For older generations, putting on a smart outfit to see a sibling’s school recital, eat at a restaurant, or travel to see the grandparents was an unquestioned fact of life. Today, however, restaurants, businesses, and even parents have adopted a very relaxed attitude towards appropriate dress codes — and it hasn’t all been good.
According to John Winterman, former maître d’ at Daniel, dressing up, especially for dinner, is still super important.
“I break it down into self-respect and respect for others,” he told Town & Country in 2016.
But why should you listen to some hoity-toity New Yorker? Winterman revealed that the way you dress when you eat out has very real repercussions. No, the chef won’t spit in your food, but the host can place you at an undesirable table or even refuse to seat you, especially when you’re in a fine dining establishment like Daniel.
“If someone comes in making an effort and looking fabulous and glamorous and they know they’re in for a premium experience at a premium price, you give them a fabulous table in the middle of the room. And people react to that, when they see a crowd that’s well-dressed and beautiful and sparkling.”
Winterman, who now works as a managing parter at Bâtard in New York City, which doesn’t have a dress code, then tells the tale of an incident that happened during his days at Daniel where a doctor who was refused service because he showed up in cut-offs and flip-flops.
“We said, ‘Doctor, we’re very sorry but we can’t serve you,’ because once you make an exception for one person, it’s a slippery slope.”
Has all this talk of food made you hungry? Check out this pizza stuffed with pasta and meatballs.
Quite a few blocks uptown at Le Périgord, a French restaurant that still requires men to wear ties, Georges Briguet, the owner, echoes Winterman.
“In the old days, until business went down with the recession in 2009 and 2010, the dress code for men was simply jacket and tie,” Briguet told Delish. “Nobody would be served dinner by the chef at Le Périgord if he was not dressed properly.”
Only two people ever got to break the dress code Briguet revealed, and they were Truman Capote and Jackie Kennedy. The latter was the first woman to ever wear pants at the restaurant!
Even though Daniel can turn you away for your dress but Bâtard cannot, most of us don’t have extra money to even throw at a fine dining experience — and that’s okay! Winterman’s point about respect can be applied whether you’re eating at a restaurant that’s four dollar signs on Yelp or your local Chili’s or Outback.
We’re not advocating a tuxedo dress code in McDonald’s joints everywhere, but if you’re going to enjoy a meal where someone waits on you, why not acknowledge the occasion — and the server’s hard work — by putting a little effort into your outfit? You don’t have to wear a ballgown, but you could ditch the jeans for khakis.
If you’re of the camp that it’s your hard-earned money and you’ll spend it as you see fit, we hear you! Some of us just want to be comfortable when we eat a meal we’re paying for with our money, right? That’s totally a valid point, and ultimately, the decision to dress up is all comes down to personal preference.
So where do you fall on this issue?