No Love Lost No Love Lost

Thinking of dining out this Valentine’s? On the condition of anonymity, the Insider speaks to six Warsaw restaurateurs to listen to their tales of woe…

• Valentine’s Day is a pain in the neck – splitting all your tables in two, staff who’re pissed they’re not with their own partners, customers you’ve never seen before acting like big shots… Funny stories? This happened to a friend who owns a few upmarket restaurants. One Valentine’s he saw a proposal that went wrong: the woman stamped out and the guy ran after her saying he’d be back in a minute. It happened at the end of quite a lavish meal. Of course, they never returned to pay and the phone went unanswered. Oh well. Anyhow, the following year and my friend is sitting in his other restaurant – what happens, the same couple return and the same scene plays out – only this time, my friend knew what was coming…

• I’ve seen a few people propose here and I freeze every time – you don’t know how the other person will react. Usually it ends happily, but there have been times when the other person has stormed out. Most take it on the chin. You give them a drink and they soon shuffle out sheepishly. I’ll always remember one guy though who sat there with his head in his hands before letting out a long, painful howl.

• It’s a night for amateurs. The people we get act like they’ve never read a menu before. They don’t know our food, they don’t know what they want, they just want ‘something amazing’. You’re trying to meet impossible expectations from people incapable of telling you what it is they’re actually after. We’re putting out a high volume of food to once-a-year diners who know everything about nothing.

• Valentine’s Day? Shagging Night I call it. Guys just want to order the cheapest thing on the menu and get their date back home as soon as possible. I might as well be feeding cattle. Of course, some can’t even wait that long – I could open a lingerie store with the amount of discarded underwear we find in the toilets…

• We had a customer keel over with a cardiac. As it turns out, there was actually a doctor in the house but you can imagine what all that drama did for the mood that night. It was like a funeral after; we had customers in shock and waitresses in tears, all while Pavarotti is singing his lungs out in the background.

• A good customer of mine wanted to propose and asked if the chef could drop a ring into one of the courses. No problem… But it was. A new line chef pocketed the ring and slipped out of the door. How the hell do you explain that to the customer? I had to pull him aside halfway through the meal and tell him the news. He looked like he’d been hit by a bus. We did actually track down the chef – and the ring – later that night. We didn’t involve the police…

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