I had an unpleasant interaction with a waiter the other day, and I could use some suggestions.
At some kinds of restaurants, there is pressure put on the patrons to order "for the table" and eat family style. I used to always acquiesce to that and HATED it, because I'm a vegetarian. What inevitably happened was that everyone would dig into the few things I could eat, so they'd all have lots of things to eat and I'd have very little. Also, the waiters tend to shape the order in those settings, so if there are 2 similar things (one without meat and one with), the waiter will often push not to order both, and somehow the vegetarian version is always the one to go.
Anyway, I'm over going along with this. It just doesn't work for me; the only way it would work would be if everyone ordered vegetarian, and I'm not going to ask people to do that. They should get whatever they want (but let me have my own food unbothered
). I just say that I'd rather order separately when the order is taken.
Well, the other night the waiter didn't want to let that happen. It was at a tapas restaurant, and my husband and I were eating with another couple. The waiter asked when taking our order if we'd be ordering for the table, and I said no. He suggested we should, and I said, "I'm a vegetarian, so that doesn't work for me." The waiter then said, as though explaining to an idiot, that what I was ordering was vegetarian, so I should order it for the whole table. He used a lot of hand gestures and words, as though I wouldn't understand the concept that a group of people can eat communally in a restaurant. I said something to the effect of (I don't remember my precise words), "Of course what I'm ordering is vegetarian, because I'm a vegetarian, but that doesn't mean I need to order it for the whole table." I promise I used a regular voice (not raised, not making a mean expression, not with a snarky intonation), but the waiter recoiled like I'd slapped him. His facial expression looked like a small child who has just been told off.
Right after that the waiter called us out that my husband and I only ordered 2 things, which he said wasn't enough, and he also remarked that I ordered a full carafe of sangria, asking me if I really was sure I wanted that much for me & my husband, so really this waiter was a bit more judgmental and controlling than I think a waiter should be, but my etiquette question is just about the not wanting to order "for the table." In this case, I'm glad I didn't, because the other couple ordered things with meat in them, and my husband and I had just enough food for the two of us. If they were eating my patatas bravas, I would have been hungry, since I couldn't eat any of their ham croquettes.
It's funny because we've been eating at that restaurant ever since it opened a few years ago, and I've never had a bad experience before.
So: is it reasonable for me not to opt into ordering for the table, or should I just go along with the flow of certain cuisines and resign myself to it (even though I won't be able to eat most of the food and won't be able to ensure I'll get much of any vegetarian things)? How should I word it? Or was this waiter just off? Another option is to not go to Chinese or tapas restaurants, but I love Spanish food (I lived in Spain for a while).