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Birthdays in Restaurants


DonRocks
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I apologize for our service missteps on Saturday, and for not acknowledging your birthday. Our policy is not to do anything, candle or otherwise, unless a request is expressly made in advance (simply noting it is a birthday does not translate to a candle request per my instructions). I reviewed the record and there was no such request indicated, but if it was in fact made I also apologize for our failure to properly execute.

Mark's classy reply to leleboo's well-written post reminds me of this article by David Hagedorn, in which he writes:

Whoever the first person was who gave a free "birthday" dessert to a patron should be shot. What started out as a good promotion and an expression of goodwill has somehow turned into a requirement. The public has come to expect, even demand, a free dessert for a birthday or anniversary. Diners have been overheard telling tablemates that they always say it's their birthday. Indignant diners will point out the "error" of being charged for birthday desserts they ordered. It is the prerogative, not the obligation, of a restaurateur to give things away.

I think leleboo made it pretty clear in her post that she wasn't expecting a freebie, but if there is a birthday noted on a reservation, is that not a tacit request for acknowledgment of some sort? Furthermore, is that not a high compliment to the restaurant that it was chosen for the birthday-celebration venue? What's wrong with the server (or the host) simply wishing the diner "Happy Birthday" at the beginning of the meal? It doesn't cost the restaurant a dime, establishes goodwill early on, and doesn't make the diner feel like their special day was ignored.

In anticipation of restaurant owners saying that this is naive, and that acknowledgment of any sort will lead to people expecting free desserts ... I have no definitive answer, but my impression is that a simple "Happy Birthday" is better than nothing.

Cheers,

Rocks.

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I think acknowledgment of someone's birthday, and perhaps extra attention to detail is a nice way to make a patron feel special on their day. Just putting forth the effort that says, "we want you to feel special and be taken care of today" is a gesture I'm sure anyone here would really appreciate.

With regards to the freebies- extras ,such as dessert, should not be bestowed upon the birthday person until they have been regaled with at least 2 rounds of an all-hands-on-deck rendition of hand-clapping, toe-stomping "Happy, Happy Birthday", ala Chi Chi's circe 1987. And then, the crowd must chime in "How old are you now? How old are you now?".

Here's your fried ice cream.

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I think leleboo made it pretty clear in her post that she wasn't expecting a freebie, but if there is a birthday noted on a reservation, is that not a tacit request for acknowledgment of some sort? Furthermore, is that not a high compliment to the restaurant that it was chosen for the birthday-celebration venue? What's wrong with the server (or the host) simply wishing the diner "Happy Birthday" at the beginning of the meal? It doesn't cost the restaurant a dime, establishes goodwill early on, and doesn't make the diner feel like their special day was ignored.

In anticipation of restaurant owners saying that this is naive, and that acknowledgment of any sort will lead to people expecting free desserts ... I have no definitive answer, but my impression is that a simple "Happy Birthday" is better than nothing.

Cheers,

Rocks.

Just to clarify -- and I posted again to reply to Mark, and PM'ed him a more elaborate explanation than the one in the thread -- I absoutely expected no freebie, nor did I specifically request a candle. My out-of-town friend attempted to do so, but I don't believe she explicitly said to anyone, "Please put a candle on her dessert" unless she did so out of my earshot. However, it was noted in the reservation, and by my friend to the hostess and by my husband to the server, that the day was my birthday ... but with no acknowledgment, not even the "Happy Birthday" Don mentioned. Quite honestly, my two companions were more put out about it than I was, but combined with the minor service issue, it seemed worth mentioning.

I think acknowledgment of someone's birthday, and perhaps extra attention to detail is a nice way to make a patron feel special on their day. Just putting forth the effort that says, "we want you to feel special and be taken care of today" is a gesture I'm sure anyone here would really appreciate.

That pretty much nails it, I think. Although I prefer to believe I just don't look nearly old enough to have spent another year on the planet! :angry:

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I normally note birthdays on reservations for a couple reasons:

1. We may take more time as we might have presents or just generally be more apt to carousing.

2. I do think that servers should pay extra care to normal service as many people are eating somewhere for a nice experience and it only helps the servers and their restaurants to pay careful attention to service when their customers may be dining somewhere for a birthday and have heightened expectations. I think I just generally have pretty good luck when it comes to service in DC though.

I do not expect a freebie. And in fact if you sing to me I will not come to your restaurant ever again on my birthday and maybe otherwise. You may put a candle in my dessert and charge me for the dessert (not the candle though), although you don't have to, and an acknowledgment of my birthday is perfectly acceptable and polite, telling me I look just as fabulously young as I did last year probably will get you a better tip (but that really doesn't apply only to my birthday). And I will admit I like the Happy Birthday or Congratulations sauce drizzle, but that is because of my narcissist tendencies (I also like to see my name on things). I was at a bar one year with my friends, and the bartender gave me a free glass of sparkling wine and that was very nice (I forget where that was maybe EatBar when Gina was there) and the French Laundry gave Hubby and I free champagne on our honeymoon. But really all I expect is that servers do what they generally should do and chefs cook the food as it should be cooked. If you do that I will be perfectly happy.

Anything else is above and beyond my expectations

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What should absolutely not happen is bring a dessert without asking the people paying, and then charge for it. This happened to us at Marrakesh, but that place is a bit of shit-show with regard to anything approaching proper service (of which I believe had actually been posted about, and deleted, but you can see discussion of on the WaPo comments).

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What should absolutely not happen is bring a dessert without asking the people paying, and then charge for it. This happened to us at Marrakesh, but that place is a bit of shit-show with regard to anything approaching proper service (of which I believe had actually been posted about, and deleted, but you can see discussion of on the WaPo comments).

[This is the second time you've said that Marrakesh posts were deleted (here is the first). I didn't know what you were talking about then, and I didn't know what you were talking about now.

Then I did about ten minutes of digging, and found out that there are two threads for Marrakesh, this one in the Dining Guide, and this one - still in the Restaurants and Dining forum, but long ago forgotten and abandoned.

I will merge the two threads, but I want to reiterate that I don't go around randomly deleting posts. If anyone thinks something has disappeared, there is always a non-black-helicopter explanation for it.

(And thanks for prompting me to find these orphaned posts.) :angry:]

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Hagedorn made the successful move from cooking to writing because he had grown to dislike customers. His commentaries on their habits are suspect.

I suspect that if a person calling for a reservation is making an issue of a special event, they should be sensible enough to inquire if there is any way for the restaurant to make that event "special" and, if they are unsatisfied with the response, reserve elsewhere. I also suspect that if a "reservationist" is told once or twice that a special event is being celebrated, they should have the sense to see if the reserver is expecting anything in particular from the restaurant, and explain politely but firmly what house traditions in that regard might be, and accommodate them if possible.

My experience (in line with Don's post) is that a relatively modest acknowledgment and a reasonably sincere "happy birthday" (or whatever) from the server go a long way. years ago, perhaps before the internet turned diners into moochers and Hagedorn bitter, the most expensive restaurant in town used to bring a candle in an artistically halved lemon with dessert, and people seemed quite happy to have their event marked, but not comped. I thought CityZen did a good job with the chocolate sauce calligraphy "Happy Birthday" on the plate of what may have been (or may not -- Andy had addled our minds) one special dessert amongst the many courses consumed on my birthday one year. Patrons who expect much more than a sincere gesture are asses, restaurants who offer much less might consider upping their game.

In the case above, sounds like a communications breakdown with modest lessons from which both sides could (and likely have) profited.

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I think if you are going out to dinner celebrating a birthday you can ask for a candle to be added to a piece of cake that just gets brought out. What I do not think is that anyone has the right to expect a freebie EVER.

I was out with a large group about a month ago and it was also my birthday weekend. Yes, it was very nice when someone from my group had the waitress bring out a surprise dessert (an Ice cream sundae) with sparklers in it. Even nicer when it was comped on the bill - NOT EXPECTED but always nice.

We were at Grillfish in DC. The food was ok, not overly memorable or incredible. Not terrible either but I do recall some cold sides that had to be reheated - Prices were reasonable for downtown less than $100 couple plus alcohol.

But I can say that the service was very good and bringing out a large goblet of ice cream with a couple sparklers coming from it when not expected was a memorable part of the night and put an ok restaurant into a nice light in my mind.

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