My husband and I recently hosted a clambake in Kennebuckport, Maine for 24 guests. There was an abundance of food — lobsters, steamers, mussels, hamburgers, hotdogs, clam chowder, and assorted salads and vegetables. Dessert and beverages, both alcoholic and nonalcoholic, were also served.
My question is this: Is it proper etiquette for the owners of the inn to allow wait staff to help themselves to the buffet? There was ample food left over, and I certainly understand why the inn staff would enjoy the dinner. However, shouldn’t the inn owners have asked my husband and I before the wait staff filled their dinner plates?
Also, although we ordered 24 2 lb. lobsters, there were at least 6-7 uneaten. I respect our responsibility and obligation to pay the invoice in full, which, of course we did. However, wouldn’t it have been more polite for the inn owners to ask us about removing all the food from the buffet before doing so? And, wouldn’t it have been polite for the owners to offer to pack-up some of the leftovers, at least the items that would have stayed fresh for a few days? Our family is taking bets on your answers!
–Marybeth B., Location withheld
These are service industry questions. In your situation it is really about customer service satisfaction. You were disappointed. It would have been best practiced customer service for the inn keepers to have asked your permission before giving away your leftovers. You walked away with a salty taste in your mouth because the customer service wasn’t up to your standards.
You ordered 24 lobsters and other food for 24 guests. The inn keepers had to pay for those lobsters and accompanying food that you authorized them to purchase in advance. If you had asked them ahead of time to have any leftovers packaged up for you to take home, it is more than likely that they would have accommodated your request. One usually has to ask for a doggie bag. Think of your left behind leftovers as part of the gratuity for servicing your summer clambake.
Customarily, in a restaurant, or for a catered party, the wait staff is fed before the guests arrive and they don’t help themselves from the buffet before it has been taken down. Next time, you’ll know to discuss the timeline for the feeding of the staff and the fate of the leftovers when finalizing your agreement with the inn owners. Set your boundaries ahead of time, and there will be no problems.
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