A lot of local old-timers, a dwindling survey, to be sure, will remember that the building on Park Avenue in Winter Park that now holds a Pottery Barn store was once a movie theater. Actually, it was already not a movie theater when I moved to the area, in 1988. It had been repurposed, and one of its purposes was to house a restaurant on the top level. The original restaurant was called Two Flights Up, and that, too, had closed by the late eighties.
Other restaurants came and went before Pottery Barn moved in, but I remember one in particular. It was called Border Cantina, a Tex-Mex eatery, and the food and ambience were not remarkable or memorable. What stays clear in my mind, 25 years later, was the fellow who was manning the host stand when my guests and I arrived for dinner.
He was a young fellow, early twenties, perhaps younger, likely a student. He was neatly dressed, appropriate for his position in the restaurant, but there was one glaring incongruity: In the center of his chin, which I remember to be about the same size and shape as Jay Leno’s, was a big, silver stud.
Now, keep in mind this was 1989, well before the proliferation of facial piercings and all-over tattoos. This was something out of the ordinary in any type of job, but almost unheard of in one that dealt with the public in such a face-to-face way. Literally.
This visit was also the first time that I was aware that my effort to be incognito as a restaurant critic had been for naught, because I’m pretty sure he figured out I was the critic from the local paper. Why do I think that? Because the next time he passed my table I noticed that he had removed the stud from his chin.
But here’s what I took away from that experience, and why I remember it so many years later. by removing the stud when he realized that he was dealing with a restaurant critic, the young man was acknowledging that perhaps his choice of facial accessory was inappropriate. But why didn’t he think it would matter to all the other diners?
This article from Eatocracy about wardrobe no-nos for waiters, says it best. Each time a server dresses for work and steps outside the boundaries of the employer’s uniform, he or she is making a business decision, one that could affect the amount of tips collected for the evening.
I’m all for self expression, but we all need to do a little self editing now and then. What do you think? Have you ever been put off by a server’s appearance? Leave a comment below.