Chow Bella

5 Things Restaurants Need to Start Doing Right Now

Net that beard, dude.
Net that beard, dude. Volodymyr Tverdokhlib/

There was a lot of fuss when I wrote a piece about the five things restaurants needed to stop doing.

People banned me from their restaurants. Promised to spit in my food. I was called a host of unsavory names, some not used for centuries, or perhaps the insults were delivered in a strain of restaurant worker tongue that I failed to understand. In any case, folks got riled up. Had their hissy fits all over the internet.

But now that we've covered those bases and the subsequent response, I'd like to tackle the five things restaurants need to start doing, namely for the good of all mankind, according to me. They are all beneficial, help draw the line between good service and bad, and for health reasons alone are completely necessary, now that I know that at the very least, 467 servers across the world who send me hate mail also don’t mind hocking into your food, and will readily admit it. In writing.

Net the Nests of Filth
That’s right, I’m talking beard nets, hell yes! If the guy who cuts my American cheese in the Safeway deli has to wear a face net, so do servers. The last thing I want to see in my boneless chicken wings is a 3-inch-long pubic face hair, which is even worse than one from the greasy scalp. I live with a guy who has a beard, and I can tell you that there is no such thing as beard shampoo. I also know a very clean man who had a very big beard that a moth just flew out of one day. Those things have ecosystems of their own. If it grows on you, anywhere on you, I don’t want it falling anywhere in my food. Come to think of it, let’s add nose nets, too. Gross comes from all follicles.
click to enlarge Eyes wide shut. - ALEXANDR BOGNAT/SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
Eyes wide shut.
Alexandr Bognat/

If it Glows, It Goes Back to the Kitchen

Install black lights at every table. I have one to see where my cat who died 10 years ago peed; why not utilize this amazing piece of technology when it comes to my food and the possibly filthy hands bringing it to me? I'm sorry, I don't trust a laminated memo in the restroom when it comes to servers washing their hands twice. I want proof and I want it on three settings: number two, number one, and spit. I want my food scanned for spit in every public meal. This will also come in very handy in case of salads to see if any feces, animal or otherwise, still remains on your chicken kale doody Caesar. I already knew that food sometimes comes with a little viscous secretion courtesy of the server, but the hate mail we've received showed us just how prevalent the ingredient is in pretty much everything you eat that you don't make yourself. Honestly, I've been known to drool over toast, but I don't mind putting my own spit back where it belongs. It's not like I don't sleep in a puddle of it every night, anyway. But froth from the mouth of the guy in the back who juggles fire on the weekends, has a probation officer, and who thinks the bitch at table seven who asked for her dressing on the side needs to learn a lesson, is not welcome on the sidewalk in front of my house, let alone in my mouth.

click to enlarge Salt variety is the spice of Laurie's life. - HANDMADE PICTURES/SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
Salt variety is the spice of Laurie's life.
Handmade Pictures/

Salt It Up

Who knew that little tiny grains of flavor enhancer could cause such an uproar? Why does everyone have it out for salt? That just makes me want more salt, and not just more, but a variety! I want colors, textures, flavors. YES. SALT COMES IN FLAVORS. Frankly, I don’t think a chef has any more right to tell me how much salt I can pour on their food than they do what ply toilet paper I can use. I happen to be an excellent cook. I take that back. I am a phenomenal cook, learned at the elbow of my Nana and my mother. When I invite you over for dinner, you can piss me off one of two ways: 1. Bring a watermelon, pineapple, cantaloupe, and strawberries, set them on my counter, and expect me to cut them up for the fruit salad you promised to bring; or 2. Arrive 20 minutes late when the eggplant Parmesan I have worked on all day has just crossed the horizon of its life peak and is on the descent into rot. Put salt on it. Pepper. Mayonnaise, ketchup. I don’t care. Put jimmies on it if you want, but as long as that first forkful is going into your mouth at the optimum moment, all is right with the world. You use whatever enhancement methods you need to make that bite perfect for you, I won’t judge. Just like I won’t judge you if you have something other than Charmin Blue in your bathroom. Well, that’s a lie. You’re an animal.

click to enlarge The tipping point. - DMITRY KALINOVSKY/SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
The tipping point.
Dmitry Kalinovsky/
Identify Service Levels

Here’s an idea: Give me an option of how much I want to tip and you seat me in the section with the appropriate server. This way, no one’s disappointed with their service, and no one’s mad with their paltry tip. For example, if I ask for the 20 percent section, I’d like a server with no visible tattoos, clean fingernails, nose and beard nets firmly in place, confident enough to pass a black light test and are relatively sober, or at least have had the breathalyzer recently taken off their steering wheel. Candidates in this class would preferably have some education, whether it be a semester at community college or a failed attempt at phlebotomy. For the 15 percent section, an eyebrow piercing is acceptable, the server is permitted to have two instances of pissiness and a tattoo of cutlery somewhere about their person, and is expected to never bring another fork to replace the one you knocked onto the floor. They stopped going to beauty school after a month. Now, in the 10 percent section, things are bound to get a little sketchy, as in nose rings, lip piercings, dilated pupils, and some body odor. The servers in this section have typically been up for at least 72 hours in a row, and don’t be surprised if one of their teeth winds up in your dinner. These things happen in the 10 section. Also, you’d be wise to pay with cash, otherwise a dentist you can’t afford will be fitting a bridge on a guy who can’t get to work on time but who memorized your debit card number. Bonus in this section, however: If you guess your server’s drug of choice correctly (honestly, how hard would it be: cocaine or meth?) you get a free dessert that your server put on the plate with his filthy tweaker hands. If you ask, they’ll tell you they graduated from the school of hard knocks.

click to enlarge Don't step on the punch line. - HUNTER BLISS/SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
Don't step on the punch line.
Hunter Bliss/

You Disturb Me

I’ve saved the best for last. It’s a brilliant idea: We use it so that housekeeping doesn’t barge into your room at 7:30 a.m. when you are still sleeping with your mouth open (true story); a man in a red vest holding a master key card doesn’t wander around your bedroom while you are in the shower, resulting in a train-whistle scream when you finally spot him in the mirror behind you (true story); and to deter potential rapists in a motel in Nashville where there was a liquor store in the lobby and you hoped that the woman who rode up with you in the elevator was indeed a prostitute (true story).

The Do Not Disturb Sign. Personally, I would prefer a light, a green bulb for “Disturb Me” and red for “I’m Breaking Up With Her Right Before Dessert So Please Keep Your Distance.” This is the answer to so many problems, I am telling you. This way, I don’t have to get mad when the server keeps filling my glass every time a drop evaporates, and the server doesn’t develop bursitis of the shoulder by being attentive. It’s a win/win. So, no physical therapy, no interrupted punchlines. When I’m ready for the check, some more salt, or my next mai tai, we go green, and harmony is restored throughout the world.

Personally, I think these are all brilliant ideas and I simply can’t believe that no one has been smart enough to think of them before me. And speaking of smarts, can I give the servers out there who know roughly how to type a piece of advice? This time, when you send me hate mail, don’t include the part about where you work.

And buy a black light.

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Laurie Notaro