Magazine Archive

A fishy tale

Having written about the hospitality industry for the past decade, I often wonder just how much my profession has altered the way I eat and drink out. Like you – our readers who live life in the on-trade – it’s impossible to switch off operational observations when in a pub, bar or restaurant.

Which leads me to a cracking anecdote from a restaurant I visited last month. They’ll remain nameless, as we’re not here to embarrass operators. My first visit to this relatively new site consisted of some drinks and a couple of oysters at the bar – we were there to book in for a meal that weekend, but ended up getting chatting to their very friendly bartender, who convinced us to stay for a while.

This guy was a wonderful example of how to host and run a bar area – a friendly welcome, knowledgeable, efficient, skilled and chatty. However, that last attribute was to be his eventual downfall.

Just as we were paying, I noticed a large, porcelain fish sat on the end of the bar. It was a garish feature. Our bartender friend noticed me noticing: “Oh that’s Rudolf,” he said. “We turn him to face any tables that we need to turnover. If a customer is staying too long, one of us turns the fish to face them, so we all know that they need to leave.” Probably not the sort of information you want to share with someone who has just booked a table for four the following Saturday.

Upon making a reservation, this restaurant does politely tell guests that they will need the table back after two hours, which is fine by me, but when arriving for dinner a few days later, all I could think about was Rudolf and whether or not he’d soon be telling me it was time to leave.

We arrived at 6pm and, sure enough, at 7.45pm this giant fish was suddenly pointed at our table – eyes wide and judgemental. I couldn’t help but laugh. Our poor waitress was frightfully embarrassed when we told her we were aware of the time and that there was no need for Rudolf’s reinforcements. But it goes to show, there is such a thing as being over-friendly – sometimes hosting is about knowing when to keep quiet and letting the guests figure out your operation for themselves.

Tristan O’Hana - Editor