Samuel Muston: Waiting staff don't need to be as hot as the dishes they serve


The Nuclear Security Summit, which was held on Tuesday, is, as you might guess, a serious affair. Fifty-three heads of government and half the world's diplomatic corps were holed up in The Hague to discuss an agenda that featured words such as "terrorism", "nuclear bombs" and also (possibly) "doom".

In fact, so sombre was this gathering that it was decided that no female waiting staff would be used in the room where the big swingers were meeting. Explaining this decision, the director of the catering company used for the event, Hans van der Linde, said: "If 20 gentlemen are serving and three platinum blonde ladies, then that spoils the image. The personnel need to act in as reserved a manner as possible, and you can't achieve that by adding a couple of pretty, conspicuous ladies to the mix."

Unsurprisingly, when van der Linde's quote appeared in the Dutch newspaper Algemeen Dagblad, his comments were met with an outrage that wasn't entirely dampened by a follow-up statement in which he said he initially planned to "only employ ladies… and to have them [serve] in little Delft blue dresses".

Mr van der Linde seems an oddly mixed-up fellow and no mistake. Yet his views seem, to some extent, to represent those of many restaurateurs in Britain's big cities. Get some attractive staff, the thinking seems to go, and everyone will flock to your new opening like starlings.

In London, this has reached epidemic levels. I can think of one well-known mini chain where the staff looks like it has just escaped from a Saint Laurent runway show: so sharp are the cheekbones on display that you wonder if they're used to carve the ham. Another restaurant I can think of seems to require all its front-of-house employees to sport large "sleeve" tattoos.

You can see the logic, of course. It's about creating a brand. We are cool, our staff are cool, if you want to be cool, come through the doors of our restaurants. The truth of the matter is that such places discriminate on the basis of looks when choosing their staff just as much as some fashion houses do – but without drawing the same opprobrium.

The effects of this can be pernicious. When the staff are objectified by managers, the customers may well follow suit. My friend who has spent most of her career front-of-house in restaurants remembers twice being pawed by drunken punters while working in dining rooms in the City of London. She didn't complain, she said, not wanting to cause a fuss with a high-spending table.

Such incidents, I'm told, are few and far between. But still, it does raise the question of what we want from waiting staff. For me, and for most of us who don't go to a restaurant only because the local pole-dancing club doesn't open 'til 11, eating out isn't about ogling the waiters and waitresses.

My aims for an evening eating out are pretty much limited to: consuming nice food, having a chinwag and possibly getting a bit drunk. All I want is for the staff to assist me in that. As long as they are pleasant, don't drop the gravy in my lap or wine down my shirt, I am a happy camper – and that should be the end of it.

A stint at the shows of Milan Fashion Week need not be an impediment to being a good waitress, but neither should a shapely nose or the ability to look fetching in a "Delft-blue dress" be qualifications for it, either.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Recruitment Genius: Senior Bid Writer

    £25000 - £34000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With offices in Manchester, Lon...

    Recruitment Genius: Membership Sales Advisor - OTE £20,000 Uncapped

    £15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

    £35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

    Guru Careers: Membership Administrator

    £23K: Guru Careers: We're seeking an experienced Membership Administrator, to ...

    Day In a Page

    Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

    Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

    Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
    Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
    Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

    The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

    Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
    The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

    The future of songwriting

    How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
    William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

    Recognition at long last

    Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
    Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

    Beating obesity

    The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
    9 best women's festival waterproofs

    Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

    These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
    Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

    Wiggins worried

    Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
    On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

    On your feet!

    Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
    With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

    The big NHS question

    Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
    Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Big knickers are back
    Thurston Moore interview

    Thurston Moore interview

    On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
    In full bloom

    In full bloom

    Floral print womenswear
    From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

    From leading man to Elephant Man

    Bradley Cooper is terrific