Is it okay for a waiter (and restaurant manager) to be drunk?

I realize I’m pushing my luck here putting this in the “travel” category, though I’d be curious to hear if this normal. I stayed at the Andaz West Hollywood this past weekend and met a couple of friends for dinner at one of my favorite restaurants in the area (which shall remain nameless till my trip report), not just for the great food, but even more so for the ambiance.

We only decided to eat here day of, which happened to be the Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend. We could only get a reservation for 11PM. Yeah, we’re total wankers for having dinner at 11PM, but I was so jetlagged that I could’ve had breakfast, lunch, or dinner at any hour of the day and not known the difference.

Anyway, the food was excellent as always, though the service was a bit off. As the waiter brought out drinks he admitted he was a little drunk (at first I thought he was kidding, though obviously not).

Seated immediately next to us was a couple, and after about 15 minutes a guy sat down literally right next to one of my dining companion on the booth (as it was a long booth with separate tables), visibly drunk with another drink in hand. He was seated maybe six inches from him with his back turned to my friend, talking obnoxiously loudly to the couple.

After sitting there talking for about 30 minutes he left with the couple and apparently took quite a bit off the bill based on his communication with the waiter. I was surprised to hear he worked there, though we couldn’t help but ask our waiter who he was. As it turns out he was the general manager.

So there ya have it, a drunk GM and a drunk waiter. Then again, at 11PM in West Hollywood, I guess that’s kind of to be expected… maybe?

Filed Under: Travel
  1. If they’re on the clock I don’t think drinking to the point of intoxication is permissible. Obviously many jobs in US permit alcohol while working for various reasons but I doubt any truly allow workers to be drunk – especially customer service positions dealing with the general public!

  2. There is a solution when surrounded by drunk people – get drunk yourself & you won’t notice them anymore šŸ™‚

  3. Well, it is West Hollywood…

    If you were somewhere corporate like the Abbey, this probably wouldn’t happen… At O-Bar or Eleven, you will often see the owner in there having a drink.

  4. You should tell the restaurant owner. Complete unprofessional behavior and I would not have stood for it

  5. Most bars/restaurants don’t allow their employees to drink on the job (for obvious reasons). Having said that, I knew many who did have a few drinks while working, especially at night clubs. I’ve also seen a few fired for doing so.

    Getting drunk on almost any job is a huge no-no. Bars can get into trouble over serving customers, allowing employees to drink would be equally bad. Liquor licenses would be taken away.

  6. Maybe he was going to quit next day? Happened at the Heineken Factory… got unlimited beers and enjoyed several of em’ with the guy! Haha.

  7. It doesn’t seem that outrageous to me. It’s WEHO after all and a little intoxication is to be expected, especially during Memorial Day weekend.

    By the way, I’d expect the same behavior at the Abbey, maybe especially at the Abbey!

    I love Wouter’s suggestion! When in Rome, eh? šŸ™‚

  8. Lucky said the service was “a bit” off… c’mon gonna cost this guy his job for being a bit off… take a hike.

  9. the worst part of the experience was the employee sitting in your booth, and carrying a conversation with a different set of customers, and then helping those customers lighten their bill. How can the restaurant be allowed to sit strangers with a group of diners, let alone let a stranger sit with any group he desires (not being relevant that the stranger is an employee etc.). At minimum, the GM should have apologized for intruding your space and recusing part of the bill etc., but that would not make the situation right and I know some who would remain quite offended.

  10. That’s weird. At least the food was good.
    PS Are you British? Only my British friends use wanker

  11. Ben, although I do enjoy your blog a lot, I sometimes do think you try to make up stories, or make them seem worse to have a conversation topic or make it an “interesting” post. Seriously, I have had it before that late at night whilst I am having / finishing dinner friends join me in my restaurant for a coffee and liqueur before moving on to an other place. Seems to me this was the case with the couple as well, they are frineds of the GM, he comes over for a chat(you said he talked loudly, not what they talked about)and then leaves with them. Nothing strange, esp if he is off duty. The waiter “drunk” or tipsy? Again, it must have been past midnight. Also, what time do they normally close? Were they open over normal hours to accommodate you? I really do not see the value in posting a story like this (having said that, I do enjoy 99% of your posts!)

  12. @ Mike — I’m only British when I’m having fish and chips at the carpark because my flight isn’t on schedule (pronounced shed-jewel). Nah, not British, just wish I had a fancy accent. šŸ˜‰

    @ Ken — As my dining companions (who are blog readers… I hope!) can confirm, the story is accurate. I could have gone into more detail, though I don’t think it would have contributed to the main question. I was honestly curious whether some find it okay to drink while on the clock at a “trendy” West Hollywood restaurant. I had a friend say “it’s no big deal, it’s West Hollywood,” while my brother (who frequents trendy placed in New York) was shocked.

    As a bit more background, no, the waiter wasn’t downright $*&$faced, but rather a “little drunk,” as I said. Clearly he had enough drinks so that he had a buzz but could still operate normally.

    I can tell you everything about the conversation the GM was having with the people, from the fact that he used to manage a Panda Express to the fact that he really liked the Maserati parked out front. He was apparently old friends with these people, though I’m not entirely sure of the context.

    The restaurant was accepting reservations until 11:30PM and was open till at least 12:30AM, bustling the whole time, so it wasn’t that they were staying open for us.

    The GM *did* seem to be on duty, as he was walking around when we first arrived, chatted with the people next to us, left for a bit, then came back to sit down and have a drink, etc.

    Anyway, hopefully that answers your questions. My intent here isn’t to make anything up, but to ask an honest question. Trust me, I have a lot more questions than I have answers to just about everything.

  13. MY employers code of conduct specifically states you cannot come to work intoxicated .. but it doesn’t say anything about becoming intoxicated at work šŸ™‚

  14. I’m with Ken. these stories are always a little self righteous. I think you summed it up best by saying you were wankers.

  15. Lucky, thanks for clarifying and giving a bit more background, you have answered my questions. A weird sequence of events, not sure what to think now. I guess you would have to have been there to make a judgement call. Why not try out the restaurant again to see if it was a one off or if it is more BAU šŸ˜‰

  16. I’d be offended if the server and/or the manager were drunk at Denny’s, much less at a fancy place. It’s very unprofessional (although I realize in the U.S. these jobs are not “professions”).

  17. No, it is NOT OK. I hope it was reflected in his tip – maybe even a short note about why!

  18. One reason why I work for myself; it’s unlikely I will fire me if I have a few sometime.

  19. Did he make any mistakes? If not, it’s the restaurant’s business, not yours. Now if he was your driver, that might be different.

  20. I wait tables at a local chain restaurant in Virginia, and because it’s a chain we have to look and act professional–but because it’s so small (about 4 locations total) we get away with a LOT. The managers–and this goes for at least half the managers at any given restaurant–imbibe regularly, smoke pot, etc. So if we come in high or a little tipsy but can still punch in on time and do our job well, that’s all they care about.

    It’s kind of a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. If you tell them you’re drunk, they send you home. If you don’t tell them and aren’t losing them money by messing up tables’ orders or slurring at customers, they don’t care.

    This isn’t by an means true for every restaurant. Just…a LOT of them. I go into work tipsy quite often, and even drink in the back with a manager now and then if the night’s slow. Other waiters get high together with the cooks and managers, depending on the night.

    Generally you can guarantee every employee in the place is sober Friday and Saturday nights, because you have to be. It’s just impossible to work under that kind of stress without a clear head. The smokers probably engage in some pre- or mid-shift blunts, but personally I think that makes a lot of them work BETTER.

    Bottom line: if your server does a good job and doesn’t reek of substances, even if you suspect they are a little under the influence of something, who cares? You have your food, your drinks–tip the kid a solid 20% (no, %15 is NOT excellent anymore–it says ‘You were adequate’ or ‘I’m a cheap ass’) and enjoy your night all the same.

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