Rude Rules: Are polite diners ruining our restaurants?


Giuseppe O’Connell is one interesting dude. The Honolulu native with perhaps Cleveland's most multicultural name has called Ohio home for 17 years. In that time, he’s worked as a server and manager in some of the city’s top restaurants, and gathered up several books’ worth of pithy observations and advice in the process. Among the more interesting is his take on restaurant “martyrs,” the conciliatory customers who wouldn’t think of raising a fuss over an overcooked steak or slightly stinky piece of fish. ... In most cases, he claims, the kitchen knows full well the dish isn’t quite up to par, but makes the conscious decision to send it out anyway. If the customer complains, staffers are prepared to replace the offender. But if the customer quietly accepts it, the chef chalks it up as a win – saving him the expense of throwing out the inferior product, and boosting the odds he’ll pull the stunt again. Don’t fall for it, O’Connell advises. “Send it back, and give them the chance to make it right.” Otherwise, you aren’t merely throwing away your own hard-earned cash, but you’re probably contributing to the overall decline of the local dining scene. “It’s so easy for owners and managers to accept mediocrity,” he laments. “Don’t be part of the problem: Say something!” Over time, of course, such cost cutting maneuvers will catch up with a joint. O’Connell calls it the “short buck, long dollar” theory: In the short run, the restaurant saves the expense of throwing out 20 bucks’ worth of product; in the long run – when the aggrieved customer tells all his friends and vows never to return – the restaurant loses hundreds of dollars in potential biz. It’s bad business, from any point of view. --- Elaine T. Cicora Read Elaine Cicora's restaurant reviews, food news, and comprehensive dining guide on the restaurant page at


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