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A Message To Our Readers About Black Lives Matter

Since the senseless killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis Police on May 25, even thinking about restaurants seems frivolous right now. The protesting that has flooded the streets in all fifty states has shown that the American people will no longer tolerate police violence and racial injustice. Seeing citizens of all races coming together internationally for change has been truly inspiring. We stand in solidarity with the black community and the Black Lives Matter movement.

The service industry—as with many “essential” sectors of the economy—relies heavily on the labor of minority groups and people of color. Though we too often cater to an overwhelmingly affluent white clientele, the staff of restaurants tends to be more diverse—including legions of hard-working immigrants and undocumented workers looking for an opportunity to better themselves. Inside our walls, we imperfectly understand the value of tolerance, the importance of respecting each other’s differences and learning to work as a team.

That said, as an industry, we still have a lot of work to do, inside and out. Gender imbalances that have long plagued us, not surprisingly, finally bubbled over the surface during #MeToo. It turned out that restaurants harbored some of the worst offenders. Now we must face our racial demons, many that’ve been festering beneath the surface for generations.

The work of black chefs has routinely been ignored in professional kitchens run by solipsistic white chefs and in glossy magazines led by unyielding white editors committed to anglicizing their content. The white food media has systematically excluded black voices from narrating their own stories while empowering white writers to co-opt and misrepresent black cuisine. Until just recently, restaurant criticism has been a singularly white pursuit, resulting in coverage that often contextualizes black cooking through a Eurocentric lens.

We need to hold restaurateurs more accountable for what happens inside their restaurants, too. How they respond to the Black Lives Matter movement shouldn’t only be a question of P.R. and messaging, it should be about instituting human resource policies that foster inclusivity. White managers must stop lamenting the lack of qualified black applicants coming through the door and walk out the door to find them. The pervasive culture of tokenism and performative allyship must transform into structural reorganization from the ground up by making real investments in the careers of employees of color.

Black Lives Matter will have an enormous impact on the restaurant world because, though it rarely acknowledged, food is political. Although making political statements is hardly at the core of our mission on this website, we hope to shape our content going forward with this in the front of our minds. Expanding our vision should also mean telling stories and sharing opinions that are written by or speak to communities of color. As always, we welcome any suggestions and feedback from our readers about restaurant-related topics that deserve further exploration.

If you see fewer articles here in the coming days, please know that it’s because we’re using this time for self-reflection, as we all should, and participating in the dialogue for change. The magnitude of these issues doesn’t leave much space to write about restaurants casually anymore. It shouldn’t. We can assure you that when the time comes to pick up our silverware and dig in again, we’ll do so with a fresher perspective and a more open mind.

Stay healthy and safe,

THE RESTAURANT MANIFESTO

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Holiday Dining Made Easy

Between now and the end of the year, restaurants will play a big role in your holiday festivities. Many of you will dine out frequently, sometimes traveling to cities far away or maybe returning to your hometowns. Your holiday dining may occur in restaurants you’ve never been before or falling back on those old familiar neighborhood places. Some may seek out trendy places that appear in every critic’s year-end “Best Of” lists.

The holiday season—though often the most lucrative for hospitality professionals—is the most difficult time of the year to work in restaurants. Guests arrive with unreasonable expectations, dysfunctional families are easily triggered and staff is always burning its candle at both ends. Bear in mind that the people serving you are sacrificing time away from their loved ones to facilitate your sharing a great meal with yours.

Here are some helpful hints to make sure you get the most out of your holiday dining experiences:

Ask what time the table is needed back – Christmas is the season of giving. Turn times are a harsh reality of the restaurant business that becomes even more harsh during the holidays. The simple act of showing consideration goes a long way. Most restaurants will pander and tell you to keep the table as long as you like—even if they can’t afford extending the courtesy to everyone—but acknowledging that the table may be rebooked is guaranteed to boost your status with the restaurant hosting you.

Elevate your tip percentage – We know, we know… you always leave a great tip for the waiter. But if your standard tip is twenty percent, go up to thirty! Most tipped employees don’t receive holiday bonuses. Because they aren’t salaried, any additional income during the holidays usually comes from guests’ generosity. Dig deeper into your pockets at Christmastime and show your appreciation. Being generous pays dividends, especially at the restaurants you patronize most frequently. Plus, tipping well just makes you feel good.

Offer the waiter a glass from your bottle of wine – Servers rarely get a chance to taste bottles of wine from the list because they are often too expensive for management to open for educational purposes. It’s always a great way to build solidarity with the staff to welcome them to sharing your wine. You might even order a second bottle, ask the waiter to fill everyone’s glasses, then tell him or her to finish the bottle at the end of their shift. Drink and be merry!!

holiday-dining

Be respectful about unwrapping gifts at the table – We understand that friends and family often plan gatherings in restaurants as an occasion to exchange gifts. However, you should still be mindful how that can impede the staff’s ability to serve you properly. Don’t turn your table into an Oprah’s “Favorite Things” Giveaway episode. Order first before you open gifts so the server doesn’t have to fight for everyone’s attention. If possible, wait until your meal has been fully served before you unwrap gifts and always clean up any wrapping paper and holiday paraphernalia. Never leave your garbage behind!!

Don’t Wear Out Your Welcome – Especially if your holiday dining occurs on Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve, be respectful that the people working also need to get home to be with their families. If you notice you’re the last table in the restaurant and it’s getting late, pay the bill and thank the staff for being there to take care of you at such a late hour. They’ll appreciate the kind words, but they’ll appreciate even more when you get up and leave.

Leave a Positive Review for Your Server – The effect that review sites such as Yelp and Trip Advisor have on a restaurant’s success can be very influential. Unfortunately, guests with negative experiences often drown out the positive ones. Customers who leave thrilled rarely feel the need to leave feedback. Sharing your comments about a great service experience during the holidays can help balance the scales.

Stay Home on New Year’s Eve – Sorry, restaurant owners, but you’ve sucked for too long on NYE. It’s always nice to have a place to convene with friends and family to ring in the new year, but we can’t condone dropping wads of cash on overpriced cookie cutter menus and cheap Prosecco toasts at midnight. Restaurants never serve their best food on New Year’s Eve and food choices are usually very limited to simplify kitchen operations. Celebrate on January 2nd, and you’ll get the same experience or better at a third of the cost.