Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Gender-Neutral Service in Restaurants!

When it comes to the rules of etiquette between men and women, admittedly I'm what you might call old school. It was taught to me by my mother in childhood and it has fit in well with my current job as a butler in a billionaire's home.

Things like holding a door, pulling out a chair, or opening the car door for a lady are second nature to me. Giving up a seat on the subway, especially if it's an elderly woman or a mother with children, goes without saying.

And when it comes to dining - whether in a private home, a 24-hour greasy spoon cafe, or a posh five-star restaurant - serving women first seems like it's built into our collective DNA.

But now it seems there's something new afoot, and proper etiquette might be evolving. Our friend Caroline Muller (known as the Master Concierge on Twitter) shared an article by Grace Perry from about a new trend going on in some surprising places.

Entitled "The End of  Ladies First Restaurant Service", I took a deep breath and dived right in.

Grace explains that several trendy restaurants are responding to the various social movements of how women expect to be treated in this world today by offering what's called Neutral-Gender Service. Which basically means forget about serving ladies first and treat everyone at the table as equals. From water and wine, to dinner plates and dessert, guests are served clockwise around the table, regardless of male or female - or age for that matter.
While this rocks my world, I totally get it. The long-standing feminist struggles and more lately the Me Too movement have awakened us not only to grotesque physical assaults against women but also the pervasive and subtle ways of sexism and gender discrimination lingering in our society today - even in such simple things as restaurant service.

We all know that social change is agonizingly slow. Not so long ago, until the Suffragettes had finally had enough, were American women finally allowed to vote in 1920 - although driving a car or smoking a cigarette was still unthinkable for them. Going to a gathering of homosexuals, whether in a private home or a public bar, could get you arrested and thrown into jail on morals charges. But the revolts in the revolutionary 1960s put a stop to all that and the Gay Rights movement was born.

It could take years, decades, even generations for this gender-neutral trend to become universal, if ever. Especially among the royals in Europe as well as the overindulged and coddled new rich in America who are drunk on attention and personal service. Not to mention all the unique and complicated relationships between men and women in various cultures around the world. Only this past year were women in Saudi Arabia allowed to drive a car.

At the very least, gender-neutral service is a start - like a courageous first step and a new beginning. Most likely it will smolder and simmer as a lovely niche for a long while, like comfortable sanctuaries in a hostile world.

But I get it. And I'm writing this post tonight so we won't be shocked if we wander into one of these enlightened places. I doubt we'd see a sign on the door or menu about being gender neutral, but we'll know it when we see it.

Here's a link to Grace Perry's fascinating and brilliant article.

When you have time, please take a look. Personally, I myself doubt if I could ever treat an ancient Grand Dame coming into this house like one of the guys! But I'd love to hear your thoughts and comments below.

And as always, thank you for stopping by this evening,

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

MacLean & Bruce! Experiential Travel at Its Best!

This morning, minding my own business and dusting a not-dusty Renoir print near the breakfast room, I accidentally overheard my employer and his new lady friend discussing a trip to Europe. Delighted by the possibility, I immediately called my spy confidant at the corporate office to see if she had heard anything about it.

Yes, she said! In fact she'd just gotten an early morning email from the lady-of-the-moment asking her to investigate renting a small castle in Scotland - large enough to accommodate twelve people for a ten-day golf outing and birthday celebration. It's not clear who's birthday, hers I suspect. Certainly not my cranky old employer's who was born on the first of January - which makes it seriously hard to enjoy New Year's day.

Anyhow, needless to say I was overjoyed! Ten days is a good long while. Thinking fast, I told her about my Twitter pals Charles MacClean and David Bruce in Scotland who specialize in this very thing. As you may recall, a while back I wrote an essay about Experiential Travel.Well, it seems MacLean and Bruce, along with their partner Vikki, are experts at handling this very thing.

Far from the madding crowd of most mass-service tour operators, this dedicated team relies on their deep roots in Scotland and their network of family and friends to create unique and highly individualized holiday experiences for each and every one of their clients - whom they welcome as friends. Not only can they find a castle, but they can also book transportation, restaurant reservations, golf outings, Whiskey tours, entertainment events, sight seeing, and unique shopping spots off the beaten path. Here's a look at their dreamy website.

Now, if you want your castle fully staffed these fellows can provide a chef, chauffeur, valets, maids, even a butler is so desired. In fact they conduct their own butler training classes. A couple of times a year they team up with another favorite Twitter friend Grant Harrold, publicly known as The Royal Butler. Not only has Grant been in service to various members of the Royal Family, but he now conducts etiquette and butler classes at  the renowned Blenheim Palace in the UK. Here's a link to his splendid school, The Royal School of Butlers.

You can't imagine how much I'd love to join these guys for a few refresher courses. Mind you, I have all the basic skills about running a luxury home, entertaining large parties, and international protocol. But the thing is my attitude sucks. Really bad. And I could use some adjustment in that area.

It's one thing to be in service to royalty - where history, admiration and respect come into play. But quite another to tolerate the silly mindless needs of the new rich in America. If it weren't for the high-dollar paychecks I'd be out of here in a flash. (And you see, right there - that's the attitude that needs adjusting!)

If you'd like to follow these gentlemen on Twitter, Charles and David's Twitter name is @MacLeanAndBruce. And Grant's name is @TheRoyalButler. There's a lot of fun tweeting and new ideas being shared right along. Grant even gives brief and humorous etiquette lessons in the tight space of one-or-two sentences as allowed by Twitter - to which I always look forward.

In spite of seriously crappy weather this year, I do hope you're having a good summer. Mercifully cooler weather is just around the corner and all the fun holidays that autumn brings.

As always, thanks for dropping by this evening,