Submitted By Simon Hardy Butler, November 3, 2016

Is it just me, or is being touched by a waiter or waitress while dining out at a restaurant the height of personal-space invasion?

OK, maybe I’m being a little persnickety. But don’t you think that when you’re paying for a meal at any eatery, the service should be hands-off … literally?

Why am I grousing about this, you may ask? Isn’t such a complaint rather trivial in the grand culinary scheme of things?

Well, the reason is that I’ve been touched on the shoulder (and other areas) by restaurant waitstaff many times during the course of my eating career—which by now has spanned more than four decades—and I’m thinking that’s just a bit too much. It hasn’t been traumatizing or anything (God forbid!), but this behavior doesn’t have a place in all but the most casual establishments … and even there it should be verboten. The best kind of service is polite, friendly and discreet; it can be intimate without being forward, solicitous without being prying. And I think touching a customer, even in so innocent a place as the arm, while taking an order or responding to the diner’s needs, just shouldn’t be done.

So why in the name of all that is sous vide are such business strategies implemented? Do waiters and waitresses who put this kind of activity into practice know they’re being intrusive?

I know it seems snobby to kvetch about personal contact at the point of consumption, yet it’s a preference of mine to be left untampered whilst noshing or getting ready to nosh on my vittles—with or without company. Some folks may like the feeling, but I do not. Perhaps it’s the unromantic, austere side of me reacting this way … so be it. I’m not a flirty guy. I’m actually kind of a lump.

Which is not to say that all such interactions with customers are coquettish in nature. Many are just the manifestations of a naturally affable side exhibited by one’s waiter or waitress. Still, there’s a lot to be said for leaving the diner untouched at mealtime, regardless of how gregarious the service provider is; it’s just more professional and classier to boot. Anyone looking for tangible personal affection should frequent alternate sources dispensing that type of offering, whatever those may be. At the table, however, the eater should be like a crystal vase at a museum: handled with great care—and never casually. Maybe even with the proverbial kid gloves, though walking on eggshells isn’t a necessity. There’s a fine line here, and crossing it makes for unmemorable, and possibly even unpleasant, culinary experiences. Things are just a lot more polished when the waitstaff holds back.

Hey, I may be a grump when it comes to my noshing habits, but at least I understand the importance of scarfing down food without being bothered. Let’s let dine-gones be dine-gones, I say—with great feeling.

As long as that feeling’s not on my shoulder, that is. God knows I’m bearing enough weight on this part of the body already.

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