "stolen" credit card was inside it. I alerted my manager but the damage was done: he was already promised a comp meal and had humiliated our server.
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