Stop Taking My Food Away

Chrissy ON May 15, 2012 AT 9:53 am

Global Lust Rant by Chrissy Iley

This is what an empty plate looks like!

The other night I was in a perfectly lovely, very expensive, LA eaterie. I’d ordered the most exquisite zucchini fritti. They were tiny slithers of gorgeously crispy, soft-on-the-inside loveliness and I was savouring them while I was chatting to my friend.

Suddenly I looked down and they were gone.  Why is it that these days if you’re in a restaurant you can’t have a conversation because you have to concentrate so hard that your food hasn’t been taken away before you’ve finished it? There were at least six or seven delicious slithers left.

I’ve also noticed an unfortunate ratio – the more expensive the restaurant the more the inclination to swipe away food and drink before you’ve finished, prompting you to say: ‘There was at least $2 worth left’, but you don’t say that because you’re in a really nice expensive restaurant and that would make you look cheap and greedy. I did ask for them to come back though. It was too late.

I noticed this happening first predominantly in the US. I had been brought up to believe everyone is sat at the table with their plates until everyone is finished. It was bad manners otherwise!

When I first came to LA I would get ever so embarrassed. If my companion finished eating their plate would be taken away and I would be left self-consciously eating alone. Why do they need the plates so badly? Taking a plate away is not going to make me eat faster. I guess they must have realised that and that’s why they also then took my plate away before I’ve finished. Is it about turnover? They need the table fast so that even if you’re in a pricy, supposedly chic, place you’re made to feel like you’re offal in a cat food factory.

I noticed strangely it doesn’t happen in fast food places. Yesterday at The Veggie Grill I’d scraped my plate clean and the waitress came up and said ‘Can I get you anything else? Do you want me to take this away?’ In a fancier restaurant they don’t ask. They steal your food and then act all coy like they’re a butler at Downton, as if they’re doing you a favour, by disallowing you to have your full fill.

What started in America has, as with most things, spread to London. Although I noticed not to the pub in North Shields where they leave you with as many glasses on your table as you want. Up North they know better than to separate a woman from her wine.

That’s not quite how it is at the Ivy Club. If you so much as look at the person in front of you and stop clutching onto your drink it’s taken away with half an inch left in it. If I order a vodka martini I don’t want a vodka martin, i.e. seven eighths of a vodka martini.

Is it because they think we’re not looking and will order more and therefore tip better? Or is it because this is the only place left in the world where there can be faux efficiency. ‘I’ll get this out of your way,’ they say. ‘It’s not in my way. I haven’t finished with it,’ I say. Then they look all sad.

I think that waiters have forgotten to be human. They are so busy concentrating on how they’ve been told to behave that they seem to have lost their compassion. Is it really so hard: Don’t take my food away before I’ve finished with it. I’m not going to like you for that.

Are restaurants so desperate to sell more drinks, more zucchini fritti that they have to steal them from their own customers? Don’t they realise if people are made to feel uncomfortable, gluttonous or alcoholics, they just won’t come back.

Next time my plate or glass is taken away before I’ve finished with it I’m going to demand a reorder for free. It’s the only way to stop this epidemic!


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