Metro-East Living

Is it acceptable to ditch the paper placemat at a nice restaurant?

Q. I can’t stand to go to a relatively nice restaurant and be seated at a table with a tablecloth on it and a big piece of white paper covering the tablecloth. Had it happen again to me this past week when I met a girlfriend for lunch at an upscale restaurant. We were taken to the table and here is this paper on top, only it went over the edge of the table about one inch, so every time I lifted my hand to reach my water glass, the cuff on my suit kept pulling up the paper. Why do they do this? How improper of me would it be if the next time I am taken to a table with paper over the tablecloth, I ask that the paper be removed before I sit down?

A. Thank you for this question. I actually think your point is well taken. I honestly do not like to be seated at a table with paper over the tablecloth either. As to why it is being done more frequently and even in very upscale restaurants, it is probably to save on their linen cleaning costs. As to how improper it might be or not be, if it is that important to you, I suggest you ignore the rules and,

1) Advise the person or persons with you, that you are planning to make this request If you can see the paper on the tables at the time you enter the restaurant.

2) After you are asked “How many in your party?”step forward and politely and quietly say: “Would it be possible please to have the paper covering the tablecloth removed before we are taken to our table?”

3) Be prepared for a possible awkward moment or weird look. Also be prepared to repeat your request because I doubt there are many who make this request. Be prepared, also, to be told to please wait a moment while this person goes to check with the manager before giving you a response. Be prepared to politely and quietly repeat your request if the manager comes to speak to you.

3) Be prepared for your request to be refused.

If so, you can proceed to your table, sit down and politely ask your server or waiter if he or she could quietly and quickly remove the paper. This is not the ideal time because it could possibly draw unwanted attention to your table if your waiter or server gets flustered or even if your request is accepted.

4) If, however, your request is again refused, you should be prepared to make a decision as to quietly leaving the restaurant or sitting down and ignoring the paper.

Q. If I invite a young couple over to my house for dinner and they have a small child, do I need to provide a high chair or can I ask them to bring their own?

A.. Be up front with the couple when you invite them and tell them you do not have a high chair. They might then offer to bring their own high chair or perhaps get a sitter. If not, you need to provide a high chair.

Dianne Isbell: