Susie Rushton: I asked for ketchup – not judgement

Urban Notebook

Friday 13 November 2009 01:00 GMT

As if their hours, terrible pay and throbbing feet weren't enough, an American restaurant owner has now published a rather bossy list of 100 "don'ts" for waiters and waitresses. It has been to the taste of many diners; seafood restaurateur Bruce Buschel's commandments remained near the top of's "most emailed" charts last week. Plenty of his suggestions hit the target. For instance: "6. Do not lead the witness with, 'Bottled water or just tap?' Both are fine. Remain neutral." Or: "73. Do not bring soup without a spoon. Few things are more frustrating than a bowl of hot soup with no spoon." And definitely: "94. Do not play an entire CD of any artist. If someone doesn't like Frightened Rabbit or Michael Bublé, you have just ruined a meal." Many of Buschel's gripes only apply on his side of the Atlantic, such as "10. Do not inject your personal favourites when explaining the specials." Also only in America: "41. Saying, 'No problem' is a problem. It has a tone of insincerity or sarcasm."

But the list has whipped up a fury among waiting staff on the net. Under the headline "Does Buying a $14 Pasta Dish Make You The King of the Universe?", blogger and ex-waitress Lauren Ban takes Buschel to task for rules that she sees as obvious ("33. Do not bang into chairs or tables when passing by." Or "49. Never mention the tip, unless asked.") No minimum wage job, she argues, should ever require such a list.

Writing as an ex-waitress, I think most of his rules could and should apply to London establishments. Last Friday in a very cool Soho restaurant I experienced the truth of number 58, "Do not bring judgement with the ketchup. Or mustard. Or hot sauce. Or whatever condiment is requested." There was a policy not to serve Dijon mustard, I was told; only English or wholegrain cut it. "This is a British restaurant," I was told by the waitress, who'd just poured me a glass of unarguably French wine.

I don't relate this tale simply to nitpick: the point is, a lovely restaurant meal can be badly spoiled by a slight mis-step, as Buschel tries to explain. And I'm a very tolerant diner. One male friend recently told me that "there's nothing more disappointing than a disappointing meal", to which I suggested that one could be let down badly between the sheets. "No such thing for me," he says. I'm sure there's a list in that.

Taken for a ride

Do you have a cyclist colleague? And does he/she remain in his cycle gear until lunchtime? It's not that they're too cool to change, apparently. It's to give the sweat time to evaporate from their gear before changing into dry civvies. Now a new fashion line from a company called Bspoke makes Teflon-treated sweaters, trousers and jackets for the commuter that can be worn on and off the bike. Crucially, the clothes aren't day-glo or technical-looking or insouciantly nonconformist. It'll never catch on.

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