Say No (Politely)
Problem: You don’t want to check your coat but feel pressured to do so.
Solution: In general, the better the establishment, the more eager the host or hostess will be for you to check your coat. Keep in mind that the decor of a fine restaurant in New York City can cost in the neighborhood of $2 million to $5 million. So your parka hanging off a $1,000 chair is not appreciated, says Pascale Le Draoulec, author of American Pie ($14, amazon.com). If you really want to keep your coat, be polite but firm. “If someone is wavering, I usually try to take the coat,” says Katy Burstein, the manager at Le Français, in suburban Chicago. “So if you know you want to keep it, be very matter-of-fact.” Saying “I tend to get cold; I’m going to keep this” or “No, thanks―I’m in a hurry” is a good way to go.
Problem: You hate your table.
Solution: Speak up quickly. Most hostesses say they prefer to know before a diner has been seated. Of course, you yourself may have no way of knowing if you’re happy until the hostess walks away. In that case, “don’t waste your time complaining to the waiter,” says Steven Shaw, author of Turning the Tables―Restaurants From the Inside Out ($25, amazon.com). They don’t decide where you sit. “Instead, find the hostess or the manager,” says Shaw. “If you don’t, you have the waiter acting as a go-between, which is inefficient and annoying to the staff.” Next, express your specific issue with the table―too loud, too small, too central, too close to the bathroom―and request a spot that better meets your needs. Restaurant aficionados avoid this altogether by always letting the reservationists know where they prefer to sit when they book: a romantic corner for a special anniversary, or in the thick of things, for that out-of-town guest eager to take in the local color.