We’ve been tracking some back and forth about the way Bandera’s hostesses keep track of the queue of people waiting to be seated.
In May of 2007, a user left an otherwise glowing review of the restaurant:
being on Michigan Ave. you’d think it’s too posh to enjoy but not really. it’s pretty cozy, dark, and private.
one thing though that threw me was the hostess… when we walked in she wrote down visual descriptions of us all the way down to the piercings in some sort of short hand. the only reason i saw it was because the waitress accidentally set the card down on our table when she was talking to us. i understood most of what was written about me, some of it made me go hmm but that was just weird and made me uncomfortable to know that detailed descriptions were being written down about us.
anyway, the waitress was very nice and the food was very very good. as per usual with Bandera. and pricing isn’t too high but it certainly could be lower… but that’s just my opinion and i really doesn’t cross my mind when eating there.
We can certainly understand being unsettled by the perception that one’s hostess has gone all Homeland on you! But this was not the end of the story. Some months later, a user by the name of “Ex-Hostess” left a review that sought to clarify the nature of the hostesses’ practices:
I worked at Bandera for a little over two years and just wanted to clarify the previous reviewers unsettling experience with the extremely detailed description that the hostess took. Bandera refuses to use the pager/ beeper system feeling that it makes the dining experience much less personal. Thus, as a host, we have about a minute to take a quick description of the guest as we write down the name, time they came in, party size, and amount of time quoted. When you are on a twenty minute wait, it is extremely easy to find your guests. When you are on an hour and a half wait and have taken over 50 names, it becomes much more difficult - thus, the crazy descriptions. So- if you want to guarantee that the hostess will find you an hour and a half after you have put your name in - be a little more creative with your dress! You would be shocked on how many men / women wear jeans, black sweater and black shoes.
This raises as many questions as it answers. Why does Bandera deserve the devotion necessary to create 90 minute wait times? Actually, that’s the only question. The boringly dressed clientele really tells a story, though.
A third comment was registered just yesterday:
Just a quick follow up regarding the hostess description issue. Just to clarify, the hostess did not accidentally leave the card on the table. One is placed on every table, with the description in plain view (no one’s trying to be sneaky here) so that the servers know if or if not the table has been greeted. Once the table has in fact had an initial greeting from a server, the card is either written on and or taken off the table by their server. Point being, there is no discriminatory system going on here.
The way we could see this turning nefarious is if the hostesses use non-PC terminology to describe their patrons; where is the line between objectively informative and subjectively nasty? Is it simply a function of the adjectives used? The kind of profiling in question goes on silently everywhere all the time, but the act of writing it down is a little creepy and invasive, no matter how well-intentioned.
We’ll buy that a beeper system is too Outback-y (although Bandera is a chain with five locations nationwide), but you know what would be kind of cool? If digital photography could be utilized. A picture of your party is taken upon arrival, and when it’s your turn, the picture shows up on a screen mounted in the waiting area. Kind of arty, right? Or we’d be perfectly happy to simply receive a text message when it’s our turn to dine. Yes, we think that’s a lot less…subject to lawsuits.
[Photo: from their website]